Father knows best — on television, at least, where there are fabulous dads galore, appearing in dramas, sitcoms and even teen murder mysteries. (F.P. Jones, that last one is for you and the constantly-in-peril kids of Riverdale.)
Since the earliest days of TV, the wise and loving father has been a programming staple, especially in classic comedies like Leave It to Beaver (1957 to 1963) and The Andy Griffith Show (1960 to 1968).
In the latter, Andy Griffith starred as Andy Taylor, father of Opie (Ron Howard) and sheriff of the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. Howard was just 6 years old when he landed the role of Opie, a fact that Griffith took into account while working with the young actor.
“He treated me really well, but he made it a learning experience, not in a stern, taskmaster kind of a way, but I was really allowed a real insight into creativity and how things work and why some scenes were funny and others weren’t,” the Apollo 13 director said in 2010. “That insight has served me really well over the years. Andy was really kind to me, always playful and fun, but, by the same token, he wanted to get the work done.”
No discussion of TV dads is complete without the ’90s, however, which gave the world beloved characters like Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson) from Family Matters and Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) from Seinfeld.
“My years on Family Matters were precious to me,” VelJohnson told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “During the run of the show, I saw many births, deaths, weddings. … The actual family on the show became my family. We still talk to each other to this day.”
Stiller, another giant of the TV dad kingdom, at first passed on the role of George’s father, claiming that he had never heard of Seinfeld, which was already a huge smash when he joined the show. Once he did take the part, though, his portrayal of Frank became an instant hit with fans.
“We never gave Jerry Stiller a note,” Jerry Seinfeld said during a 2020 appearance on the “What a Joke With Papa and Fortune” radio show. “I never adjusted his performance once. Whatever he did, that’s it. We’re putting that out there. I don’t know why he did it like that. I don’t know why he screamed on that line. It doesn’t matter. It’s funny. So funny.”
Keep scrolling for a look back at some of the greatest dads in TV history: