Television shows: Most of them are about families, and most families involve dads. Many dads are good. Some dads are bad. Tywin Lannister? That’s one bad dad. Danny Tanner? Now that’s one rockin’ papa. See?
With 2016 wheezing its final breaths, it seems fitting and proper to look back at the finest TV dads of the year. What makes them such good dads? Some are morally bankrupt, others are cold blooded communists, others are just loyal, good-hearted fathers; all 8, however, make decisions that, whether correct or not, are for the benefit of their kids.
Jaime “Kingslayer” Lannister may not be the most attentive father, or the most present father, or the kindest father, or the best-mannered father, or the humblest father, or an un-incestuous father, or a father with the normal amount of hands, or a father who hasn’t committed regicide, or a father who wouldn’t throw a child out of a tower, or a father who wouldn’t consider that a trio of world-famous assassins might try to poison his daughter. But as he told the Blackfish this season, he’s a father who would do damn well anything for his family. Sadly, in Westeros, “anything” is very rarely enough. R.I.P Tommen.
He may not get as much screen time as he deserves, but Salim Khan is one the MVP’s of HBO’s dark mini-series about murder and the criminal justice system. Played with understated resoluteness by Peyman Moaadi, his conviction in his son Naz’s innocence never wavers. When the city impounds his cab as evidence, the 2 drivers with whom he shares it demand Salim file charges against Naz to get it back. He refuses. Now that’s a dad.
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul is pitch perfect as Eddie Lane, head of a family in a Scientology-like cult in the dense woodlands of upstate New York. As his wife ascends upwards into the organization’s hierarchy (and deeper into its psychological weirdness), Eddie begins to suspect that perhaps it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Caught between his love for his wife and his love for his kids — especially his increasingly skeptical son Hawk — Eddie walks a tense moral tightrope, all for the sake of his family.
Peter Scolari is endlessly surprising as Hannah Horvath’s father, a mild-mannered professor who has a midlife crisis after coming out of the closet. That was a full season ago, yes, but in season 5 Tad revealed new and compelling dimensions as he navigated life as a gay man. All the while, he and Hannah squabble roughly as often as they get along, but isn’t that how it works?
King George isn’t just a father to his 2 daughters on this Netflix series, but to the friggin’ British Commonwealth. Rendered with gentle nobility by Jarred Harris, George is a reluctant monarch — awed and overwhelmed by the duties kingship demands, but devoted to the service of his family and countrymen. Though he dies early in the season (it’s not a spoiler if it’s history), we catch glimpses of him in flashback throughout the rest. And whether he’s doting on his daughters or clashing with Churchill, this is a man who puts everyone and everything before himself.
It’s fair to say Bob Belcher’s record as a restaurateur more or less equates to his record as a father, given that his is a family business (and a business family). And in 2016 Bob installed new cushions on the restaurant’s barstools, dealt with a pigeon problem, overcame the stress of devising a new Burger of the Day every day, and got into a mess of shenanigans with his family-slash-employees. Oh, and he also led his brood in a classic Fox Animated Show Musical Number. All in all, he’s a father of many talents.
So, yeah, Danny McBride’s Neal Gamby definitely isn’t a great vice principal or even a competent conspirer against the principal whose job he covets. He bumbles pretty much every plot he concocts and alienates just about the entire faculty on his quest for power. But, crucially, that quest for power stems less from personal ambition than out of a need to give the best life to his daughter, an often picked-on young woman whose mother doesn’t seem to understand her. Though you may cringe whenever he humiliates himself in front of his students or fellow teachers, your heart warms when he’s with her.
What do you do when your daughter finds out you’re a Soviet Spy, a fact that infringes on everything you do? Well, if you’re Philip Jennings you walk a razor thin line. All season long, Philip refuses to make any decision that would devastate his daughter. This all goes on while he’s also helping to exfiltrate his mark-turned-wife Martha but, fortunately, he’s a master of composure — until, at least, he catches Paige locking lips with the son of their FBI agent neighbor. Hey, a man has his limits.