Remembering TV's greatest fathers

Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son, Opie, from "The Andy Griffith Show."

Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son, Opie, from "The Andy Griffith Show."

Happy Father’s Day to one and all; enjoy this very special day with your dad. Remember the good times and how he helped shape your life. If you are able to spend this day with your father, treat it as a very special gift because that’s what it is.

Lavish him with love and affection because the day will come when you wish you could. Believe me, I know. And, remember, the most important thing you can give him is your presence and not presents.

In addition to our biological fathers, there have been a lot of other dads who entered our houses on a regular basis during the past six decades through the medium of television. Some were kind, caring and loving. Others were off the proverbial wall.

Here is a list of 25 of the best-known TV fathers who spent time with us on a weekly basis.

Ozzie Nelson (“The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet,” 1952-66): The show featured the real-life Nelson family: Ozzie, his wife, Harriet, and their two sons, David and Ricky.

The show stressed realism, including actual shots of the Nelsons’ California home. When the boys got married in real life, David to June Blair and Ricky to Kristin Harmon, their wives were written into the show.

Ozzie, who generally wrote all of the show’s scripts, rarely left the house during the show.

“Ozzie & Harriet” served as a springboard for Ricky Nelson’s career as a rock ‘n’ roll superstar. He started singing regularly on the show in 1957 and quickly developed into a teen idol.

Danny Williams (“Make Room for Daddy”/”The Danny Thomas Show,” 1953-64): Danny Thomas starred as Danny Williams, a hard-working comedian and nightclub entertainer. The original cast also included his wife, Margaret (Jean Hagen), and two children, Terry (Sherry Jackson) and Rusty (Rusty Hamer). Also featured on the show were Louise Beavers as the Williams’ maid, Louise, and Hans Conried, who played Williams’ eccentric Uncle Tonoose.

The show centered on Williams’ busy show business career and how he struggled to have a solid relationship with his family.

Jim Anderson Sr. (“Father Knows Best,” 1954-60): Played by veteran actor Robert Young, Anderson was the manager of General Insurance Co. in Springfield, Mass. The cast included Jim’s wife, Margaret (Jane Wyatt), and their three children, Betty (Elinor Donahue), Bud (Billy Gray) and Kathy (Lauren Chapin).


Robert Young

The head of a typical middle-class 1950s family, Anderson portrayed every father next door. A thoughtful dad, he always helped his children when problems arose.

Ward Cleaver (“Leave It to Beaver,” 1957-63): Hugh Beaumont starred as Ward Cleaver and Barbara Billingsley as his wife, June. They had two sons, Wally, played by Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers as Theodore, aka “The Beaver.” This show centered on the children’s activities.


The Cleavers

The plot usually was the same: Beaver would get into trouble at school or with a friend, come home to his parents to discuss the situation, and his father would dole out the soft punishment, if needed.

Ben Cartwright (“Bonanza,” 1959-73):

The patriarch of the Cartwright family near Lake Tahoe, Nev., during the 1860s, Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, had three adult sons: Adam (Pernell Roberts), “Hoss” (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon).


Michael Landon, second from left, is seen in this shot from "Bonanza."

The show centered on the Cartwrights, the area’s wealthiest family, who lived on the Ponderosa, their 600,000-acre ranch. The Western, which was the first TV show to feature a single father, featured Ben’s relationships with his sons, who helped run the Ponderosa.

Steven Douglas (“My Three Sons,” 1960-72): Played by Fred MacMurray, Douglas was an aeronautical engineer raising his three sons as a single parent in California. He was assisted by the boys’ grandfather, Bub, played by William Frawley of “I Love Lucy” fame. William Demarest replaced an ailing Frawley midway through the series.

Starring as the sons in the original episodes were Tim Considine as Mike, Don Grady as Robbie and Stanley Livingston as Chip. This was among the first single-parent sitcoms in TV history.

The show featured the trials and tribulations of the three siblings and how their pipe-smoking, laid-back father helped them resolve them.

Sheriff Andy Taylor (“Andy Griffith Show,” 1960-68): Andy Griffith played the widowed sheriff of Mayberry, N.C., who lived with his young son, Opie (Ron Howard), and Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). Taylor was assisted by his well-meaning, but bungling deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts).


Andy Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the “Andy Griffith Show,” is spending the day fishing with his son, Opie, played by Ron Howard.

Andy served as Opie’s confidant, counsel and disciplinarian during his son’s youthful missteps. He resolved the situations with his down-home logic and home-spun humor.

Rob Petrie (“The Dick Van Dyke Show,” 1961-66): The show had two primary settings. Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke), the head comedy writer for the Alan Brady TV show, worked at the office with his co-writers, the wise-cracking Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) and Sally Rogers (Rose Marie).

The other setting had Rob at home in New Rochelle, N.Y., with his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) and young son Richie (Larry Mathews).

Richie was 6 years old when the show opened in 1961, and he had a very subordinate role in the show. There obviously was a strong relationship with Rob and Richie.

Jed Clampett (“Beverly Hillbillies,” 1962-71): The first of several fish-out-of-water shows that featured a hillbilly family from Tennessee that struck oil by accident and moved to Beverly Hills, Calif. Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) was the head of the extended family that also included Granny (Irene Ryan), his daughter Elly May (Donna Douglas) and nephew Jethro (Max Baer Jr.)

Clampett spent his time trying to stop Granny from returning to Tennessee, keeping Jethro from hatching his hair-brained schemes and trying to transform the critter-loving Elly May into a sophisticated Hollywood woman. It was quite a task.

Mike Brady (“The Brady Bunch,” 1969-74): Played by Robert Reed, Mike Brady, a widowed architect, was the father of TV’s first blended family. He had three sons: Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland). His second wife, Carol (Florence Henderson), had three daughters: Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb) and Cindy (Susan Olson). The Bradys also had a live-in housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis).

Set in a Los Angeles suburb, Mike and Carol experienced the adjustments and problems indigenous to a blended family of that size.

John Walton (“The Waltons,” 1972-81): Situated on Walton’s Mountain in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II, the show was a classic TV family drama. John Walton, played by Ralph Waite, was the hard-working father trying to earn enough money with the family lumber mill to keep everyone fed.

The cast primarily consisted of his wife, Olivia, played by Michael Learned, and their children: John-Boy (Richard Thomas), Jason (John Walmsley), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton Taylor), Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), Ben (Eric Scott), Jim-Bob (David W. Harper) and Elizabeth (Kami Cotler). Also playing key roles were Grandpa (Will Geer) and Grandma (Ellen Corby).

Archie Bunker (“All in the Family,” 1971-79): Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, was always getting into altercations with his wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton); his daughter, Gloria, (Sally Struthers); and her husband, Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner). Their house on Houser Street in Queens, N.Y., was always rocking with the ultraconservative Archie battling the ultraliberal Mike and Gloria.

While they always had political and social confrontations, the deep affection the three had was evident in the three-part series during which the Stivics were leaving Queens so Mike could take a job teaching at a California university. The tears in the final episode when they were saying their goodbyes were real. When Mike hugged Archie and said, “I love you, Archie,” that was not acting, but genuine affection. Archie always treated Gloria like she still was his “little goyl,” but their love ran deep.

Fred G. Sanford (“Sanford & Son,” 1972-77): Redd Foxx starred as the cantankerous Fred G. Sanford, who ran a salvage/junk yard in the Watts section of Los Angeles with his son, Lamont Sanford, played by Demond Wilson.

One of the aspects that made this show so terrific was the interaction between the father and son. They were always maneuvering to get an advantage over the other in business as well as their personal lives.

Charles Ingalls (“Little House on the Prairie,” 1974-82): The TV Western, set in Walnut Grove, Minn., during the 1870s and 1880s, featured Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, a farmer, and Karen Grassle as his wife, Caroline. They had three daughters: Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura (Melissa Gilbert) and Carrie (Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush, twin sisters who shared the role).


Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert


Landon holds his daughter, Carrie, played by twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush, in “Little House on the Prairie.”

A prototypical farmer of the era, Ingalls worked tirelessly to provide for his family while teaching his daughters to become quality citizens.

Howard Cunningham (“Happy Days,” 1974-84): Situated in Milwaukee during the 1960s and 1970s, the series centered around teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family, including his father, Howard (Tom Bosley), mother Marion (Marion Ross), and his younger sister Joanie (Erin Moran). It also is about Richie’s relationship with his friends, Potsie Weber (Anson Williams), Ralph Malph (Donny Most) and Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler).

Howard Cunningham, who owned and ran Cunningham’s Hardware, played somewhat of a subordinate role, but always was willing to offer sage advice.

Thomas Bradford (“Eight is Enough,” 1977-81): The columnist for a Sacramento, Calif., newspaper, Bradford was played by Dick Van Patten. His first wife, Joan, died, leaving him with eight children, a record for a TV show. The children were David (Grant Goodeve), Mary (Lani O’Grady), Joanie (Laurie Walters), Susan (Susan Richardson), Nancy (Diane Kay), Elizabeth (Connie Needham), Tommy (Willie Aames) and Nicholas (Adam Rich). Thomas eventually married a second wife, Abby.

Bradford certainly had his hands full dealing with eight distinctly different and independent children as well as his relationship with his second wife.

Phillip Drummond (“Diff’rent Strokes,” 1978-86): Drummond, played by Conrad Bain, was a wealthy businessman who lived in an exclusive apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan. He had a daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato), and brought two black brothers, Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges), from Harlem to live with them. Their mother had previously worked for Drummond.

He later adopted the two youngsters.

Most of the storylines were how Drummond and Kimberly helped the boys make the adjustment from Harlem to Park Avenue.

Steven Keaton (“Family Ties,” 1982-89): Keaton (Steven Gross) was the manager of a local public television station in Columbus, Ohio. He and his wife, Elyse (Meredith Baxter-Birney), had been hippies during the 1960s, were disciples of President Kennedy and members of the Peace Corps.

Steven conflicted politically with their oldest child, Alex (Michael J. Fox), a strong young Republican. The Keatons had two other children, Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Jennifer (Tina Yothers).

Dr. Cliff Huxtable (“The Cosby Show,” 1984-92): The show focused on the Huxtables, an upper-middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., during the 1980s and 1990s. Dr. Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby, was an obstetrician, and his wife, Clair (Phylicia Rashad), was an attorney. They had five children: Sondra (Sabrina Le Beouf), Denise (Lisa Bonet), Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam).


Bill Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable in the “Cosby Show,” tries to help resolve an altercation between his two younger daughters, Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam), left, and Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe).

Although race was not a central factor in the show, it did promote African-American musicians and artists.

As most fathers during that period, Dr. Huxtable tried to help resolve the problems that plagued his children. Most were comedic, but some were serious.

Dr. Jason Seaver (“Growing Pains,” 1985-92): Alan Thicke starred as Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist, who worked at his home in Huntington, N.Y. His wife, Maggie (Joanna Kearns), had recently returned to work as a TV reporter. They had three children: Mike (Kirk Cameron), who always was trying to maneuver something or someone, Carol (Tracey Gold), an honors student who struggled with peer relationships, and Ben (Jeremy Miller), who was following in Mike’s footsteps.


The TV Seaver family starred in the comedy “Growing Pains” during the 1980s. The cast members were clockwise, bottom right, Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke), Maggie (Joanna Kearns), Mike (Kirk Cameron), Carol (Tracey Gold) and Ben (Jeremy Miller). Cameron later starred in the movie “Fireproof,” produced by Sherwood Pictures, the cinematic arm of Sherwood Baptist Church.

Because he worked at home, Dr. Seaver had the primary responsibility of trying to solve his children’s problems, especially Mike’s.

Jack Arnold (“The Wonder Years,” 1988-93): Played by Dan Lauria, Jack Arnold held a management position at NORCOM, a defense contractor. The show focused on Arnold’s son, Kevin (Fred Savage), and how he grew from a 12-year-old to a 17-year-old during the show’s run. Jack was old-fashioned, hard-nosed and a disciplinarian when dealing with Kevin and his older sister, Karen (Olivia D’Abo), and brother, Wayne (Jason Hervey).

Kevin’s mother (Alley Mills) was the antithesis of her gruff husband as a stay-at-home loving mom.

Dan Conner (“Roseanne,” 1988-97): John Goodman played construction contractor Dan Conner, the father of a middle-class family in a Chicago suburb. His wife, Roseanne, was played by Roseanne Barr, and the couple had three children: Becky (Lecy Goranson), Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and D.J. (Michael Fishman). The show was important because it was the first to portray a blue-collar family with both parents working outside of the home.

Dan struggled as his daughters rebelled against his parental authority. Sound familiar?

Al Bundy (“Married … with Children,” 1989-99): The show featured the dysfunctional Bundy family, headed by women’s shoe salesman Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), his stay-at-home, non-cooking wife, Peggy (Katey Sagal), his beautiful, educationally-challenged daughter, Kelly (Christina Applegate), and wise-cracking son Bud (David Faustino). This was the first prime-time series on the then-fledgling Fox Network.

The rude, crude Al Bundy enjoyed going to his favorite “nudie” bar and reading his “BigUns” magazine. He hated his job and looked down on his family. He was the antithesis of virtually every TV father who preceded him.

Jim Walsh (“Beverly Hills 90210,” 1990-2000): The show focused on the Walsh family as they moved from Minneapolis to Beverly Hills and primarily followed the lives of their twins, Brandon (Jason Priestley) and Brenda (Shannen Doherty), and the twins’ teenage friends.

Jim Walsh (James Eckhouse) and his wife, Cindy (Carol Potter), kept a careful eye on the twins, especially Brenda, as they went through fictitious West Beverly High School.

A typical father, Jim kept watch on Brenda and her romantic escapades. Jim and Cindy both left the show as regulars after the fifth season when his business promoted him and they moved to Hong Kong.

Tim Taylor (“Home Improvement,” 1991-99): The comedy series concentrated on the Taylor family: father, Tim (Tim Allen), his wife, Jill (Patricia Richardson), and the couple’s three sons Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and Mark (Taran Noah Smith).

The series also featured a show within the show as Tim Taylor was the host of “Tool Time.” He had the unenviable task of keeping peace among three sons with divergent personalities. Brad, the oldest, was popular and athletic. Randy, one year younger, was the comedian. Mark, the youngest, continually pestered his older brothers.

Tony Soprano (“The Sopranos,” 1999-2007): The series centered on Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), an Italian-American businessman/mobster and the troubles he encounters trying to balance his home life and the criminal organization he headed in New Jersey.

Edie Falco played Tony’s wife, Carmela, Jamie-Lynn Sigler his rebellious daughter, Meadow, and Robert Iler his underachieving son, Anthony Jr.

While Tony had little difficulty controlling his mob family, he had problems getting his daughter and son to follow the path he wanted for them. The relationships were complicated because Meadow and Anthony Jr. were aware of their father’s criminal activities.

Barry Levine is a news copy editor at The Albany Herald.