Today the parents we see on television are a much more realistic depiction of the parents we see (and are) at home. Some TV dads stay home. Many of the families we see on our favorite shows are made up of beloved parental surrogates: siblings, godparents, friends, and neighbors. And you know what? These small-screen families feel most like our own, only better, when they aren't so "perfect."
As we celebrate Father's Day and dads on their annual day of thanks, we take a moment to recognize our current crop of favorite fictional fathers. We toast the laughter and invaluable lessons they've given us.
1. The Toughest Parents Can Be The Biggest Softies
Cedric the Entertainer as Calvin Butler in The Neighborhood.
Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.
Calvin Butler, The Neighborhood
Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer) is not short on opinions, nor is he shy about sharing them. But under that gruff demeanor is a man who loves his family and his neighborhood. Witness Calvin telling neighbor Dave (Max Greenfield) that he needs to appreciate his mother (Marilu Henner) while she's still around.
2. Pain And Joy Can Coexist
Walton Goggins as Wade Felton in The Unicorn.
Photo Credit: Erik Voake/CBS.
Wade Felton, The Unicorn
Watching Wade (Walton Goggins) struggle to reenter the world of relationships while working his way through mourning his deceased wife—and raising two daughters—reminds us that loss is inevitable, but life goes on. Wade is living proof that it's possible to find a way through the toughest times, especially with support from family and loyal friends like Wade's pals Michelle, Ben, Delia and Forrest. Push through the grief, and one day you'll find yourself dancing like nobody's watching when you (think) you're alone in the kitchen.
3. Our Homes Are Always Open
Daniel Ezra as Spencer James and Taye Diggs as Billy Baker in The CW series All American.
Photo Credit: Jesse Giddings/The CW.
Billy Baker, All American
As the varsity coach of fictional South Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, Billy Baker (Taye Diggs) is a father figure to many, including star athlete Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), who eventually moves into his coach's home.
Inspired by the life of pro football player Spencer Paysinger, The CW drama series All American captures their poignant relationship and showcases the positive power of parenting—even when the father figure isn't related by blood.
4. We Can Work It Out
Lance Barber as George Sr. in Young Sheldon.
Photo Credit: Bill Inoshita/CBS.
George Cooper Sr., Young Sheldon
George (Lance Barber) is a Texas high school football coach with a science-obsessed super-nerd for a son. The budding genius's fondness for bowties and Newtonian physics might be difficult for his dad to relate to, but George Sr.'s support and love for Sheldon (Iain Armitage) shines through when it counts, especially when the two put their heads together to convince Mary to let Sheldon attend college in the Season 3 finale.
5. Family Comes First
Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, David Levy, and Annie Murphy in Schitt's Creek.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pop TV.
Johnny Rose, Schitt's Creek
Played by real father and son Eugene and Dan Levy, Johnny and David Rose were once part of a dynasty so rich that Johnny bought the town of Schitt's Creek as a joke birthday gift for his son. But when the Roses lose their fortune, they are forced to live in two adjacent rooms of a rundown motel in Schitt's Creek, the only asset the government didn't seize because they thought it had no value. How wrong they were.
At first dismayed by little things like a leaky roof, Johnny slowly discovers what really matters: family, even if yours is clueless about practical matters like ATMs, insurance, and the cost of Parisian eye cream ("You want the smooth under-eyes of a 16-year-old? Get a job!"). Schitt's Creek's blend of humor and heart won legions of fans and reminded us that love matters more than luxury.
6. Learn To Laugh At Yourself
Rob Corddry as Forrest and Omar Miller as Ben in The Unicorn.
Photo Credit: Patrick Wymore/CBS.
Forrest and Ben, The Unicorn
Forrest (Rob Corddry) and Ben (Omar Miller) are champs when it comes to friendship and loyalty, but their skills as wingmen leave a lot to be desired, as they discover when they volunteer to take to widowed single dad Wade (Walton Goggins) out to meet women. Ben's attempts to flirt barely draw a glance from the ladies passing by, while Forrest's startle people enough to make them stumble. They might not have much game, but they've got plenty of humor. Life's too short not to laugh, even if you're sometimes the butt of the joke.
7. Take A Stand For What's Right
Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce, Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce and China Anne McClain as Jennifer Pierce in Black Lightning.
Photo Credit: Annette Brown/The CW.
Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning
After years of fighting The 100, Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) hung up his superhero suit to spend time with his daughters and serve his community as principal of Garfield High. But he's soon reminded—and he reminds us, as Black Lightning—that problems don't get solved on their own, so we must all take a stand against injustice when we see it.
8. Change Is Scary, But It's Unavoidable
Matthew McCann as Teddy and Matt LeBlanc as Adam in Man With A Plan.
Photo Credit: Robert Voets/CBS.
Adam Burns, Man With A Plan
When his wife returns to work, Adam Burns (Matt LeBlanc) finds out he'll be spending a lot more quality time with his kids. Suddenly, this old-school dad is confronted with the challenges of modern parenting, from deodorant emergencies to veganism to a13-year-old girl "all whacked up on hormones." His three kids expect their "Fun Daddy" to be a pushover, but Adam learns to take charge and lay down the law—with plenty of laughs along the way. He's a good reminder that life is bound to throw you curves, so you might as well lean into them.
9. Men Make Great Hosts
Will Estes as Jamie Reagan, Vanessa Ray as Officer Eddie Janko, Bridget Moynahan as Erin Reagan, Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan, Sami Gayle as Nicky Reagan-Boyle, Donnie Wahlberg as Danny Reagan in Blue Bloods.
Photo Credit: John Paul Filo/CBS.
Francis "Frank" Reagan, Blue Bloods
"Family matters" is the underlying theme of this series, which regularly features four generations of the Reagan clan at the home of Frank (Tom Selleck) in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for their weekly Sunday dinner. While the law-enforcement officer spends plenty of his off-duty time refereeing family squabbles, he's rightly confident that at this table, everyone has each other's backs.
10. Never Give Up
Max Greenfield as Dave Johnson in The Neighborhood.
Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.
Dave Johnson, The Neighborhood
An eternal optimist, Dave Johnson (Max Greenfeld) refuses to be daunted by the initially reluctant reception he and his family get from their new neighbor Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer) in The Neighborhood. True, Dave's prone to social blunders and he faces setbacks—including falling off the roof and accidentally knocking out the power in the Butlers' house—but he keeps trying.
Like every glass-half-full guy, he knows instinctively that things are hard before they get easy. And sure enough, as the show unfolds, he and Calvin discover each other's humanity under their differences.