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7 Things We Can Learn From Old-School TV Dads

Let’s face it: television doesn’t always paint dads in the best light. Case in point: the bumbling, mumbling useful idiot of the moment Phil Dunphy, one of several walking 80s sitcom caricatures (the Shrewish Blond! The Wacky Gays!) who populate the ironically named Modern Family. But if you dive into television’s storied past, you can find a few good dads (or dads who are good for entertainment, at least), men who walked the walk and talked the talk, passing along wisdom to their pretend families and millions of viewers each week. Here are some classic TV dads from back in the day, and the valuable life lessons they brought us.

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  • Adoption Can Make a Family 1 of 7
    Adoption Can Make a Family
    It's hard to believe that Different Strokes was once considered groundbreaking TV; at the time, mixed race adoption was rarely depicted on television or the movies. Phillip Drummond taught us that adoptive parents can provide just as much love and support as natural parents — at least for this on-screen family. Too bad Todd Bridges and Dana Plato didn't listen to their TV dad's advice about not stealing things or getting into the adult film industry.
    Photo credit: Blamo! radio
  • It Could Be Worse 2 of 7
    It Could Be Worse
    Long-suffering shoe salesman Al Bundy, with his ridiculous wife and horrible kids, taught us that fatherhood is rarely all that it's cracked up to be. Married With Children was also a groundbreaking show, taking the tropes of the hen-pecked husband to new (and often hilariously tasteless) extremes. The takeaway for dads here is that no matter how bad your kids are, there's always someone who's been cursed with a Bud Bundy.
    Photo credit: Zap2It
  • More Kids, More Fun 3 of 7
    More Kids, More Fun
    The patriarch of the Brady Bunch taught us that stepchildren and large families can get along famously. Also, the family that perms together stays together.
    Photo credit: Famecrawler
  • Being Frugal is Cool 4 of 7
    Being Frugal is Cool
    Cliff Huxtable shattered the sitcom color barrier, following in the footsteps of George Jefferson; he was an highly successful working dad who happened to be African-American. Along with reminding us of the joys and heartaches that come with fatherhood, Cliff taught us that no matter how much money you make as a successful doctor married to a successful lawyer, you shouldn't flash your wealth around — start by buying a crappy plastic watch.
    Photo credit: Zap2It
  • The Cheap Laugh Isn’t Worth It 5 of 7
    The Cheap Laugh Isn't Worth It
    Fred Sanford showed us that the day-to-day of being a single, widowed father isn't all that hard if you continually threaten to die and join your wife in Heaven. (Also effective: continually referring to your kid as a "big dummy"). Funny? Yes. A role model for single dads? Eh.
    Photo credit: TVparty
  • Everyone Has Troubles 6 of 7
    Everyone Has Troubles
    The Growing Pains dad, Jason Seaver, (who was a stay-at-home father!) taught us that upper middle-class white families have problems, too — at least ones that can be solved in 30 minutes. Plus if things get boring, hey, Leonardo diCaprio can just show up and live with you!
    Photo credit: 1051 Jack FM
  • You Can Always Look Comparatively Good 7 of 7
    You Can Always Look Comparatively Good
    We'll count Don Draper as old school, since he's from the early 60s. Which also happens to be his life lesson — live in the early 60s. You can smoke, cheat, drink constantly, make up a fake identity — and that's just at work! But the question remains: is he a bad father? Compared to his wife Betty, who drank like a sailor and smoked like a chimney while pregnant, calls her kids lazy and boring, and occasionally slaps them, Don's a regular Ward Cleaver.
    Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

 

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