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Best and Worst TV Dads of the Past 25 years

Father’s Day is this weekend, which means it’s time to reflect on television’s best (and worst) dads. These are the dads who helped us learn life’s hard lessons growing up and the dads that made us happy we didn’t have them in our family tree. As I’m sure you will notice many of these dads are from teen dramas from back when I was in high school. I know this won’t be everyone’s experience, but these are the TV dads that really stuck with me.

Best TV Dads

Sandy Cohen – The O.C.
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The O.C. was a show that I watched religiously every week. No matter what was happening in my life, I was ready on the couch eagerly waiting to hear that theme song. While I loved Ryan and Seth’s friendship, I also loved the advice and guidance that Sandy Cohen provided. He was always there with sage advice and the best part was he acted like a father to all of Seth’s friends. He had serious conversations with the whole gang when they needed him the most. It didn’t matter that they weren’t his kids by blood, if they needed his help, he always there, eyebrows and all.

Keith Mars – Veronica Mars
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It is rare to find a truly special father/daughter relationship on TV, but Veronica Mars nailed it. Right in the pilot episode, Veronica explains how she took her dad’s side when her mom left. While they gave each other their own space throughout the series, Keith was always there when Veronica needed some tough love. They trusted each other and always had the other’s back. One of Veronica’s biggest motivations was helping her dad get his reputation back, because no one talks shit about Keith Mars and gets away with it.

Eric Taylor – Friday Night Lights
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This one might be a little controversial to some. I admit that sometimes he wasn’t the best dad to Julie since he wasn’t always around, but he was a dad to a whole football team and he was always there for Julie when she needed him most. I honestly still YouTube some of his speeches when I’m needing some extra motivations. He fought tooth and nail for his team and his family and always tried to do right by both of them. Clear hearts, full eyes, can’t lose that dad.

Philip Banks – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
philUncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is another TV dad who extended his love and support to people that weren’t actually his kids. He was always there for Will, no matter what Will did. No one can forget that heart wrenching scene where he and Will talk about Will’s dad leaving him yet again. Phil isn’t just an uncle to Will, he’s a great dad.

Worst TV Dads

Unfortunately not all TV dads were created to be great sources of inspiration. Just as there are good dads, there are also super terrible dads. Here are a few that top that list of worst TV dads.

Don Draper – Mad Men
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Don Draper is one of the worst dads in television history. Yeah sometimes he had charming bonding moments with Sally, but that was only when he was around, which wasn’t often. Whenever he was with his kids he was drunk or ignoring them (or in the apartment downstairs sleeping with the neighbor). I don’t think he even talked to Gene or Henry in the final seasons. He was your stereotypical drunk, never there dad who at times even made his daughter act like his caretaker or bartender. Not great, Don.

Frank Reynolds – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
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Frank Reynolds has proven time and time again that age is just a number and being older doesn’t necessarily make you more mature. He is always up to some kind of scheme trying to get more money or trick someone into doing something for his benefit. He’s no better than his children and is often the worst of the gang with his antics.

Clay Morrow – Sons of Anarchy
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It’s an old TV trope that stepdads are bad dudes, but Clay Morrow from Sons of Anarchy really went the extra mile on this one. He lied to Jax from the beginning when it turned out he (spoiler alert) helped killed Jax’s birth father. Eventually he got what was coming to him, but not before he caused seasons of havoc on the Teller family, although, to be fair, the show wouldn’t really exist without him.

Stannis Baratheon – Game of Thrones
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Game of Thrones fans have put up with some seriously horrifying scenes and just bad parents in general, but one of the worst was Stannis Baratheon (spoiler alert) burned his own daughter alive. Yes, that really happened. Luckily fate, or rather Brienne of Tarth, got to him quickly after, but his reputation as dad is ruined forever.

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