March Dadness: Who Is the Best TV Dad Ever?

Homer Simpson? Tony Soprano? Jack Pearson? It's time to decide once and for all which TV dad reigns supreme. Vote for your favorite.

by Fatherly

March Madness is officially here, which means filling out your bracket, watching games while you pretend to work, and ultimately having your bracket busted before you even reach the weekend. And as lovers of brackets, competition, and puns, we decided to slightly tweak this tradition and transform it into March Dadness, a week-long tournament to discover, once and for all, who is the best TV dad of all time. So we have listed 32 of the greatest patriarchs in TV history and will now be pitting them against each other to determine which father reigns supreme. The best part? It’s up to you guys to decide.

Voting begins on March 21 on Fatherly’s Instagram page. Who will become the champion of March Dadness? There’s only one way to find out so head over to our Instagram page to start voting and check out our candidates below to see which dad you want to be rooting for in this heated tournament. Will Homer or one of the other top dogs take the prize or could a bad like Walter White come out on top? We can’t wait to find out.

Phil Banks (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

Uncle Phil not being a 1-seed and the tournament favorite is an absolute travesty. This selection committee here needs to wake the hell up — he’s the obvious choice here. He’s a quintessential sitcom dad of the 90s, was always compassionate and supportive of his kids, was stern when teaching them lessons, but always remained fair. He took in his nephew and became such an amazing surrogate father that he made Real Life Will Smith cry about his real life dad in what is probably the best father (figure)-and-son moment in TV history. This tournament is a layup for Uncle Phil. I rest my case.


Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)

Phil Dunphy is not exactly Fonzie. But, unlike many modern stereotypes, Phil Dunphy didn’t lose his cool when he became a dad because he never had it in the first place. His inherent nerdiness – from magic, to cheer squad, to his love of technology – was deeply rooted before he had children. But this persistent childish enthusiasm is exactly what makes him a very cool dad. And despite being the constant comic relief, his emotional availability and undeniable affection for his children make him a powerful and respected father figure.

Eliminated: Final 2

Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)

Homer Simpson isn’t perfect. He strangles Bart, yells at Lisa for playing her sax-a-ma-phone — and forgets Maggie’s even there. But for more than 27 years and 600 episodes, Homer has served as an instructive worst case scenario for dads everywhere. Plus, he’s tripped on peyote, been to outer space, designed the family car of all time, and played baseball with Mike Scioscia. There must be some collected wisdom here. Here’s just a small sampling from the longest enduring patriarch on television. Mmm … patriarchy.

Eliminated: Final 4

Carl Winslow (Family Matters)

Look up dependable and you will find a picture of Carl Winslow smiling. No matter what one of his kids have gone through, he will always be there to offer up empathetic wisdom and a tender hug. And honestly? The fact that Carl is able to tolerate Steve Urkel constantly invading his house while openly trying to seduce his daughter earns him sainthood in our book.

Eliminated: Final 4

Fred Flintstone (The Flintstones)

While he may have been based on Ralph from The Honeymooners, Fred managed to blaze his own path and become one of the first truly iconic dads in TV history. Without Fred, half the dads on this list don’t exist and for that reason alone, Mr. Flintstone deserves your respect, as well as your vote. So Yaba Daba Doo the right thing and vote for Fred.

Eliminated: Elite 8

Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor (Home Improvement)

Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor was not just a man or a dad; he was a philosopher. He saw tools and knew they needed more power. And lo, he gave it to them, teaching his kids to take charge and that sometimes you just need a power saw that can also blow up at random. Did Tim sometimes see the error of his ways? Yes. But did he also have a sick catchphrase that was literally just some kind of bizarre yodel-grunt? Also yes. Tim was a great man and gave teen girls the opportunity to see Jonathan Taylor Thomas on TV once a week. So thank you, Tim, for your service. Vote Tim Taylor because fuck you Bob Vila. AAAAROOOOHHHH!

Eliminated: Elite 8

Red Forman (That 70s Show)

Red Forman is a goddamn hero. He fought for his country in Korea and worked hard to support his family at an auto parts factory that fired him, like a bunch of dumbasses. His all-American avocations include drinking beer, watching the Packers, skipping church, and mocking his son Eric for liking Star Wars, smoking weed, and being a general dumbass. And yet, he always seems to do the right thing, as when Eric’s best friend Hyde is abandoned by his parents and Red takes him in and treats him like a son. And despite a complete lack of modern wokeness, Red’s tough love methods — including endless iterations of foot in ass wordplay — are just him parenting the best way he can. What more could you ask of any dad?

Eliminated: Elite 8

Danny Tanner (Full House)

Let’s get this out of the way: Danny isn’t cool. In fact, he’s a bit of dork who prefers cleaning to raging face. But you know what? Cool dads are overrated (just look at deadbeat dad Don Draper) because being a good parent means ignoring the wild child within and instead embracing a selflessness you never thought possible. And while Danny Tanner will never be the life of the party, he’s absolutely the father of the year.

Eliminated: Elite 8

Peter Griffin (Family Guy)

You wouldn’t want Peter to babysit your kids but this isn’t the babysitter’s club, it’s March Dadness. And while dads like Danny Tanner may be as wholesome as babies cuddling with puppies, that’s not what this tournament about. The real question you’re asking is this: which dad would you most want to get a beer with? And it’s hard to imagine a better drinking buddy than Peter, who is probably currently blowing off work to down a few brew dogs at the Drunken Clam.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)

Outside of the fact that James Gandolfini delivered the performance of a lifetime as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, the character is unique among fictional dads for one big reason. Though Tony starts out as a “bad dad,” his arc in The Sopranos mostly finds himself sliding closer to being good as the series goes on. Instead of a fall-from-grace, ala’ Walter White or Anakin Skywalker, Tony Soprano starts off as an adulterer who thinks little of the impacts of his status as a mobster. But, by the end of the series, he’s a loyal husband and father, trying to make his small, flawed, corner of the world a safer place for his family.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Bob Belcher (Bob's Burgers)

Bob Belcher is a bit of an anomaly — a regular guy in cartoon form. Far from the drunken couch potatoes of most animated sitcoms, Bob is a hardworking small business owner who leads by example, embraces his exceptionally weird wife and kids, and slings dad jokes just as well as he does his pun-tastic patties. Whether he’s assembling an Edward James Olive-most Burger, posing as an Equesticle to win back his daughter’s prized toy pony, or listening to one of Gene’s new bodily function-based songs, he’s always kind, patient, and hilarious.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)

Mike Brady was a cat raising three boys of his own before he met Carol and her three daughters. And far from being overwhelmed by the prospect of raising six kids on an architects salary, Mike went all in to become a loving father and counselor to each of his weird kids — even Marcia (Marcia, Marcia). What’s more, the parenting of his brood never once dampened Mr. Brady’s groove. He always had a look of desire for his lovely bride, even despite the craziness of broken noses and Tiki curses. That’s why it’s much more than a hunch that this super 70s dad will go all the way to the finals.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Tywin Lannister (Game of Thrones)

Tywin Lannister may not have really cared about any of his kids as individuals but he did care deeply about one thing: legacy. And to that point, he would do literally anything to ensure that his family lived on well past his death. And while Jamie, Cersei, and Tyrion may all hate him, they likely owe their ruthless father some gratitude for the fact that they’ve all managed to survive in Winterfell for this long.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Ray Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond)

On paper, everyone should hate Raymond because he appears to be in a no-win situation. He is raising three kids with his wife while living across the street from his incredibly nosy parents and endlessly morose brother. Yet, somehow, in the midst of chaos, Ray always keeps his cool and keeps everybody loving him.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Hank Hill (King of the Hill)

Hank is the ultimate every dad. He is humble, hard-working, and loves mowing the lawn so much it borders on religious. Basically, Hank is just like all of us and while flashier dads may try to sell you with their absurd antics, Hank just wants to have a couple of beers and listen to Willie Nelson. Sign us up!

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Walter White (Breaking Bad)

One could say that Walter White is a selfish man. And, sure, by the time he takes Heisenberg as his sobriquet and starts blowing shit up, that’s absolutely accurate. But the fact remains that Walter’s motivation to break bad was all about providing for his disabled son and a wonderful wife. You have to admire a father who is willing to put everything on the line to make sure his family is taken care of should he meet a terrible end, from cancer or gunfire. Did he become a murderous liar? Sure. But at least he was a murderous liar who loved his family. That’s why Mr. White will be the one who knocks … out his competitors.

Eliminated: Sweet 16

Al Bundy (Married With Children)

Disaffected, perpetually broke, eternally sexist shoe salesman Al Bundy overflowed with curdled anguish that was played for laughs. He clung to the glory days of high school football, which ended when he met his cigarette-toting spouse Peg. He’s the personification of quiet, unrequited suburban rage, an embittered dad who blames his wife Peg and his two kids (slutty Kelly and obsequious Bud) for his dead-end life. He makes no apologies. He gives zero fucks. And for that, we love him.

Eliminated: First Round

Dre Johnson (Black-ish)

Nostalgia might tell you to vote for a Homer Simpson type but it’s 2019 and we need a dad who is ready for these topsy turvy times. A dad who is confident enough to handle any obstacles thrown his way but humble enough to know that he doesn’t have all the answers. And that, my friends, is why Dre is not just the best dad currently on TV, he’s the dad most deserving of busting this bracket and becoming the March Dadness champion.

Eliminated: First Round

Hal (Malcolm in the Middle)

Hal isn’t perfect. He is prone to panicking, is a bit of a pushover, and clearly hates his job. In other words, he’s exactly like all of us. But unlike the rest of us, Hal is a sex god on par with Prince, James Dean, and Idris Elba. After all, how many men can say they’re still boning twice a day after more than two decades of marriage and five kids? Hal is part-average dad, part-sex symbol and for that, we salute him.

Eliminated: First Round

Randy Marsh (South Park)

Every bracket needs a wildcard. Someone who is willing to throw caution to the wind and shake up the mundane malaise. He’s an incompetent dad and borderline crazy person but that is exactly why we love him. Because plenty of these dads are there to tuck their kids into bed but how many of them have used their enlarged testicles as a form of transportation? Case closed.

Eliminated: First Round

Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead)

Parents who lawnmower, helicopter, or snowplow their kids do them the greatest disservice. They’ll live their lives unable to find meaning, not knowing how to fend for themselves. Rick Grimes, television’s most down-to-Earth dad, is the refreshing counterpoint to this parenting trend. Grimes tirelessly teaches his son, Carl, and daughter Judith to fend for themselves, to shoot for the brain, to embrace what you’ve been given and to survive in an unsurvivable time. Furthermore, he doesn’t tell the two that it’s his way or undead highway. Like all great parents, he shows the path, leading by example, and pushing Carl and Judith to live their own life — the short brutish one they’ve been allotted — to the fullest.

Eliminated: First Round

Louis Huang (Fresh Off the Boat)

Louis Huang is endlessly optimistic, impossibly kind, and naturally generous, all qualities that make him an absolutely kickass dad to his three sons. But he also has goals outside of his family, namely turning Cattleman’s Ranch into a successful eating establishment. And his hard work and determination teach his kids to have dreams and do everything in their power to achieve them, which is no small lesson. While other dads are powerhouses in certain areas, Louis is a living representation of the American Dream who offers a refreshingly balanced approach to parenting.

Eliminated: First Round

Frank Reynolds (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

In the hilariously backward world of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, being terrible is a virtue and survival is the only thing that matters. And nobody does terrible survival quite like Frank Reynolds, who delights in causing as much chaos and harm as possible to everyone around him, including his two kids, Dennis and Dee.

Eliminated: First Round

Ross Geller (Friends)

Is Ross the most present dad on this list? Absolutely not. In fact, over the course of Friends, Ross shirks nearly all parenting responsibilities as a dad. But Ross is a parent who prefers quality over quantity when it comes to dad time and while he is far from perfect, it’s pretty clear Ross loves the crap out of his kids.

Eliminated: First Round

George Jefferson (The Jeffersons)

George is a fighter. Growing up in Harlem, his dad passed away when he was 10, leaving him as the man of the house. Rather than let the fickle cruelty of life way him down, George worked tirelessly to create a better life for himself and his family, eventually starting a successful chain of dry cleaners that allowed him to move on up “to a deluxe apartment in the sky” in the Upper East Side. He had his flaws but there was never any doubt that George would do anything for Louise and Lionel.

Eliminated: First Round

Jerry Smith (Rick & Morty)

In many ways, Jerry is a pretty pathetic dude. He has less than zero self-esteem, is transparently self-interested, and is just generally a total fucking doofus. This pitiful cocktail makes Jerry the target of ridicule for pretty much everyone he encounters but there are a few moments where he proves he can relocate his spine and actually stand up for himself. And it’s telling that almost all of those moments involve his wife and kids because while Jerry is far from perfect (or even adequate), it’s clear his desire to be a good husband and dad might be his saving grace, so long as Rick doesn’t banish him to an alternate dimension.

Eliminated: First Round

Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights)

Eric Taylor is everything every man should aspire to be. He is patient, caring, tough, passionate, and all of the other good words that people use to describe heroes. And while his dedication to coaching is admirable, he never lets his focus on the field make him lose sight of what really matters: being the best dad and husband he can be. And whether he is having the talk with Julie, changing Gracie’s diaper, or getting hot and bothered with Tami, Coach Taylor is always going to do his best and leave it all on the proverbial field. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Eliminated: First Round

Earn Marks (Atlanta)

Earn wants to make a better life for his daughter and even though he sometimes shirks his parenting responsibilities in order to fuck around with his buddies or hit up a strip club, his driving motivation always remains to stop being a bum and start being a dad Lottie will be proud of. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all we can really ask for from our favorite on-screen patriarchs?

Eliminated: First Round

Don Draper (Mad Men)

Was he the world’s greatest dad? Hell no. Was he handsome as fuck? Yes. And not that it’s ever great to have an emotionally repressed, mostly absent, low-key always-drunk, secretive, but charming-and-evocative-when-the-occasion-calls-for-it father, there is something to be said for cultivating independence and resilience in kids. Look how badass Sally turned out to be. Also, don’t you think that after he left New York, after meditation and California and the long hair that he presumably grew, Don came to his senses and established an emotionally solid relationship with his kids? Maybe.

Eliminated: First Round

Frank Costanza (Seinfeld)

Frank Costanza is an incredible father. Sure, he’s prone to fits of rage and he raised a neurotic, self-centered asshole who celebrates his fiancé dying from licking envelopes. But he also gave George many gifts. Not many men can claim to have invented a holiday now celebrated around the world. Fathers create tradition and Frank should get through the first few rounds of this bracket on Festivus alone. Based on writer Dan O’Keefe’s real Father’s real invented tradition this is the kind of fatherhood flex that’s hard to ignore.

Who in the bracket is going to best Frank in the feats of strength? Who is better at airing grievances? You want a piece of him? YOU WANT A PIECE OF HIM? Frank gave George a good home, a good life, and his own holiday. Sure, George might not think of himself as a man, but he definitely knows all the cup sizes.

And who’s going to tell Frank Costanza he lost in this bracket? It’s not going to be me. Put those bananas on the side and vote him on to the next round. SERENITY NOW!

Eliminated: First Round

Jack Pearson (This Is Us)

Jack Pearson? More like Jack Piercing eye contact, am I right ladies? He is so much more than a great father and husband, he’s a hot ghost dad, which is not something that could be said of his competition. This selfless yet stoic sexpot who was killed by a crock-pot on Superbowl Sunday yet remains a powerful patriarch and the ultimate DILF postmortem. If his mustache isn’t enough to make middle America super horny, his secrets will shoulder that responsibility. He may have a checkered past from his time in the Vietnam war, but don’t worry ladies. It’s just because he’s too good of a man and doing the right thing all the time gets complicated.

Eliminated: First Round

George Lopez (George Lopez)

George isn’t walking into this tournament as a favorite by any means but you know what makes March Madness great? A Cinderella story making an improbable run. So why can’t this goofy, old fashioned dad be the underdog that ultimately wins March Madness? Do you believe in miracles?

Eliminated: First Round