Friday, June 17, 2011

The Top 5 TV Dads, and If They Had a Child With Autism

For Father’s Day, here are my picks for the Top 5 Dads in television history, and my thoughts on how they would have handled being a parent of a child with autism.

You may recall my earlier list of the Top 5 TV Moms. I found this list of TV fathers harder to put together as most of the fathers on recent sitcoms seem to be of the buffoon type, with Raymond from Everybody Loves Raymond being a prime example. He’s a funny character, but not exactly much of a role model. So, I had to dig a little deeper.

Here’s what I came up with. Let’s see if you agree:

5. Steve Douglass – My Three Sons: Fred MacMurray was the quintessential nice-guy dad. On this long-running ‘60s series, he played a widower raising his three sons on his own, with a bit of help from Uncle Charlie. It’s funny what passed for comedy back then. This show had no outrageous characters, and the dad was just a normal, decent guy. It never would be on the air these days. It’s hard to say what kind of parent of an autistic child Steve would have made; his three sons never seemed to provide all that much of a challenge, so who knows how he would have reacted under more stressful situations.

4. Lou Grant – The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant: Okay, so he wasn’t really a father. I mean, his character had kids, but I don’t think they were even on one episode. But the reason he makes the list is because he was a great father figure, first for Mary Richards on the MTM sitcom, then for the young journalists on the Lou Grant drama. Gruff but with a soft heart. Though, I can’t see him with a child on the spectrum. I don’t think he would have a clue as to what to do. It’s likely that Mary would have ended up taking care of the poor kid.

3. Burt Hummel – Glee: I don’t watch many television shows these days, but Glee is a guilty pleasure that my wife and I share after our son goes to bed. And while many of the characters are caricatures, Burt Hummel comes across realistically. A guy’s guy, and the father of a gay teen, he doesn’t always relate to his son. But he tries his best to understand, and, more than anything, he supports him and loves his son very much. Those qualities would make him the kind of father many of us are with a child with autism, loving even when we don’t fully understand.

2. Andy Taylor – The Andy Griffith Show: When I was a kid, I looked forward to watching reruns of Andy Griffith after I had finished my homework. Deputy Barney Fife was the funniest character, but Sheriff Andy was the heart of the show. A single father raising his son in small town Mayberry, N.C., Andy often used homespun humor to impart wisdom. As a sheriff, he never carried a gun. As a dad, he never raised his voice. If he had a boy with autism, I have a feeling he would have been just as good a dad as he was with Opie. I could just picture him picking up his guitar, singing a song, and connecting with his son.  And then they would go fishin'.

1. Heathcliff Huxtable – The Cosby Show: Who wouldn’t want Bill Cosby as a father? He’s warm, funny, and loving. As Cliff Huxtable, he taught his kids right from wrong, and personal responsibility, all while making you laugh. When his son on the show, Theo, was found to have dyslexia, Cliff held him to high expectations, not letting him use his learning disorder as an excuse. A great model for us dads, he would have been a wonderful father to a child with autism, or any kid for that matter.

Those are my choices. What do you think?


  1. I vote for Dexter's dad. He was able to have his son adapt to his strange needs...and while it was was still moral. He taught him how to live well...within the bounds of his needs and of true morals.

    He gave him principles to live by...a code.

    That is what is missing in so many now days.

  2. I am not familiar with Dexter but I like your reason for choosing him.


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