Dads are pretty great, right? (Right.) Your dad is probably the coolest person you know! TV dads are a totally different deal, though. They run the gamut from the platonic ideal to the complete nightmare. In honor of Father's Day, SideReel's taking a moment to honor iconic TV dads, from the sublime (Uncle Phil) to the terrifying (Tony Soprano). Check out our list and then thank your lucky stars Tobias Fünke wasn't your role model.
King of the Hill: Hank Hill
King of the Hill was probably the most naturalistic cartoon ever to grace the screen, and Hank Hill was its standard-bearer. As head of the household, he strove to be unambiguously normal, despite Bobby and Peggy's needs to stand out. His own father, Cotton, was everything he couldn't stand (profane, misogynistic, racist, and... well... shinless), and so, though he never quite understood Bobby, he always, always supported him—except when it came to Dog Dancing. That was every man for himself.
Friday Night Lights: Eric Taylor
As James Poniewozik, Time's television critic, once wrote, Kyle Chandler's portrayal of Coach Eric Taylor was "the How to Be a God Damn Man seminar." And really, it was. Though understated, Coach is fiercely loyal to his family (yes, even awful Julie), and also serves as a surrogate father to what seems like half of the football players in Dillon. He handles every obstacle with aplomb, and has already taken his place among the pantheon of perfect TV dads.
Arrested Development: Tobias Fünke
And then there's Tobias Fünke. Both flamboyant and repressed, his self-absorbed whims are a perfect fit for the bizarre antics of his in-laws. He veers between forgetting he has a daughter and yearning for her respect—and in trying to achieve it uses means so totally repulsive, he only manages to drive her further away. Luckily for Maeby, raising oneself is probably better than being raised by a Never-Nude.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Uncle Phil
There is a generation out there (and I know it, because it's mine) that wanted nothing more than to be Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—and it had nothing to do with being able to perform the theme song. No, it was all thanks to Uncle Phil, the only real father-figure Will ever had, and the man who comforted him when he was rejected by his biological father. Tough yet fair, Uncle Phil knew when to indulge his family and when to tighten the reins, and, judging by the reactions to actor James Avery's death, Phil was inspirational in his approach to parenting.
Seinfeld: Morty Seinfeld
Come on, the man owns a shirt that says "Number 1 Dad." So much of the time when talking about fathers on Seinfeld, we focus on Frank Costanza, but Barney Martin's Morty Seinfeld was a terrific addition to the ensemble in his own right. As vain and spite-driven as his son, he had dreams of political dominance (in the rarefied world of Miami old-person condo associations) and saw such a strong legacy in his invention of the beltless trenchcoat ("The Executive") that he derailed a chartered trip to Paris. Besides, his devotion to the Early Bird special rivals that of his devotion to his son, so we'd be remiss if we didn't mention him.
The Cosby Show: Cliff Huxtable
Cliff Huxtable was probably the defining TV dad (and pudding pitchman) of the 1980s. His perfect, sweetly funny, be-sweatered family was the envy of America, and, per TV Guide, "single-handedly revived the sitcom genre." In the days of very-special-episode comedy, Cliff Huxtable was king of his fictional castle, and Bill Cosby was the king of the medium.
The Sopranos: Tony Soprano
Premiering at the very tail-end of the '90s (seriously, it premiered January '99), The Sopranos launched the anti-hero-driven dramas of the 2000s, and Tony Soprano, effortlessly played by James Gandolfini, was the anti-hero of our time. Patriarch of the Sopranos and the DiMeo organization, Tony's life in both was complicated enough to spawn the brilliant first season tagline "If one family doesn't kill him, the other will."
Fringe: Walter Bishop
Dr. Walter Bishop: actual genius, criminal genius, lover of hallucinogens, and father to two universes' worth of Peter Bishop. This is a man who crossed dimensional barriers to rescue his double's dying boy in order to save himself from despair. This act of fatherly love would be the catalyst for gruesome trans-universal crimes against humanity, a dimensional war, and a pretty damn bleak future, but he never regrets saving his son. Besides, all that LSD he ingested probably took the sting out of it.