TV's Greatest Dad? Happy Father's Day

Long ago, I was a party to the creation of an innocuous “fax poll” aimed at enlisting reader participation in a vote for “The Greatest TV Dad Of All Time.”

It was a pre-Father's Day contrivance not unlike this TV Blog.

To the amazement of us all, the winner was Al Bundy, patriarch of the dysfunctional Bundy family on “Married … with Children,” the great Fox comedy series from the 1980s and ’90s.

Played by Ed O’Neill (photo above), Al was the quintessential anti-Dad -- at the time, a new concept in TV dads.

Al was a Chicago-area shoe salesman who struggled with financial issues, his uncooperative family (Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate and David Faustino) and his life in general.

The other candidates in this poll were more or less predictable. All were archetypal, well-known icons of TV fatherhood.



They included (if memory serves) Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont, “Leave It To Beaver”), Jim Anderson (Robert Young, “Father Knows Best”), Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby, “The Cosby Show”), James Evans (John Amos, “Good Times”), and possibly others such as Dan Conner (John Goodman, “Roseanne”), Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne, “The Munsters”) and Gomez Addams (John Astin, “The Addams Family”).

But Al Bundy possibly won precisely because he was the anti-Dad -- a character who readers and viewers of “Married … with Children” could relate to more than the others.

But here's the thing: That poll was possible in that time and place because almost everybody who saw the poll likely knew who every one of the candidates were, although they spanned the then-history of TV from the 1950s to the ’90s.

The “Greatest TV Dads” of old were known to all for the simple reason that there were so fewer shows in that era. There was a time when everybody knew who Ward Cleaver was.

As the years and decades fly by, the buttoned-down, Solomon-like TV dads of the past have largely receded into TV's dim history.

It was not lost on me while I was typing the paragraphs above to describe “Married … with Children” that there was a time when such a description of this show would not have been necessary at all.

Who would be the candidates today in, say, a poll asking readers to vote for “The Greatest TV Dad of the 21st Century”?

With all of the hundreds of TV shows available all at once today, who stands out conspicuously enough to wear the 21st-century crown? I have no idea.

One more thing: In a “Greatest TV Mom of All Time” poll taken that same year around Mother’s Day, the winner was Florida Evans -- played by Esther Rolle in “Good Times.” 

1 comment about "TV's Greatest Dad? Happy Father's Day".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 17, 2024 at 9:30 a.m.

    Adam, I'm surprised at you. What about Archie Bunker? Or, Chester A Riley ( William Bendix ) in "The Life Of Riley"?Or Tom Bosley In "Happy Days" or Tony Soprano?

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