“I want to show you the new world, Carl. I want to make it a reality for you. Please, Carl…let me show you.”
Rick has spent eight seasons defending and protecting his kids — even Judith, who isn’t really his daughter. He and Carl fought on many occasions, but the deep bond between them remained even when they couldn’t agree on how to run things. Rick was deeply shaken by Carl’s death, and kept Negan alive to honor his son’s final wishes for peace.
BEST: Jack Pearson (This Is Us)
“I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful that we’re all safe, and there’s no one in the world I’d rather be too hot or too cold with.”
Jack Pearson isn’t perfect. His struggles with alcoholism threatened to rip his family apart, but there’s little doubt that he cares about Rebecca and the kids above all else: After all, he saved his family in the fire and went back only to try and rescue Kate’s dog. His love for Rebecca is heartwarming and real, which made his demise all the more tragic. Damn you, Crock-Pots!
Dean Buscher/The CW
BEST: Marcus Kane (The 100)
“You turn the page, and you don’t look back. You do better today than you did yesterday…and before you know it, you’ll deserve to survive.”
Marcus isn’t technically a father to any of the delinquents, but he definitely plays that role — especially to the Blake siblings, with whom he has become especially close, and Clarke Griffin, to whom he might as well be a stepfather. Offering advice and comfort in equal measure, Marcus guides the kids through a litany of life-threatening and perilous situations, and often serves as their moral compass when they’ve lost their way.
John P Fleenor/FOX
BEST: Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
“Poopy-head means no Doc McStuffins for a week!”
Terry is a family man, first and foremost. After being racially profiled by another officer in the NYPD, his first concern is not for himself, but for his kids and how to explain the dangerous world in which they’re growing up. He constantly praises his wife and his daughters, and never seems chagrined at being surrounded by the women in his home.
BEST: Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)
“Everyone, I’d like to introduce you to my son, John — middle name redacted — Swanson. John was born some time ago, weighing multiple pounds and several ounces. Much like his father, he is a fan of silence. Please keep your voices down.”
Ron Swanson was a man’s man…until he became a dad. Dealing with two little girls and a baby is overwhelming to him at times, especially when they lock themselves in his office and start cutting their own hair (!!!), but his love for Diane and her girls helps him acclimate to what might be his greatest challenge: fatherhood.
BEST: Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)
“I’ve always said that if my son thinks of me as one of his idiot friends, then I’ve succeeded as a dad.”
Phil Dunphy might not be the most informed about what his kids are doing — or how to handle it — but his heart is always in the right place, and that’s what counts. His compassion and kindness keep the Dunphy family centered, and his “cool dad” persona (or lack thereof) evokes lots of laughs.
BEST: Jim Hopper (Stranger Things)
“I know that I’ve been gone too long, and I want you to know it’s not about you…I want you to know I’m not mad, I’m just sorry. About everything. I don’t want you to get hurt. At all. And I don’t want to lose you.”
If adopting a telekinetic teenager to save her from the terrifying, shady corporation hunting her down doesn’t land one on the ‘best dads’ list, what will? Despite his painful past with fatherhood — his daughter died — Hopper hides Eleven in his cabin in the woods, offering her sanctuary from Hawkins Lab and plenty of Eggos. It remains to be seen whether El will ever learn that he gave away her location at the end of the first season, but one thing is for sure: Hopper has definitely made amends for his mistake.
Carole Segal/SCI FI Channel
BEST: William ‘Bill’ Adama (Battlestar Galactica)
“If it was you, we’d never leave.”
Though his relationship with Lee is strained at times, Bill Adama clearly loves his son and the rest of the young crew on the Galactica, many of whom he sees as his kids. His refusal to leave Starbuck stranded on a moon after battling a cylon raider is incredibly touching, and his devastation over Dee’s death could melt even the coldest of hearts.
BEST: Bob Belcher (Bob’s Burgers)
“Admit it, you look up to me!”
Bob might not be a savvy businessman, but he does his best to make ends meet and to be a good, loving dad while running a business. His kids can be a headache and cause trouble for him at times, but they ultimately love him, too. At the end of the day, their mutual bond is enough to keep the family and the restaurant running.
BEST: Dre Johnson (Black-ish)
“The family that pranks together, stays together.”
Dre wants the best for his kids. He also wants them to know about where they came from, who they are, and the traditions that preceded them — even if they are outdated. Though his insistence on the old ways can be a little misguided, his rigidity is for the betterment of his family. And there’s no doubt about how much he loves them and wants for their success in a world where the cards are often stacked against them.
BEST: Steve Harrington (Stranger Things)
“I promised I’d keep you s**theads safe, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing.”
Steve Harrington had the role of ‘dad’ thrust upon him in Stranger Things’ second season, and he rose to the occasion spectacularly. Whether he was battling demo-dogs in the junkyard or walking through the Upside Down with a broken nose, he always made Dustin and the kids his first priority in his battles with the weird and supernatural in Hawkins. Here’s hoping for more “dad Steve” in Season 3!
WORST: Anthony Cooper (Lost)
There’s being a bad dad, and then there’s stealing your son’s kidney and pushing him out a window. Anthony Cooper was nothing but manipulative and cold to John Locke, and was the source of many of his troubles.
WORST: Frank Gallagher (Shameless)
Is it even necessary to explain why Frank is on here? A staple of “Worst TV Dads” lists across the internet, Frank is a raging alcoholic who is barely there for his children when they need him. His oldest daughter, Fiona, ends up raising the kids.
Riverdale - Katie Yu/The CW
WORST: Hiram Lodge (Riverdale)
It takes a special kind of dad to get his daughter’s boyfriend (probably) thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, but that’s exactly the brand of dad Hiram Lodge is. His illegal business schemes include framing Archie for murder at the end of Season 2, and we can only guess how he’ll make life difficult for Veronica and Archie in the show’s third season.
WORST: Lonnie Byers (Stranger Things)
Let’s be honest… Lonnie is the absolute worst. The show implies he abused and cheated on Joyce, and he was certainly never there for Will or Jonathan. Lonnie only shows up after Will’s “death” in order to profit from his family’s loss. Season 2 was better off without him.
WORST: Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Walt started off in the drug business as a means of supporting his family, but kept going because he became addicted to it. He may have cared about his wife and son, but the best thing for them would have been for him to get out while he still could.
Father’s Day is approaching, and with it comes countless celebrations of dads both real and fictional.