Lessons from My TV Dad Role Models

Before the Internet really became a thing, the television was a great source of inspiration and wisdom for me. From the Price Is Right, I learned the importance of knowing how much things cost (and the importance of spaying and neutering your pets). From Saved By The Bell, I learned about high school life before actually going to high school myself. And now that I am about to become a father, I look back at the many TV dads as my role models too, as fictional as their lives may be.

Danny Tanner (Full House)

I’ve written before about what this Wake Up, San Francisco host could teach me as a freelancer, but most of us know Danny Tanner better as the ultra clean dad from TV’s Full House. Remember that I’m looking to Danny Tanner for inspiration and not Bob Saget.

Danny wasn’t afraid to ask for help from Joey and Jesse, realizing the challenges that he would have raising three girls on his own. And even when he disagreed with some of the choices his girls were making, like when Stephanie wanted to change her name to Dawn, he voiced his concerns with love and sympathy. His love for his daughters was truly unconditional.

Philip Banks (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

Whereas Danny Tanner never really raised his voice, “Uncle” Phil had no problem showing his rage and anger, particularly at his nephew Will. Even so, you could still see the tender side of Philip Banks on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I’m reminded of the bond Will and Uncle Phil forged when Will’s father left him again. And even though the Banks family was clearly wealthy, Phil never let his kids take that wealth for granted. Remember when he cut up Hilary’s credit card?

Al Bundy (Married… with Children)

On the complete opposite end of the socioeconomic scale, we find Al Bundy from Married… with Children. To many people, he may not seem like the best example of a parental role model, but when you look beyond the gruff exterior, you discover there’s a lot more to the man who scored four touchdowns in a single game. If he really hated his family, he could have left at any time. He may have made a very modest living as a shoe salesman, but he was the family’s primary breadwinner and he chose to stick around. He really cared for his kids, even if he never showed it.

Tim Taylor (Home Improvement)

More power! I could comment on Tim’s relationship with his three boys and how he was able to treat them all the same by treating them differently. That’s important. However, another TV dad lesson that I take home from Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor is the importance of being a good handyman around the house. Yes, it’s a stereotypical gender role and Tim certainly overdid a lot of things. Even so, being able to unclog a toilet or put up the Christmas lights is a dad’s responsibility, no?

Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)

Most TV dads are depicted as strict disciplinarians. That’s not at all the case with Phil Dunphy and his concept of “peerenting”. This is particularly evident in his relationship with his son Luke. They bond as if they were best friends, partaking in silly misadventures and crazy schemes. You have to be able to laugh and smile with your kids. Just don’t forget to set some boundaries too.

Who Is Your TV Dad Role Model?

Naturally, this list is anything but exhaustive. The television has been a great educator for me and I could have easily gone on to talk about Heathcliff Huxtable, “Red” Forman, Willie Tanner, Jason Seaver or any number of other TV dads. I could also talk about how some of these TV dads, like Tony Soprano, do some truly horrible things.

And so, I turn to you: when looking for guidance as a parent in your own life, what TV character inspires you?