From ‘Leave It to Beaver’s Ward Cleaver to Andy Griffith, Here Are the Best Fathers Classic TV Had to Offer

by Joe Rutland

Father’s Day brings up a lot of memories and let’s include some classic TV fathers like Andy Griffith in there. Shows ranging from Leave It to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show to The Brady Bunch have presented Dad in different ways. Nearly all of these dads that are mentioned here have day jobs. They come home and deal with the wife and kids’ good and bad moments. But they also provide guidance and direction for the family. Dad is sometimes presented as goofy and a bit high-strung. Yet they do care about their families. After all, fathers on TV have certain traits that make them all pretty likable.

Ward Cleaver

Hugh Beaumont famously played Ward, who would have to keep Beaver, played by Jerry Mathers, and Wally, played by Tony Dow, in check on Leave It to Beaver. The show was a typical 1950s-60s “nuclear family” TV show format with mother June, played by Barbara Billingsley. Ward would come across in a kind, warm-hearted fatherly way. The actor might have also brought some of himself into the role from his work as a minister. Watching Beaumont over the years gives viewers a glimpse of life “back in the day.”

Jim Anderson

Not much gets said these days about Jim Anderson, who was played by Robert Young in Father Knows Best. Elinor Donohue, who would go on to play Ellie Walker on The Andy Griffith Show, was one of the kids on the show. Seeing these episodes that show fatherly situations from the 1950s might feel a bit dated. Still, Father Knows Best would be a show for classic TV viewers to watch and feel Jim’s love and concern for his family.

Ozzie Nelson

Talk about art imitating life. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet would star real-life couple Ozzie Nelson and his wife Harriet along with sons Ricky and David. Ozzie would deal with his life situations as best as he could. Being dear old Dad has its fair share of issues. The show ran for 14 seasons and made room for Ricky to sing songs like Travelin’ Man. Much like other fathers on TV, Ozzie loved Harriet deeply and did his best to care for her and the boys.

Andy Taylor

The sheriff of Mayberry is a widowed, single father raising his son Opie, played by Ron Howard. Taylor, of course, was played by Andy Griffith for eight seasons on CBS in The Andy Griffith Show. Imagine having a dad who would oversee the city’s safety. Andy also had a growing boy to deal with as well. One time, Howard remembered his favorite episode where Andy called Opie out at home plate in a baseball game. Also, there are moments when Opie would visit the courthouse to see “Paw” and Barney, played by Don Knotts. There was a warmth and depth to the father-son connection here. Laughs, too.

Herman Munster

You might think about fathers in real-life situations on TV. But Herman Munster, played by Fred Gwynne on The Munsters, could be a cool pop himself. Hey, he had his hands full trying to keep his son Eddie, played by Butch Patrick, in line. Herman also would be a doting husband to his wife Lily, played by Yvonne De Carlo. Let’s not leave out Marilyn and Grandpa. It’s not Leave It to Beaver, obviously. Herman treated his family with love and that came across during the show’s two seasons on CBS.

Howard Cunningham

Poor Howard had some things to deal with in his household. Of course, Tom Bosley played “Mr. C” on Happy Days. Would it be fair to say that he doted on Marion, his wife, played by Marion Ross? Let’s go with it. Howard loved her and his kids Richie and Joanie, played by Ron Howard and Erin Moran. Yeah, we’ll mention Chuck in passing kind of like the show did. He had to run his own store, Cunningham Hardware, then come home to the day’s crisis. Here’s another guy who treasured his family a lot. Howard’s cantankerous and funny sides are pretty much on display in this ABC sitcom. We see him in a crisis moment with The Fonz, played by Henry Winkler.

Mike Brady

What’s not to like about Mike Brady? He’s the all-American father on The Brady Bunch, played by Robert Reed. Yeah, Mike had to deal with his wife Carol, played by Florence Henderson. Not to mention his three boys getting in trouble along with those three girls. Toss in a housekeeper that had her own issues and it made for a house full of fun. Mike, though, would come down hard on the kids when needed. He wasn’t always Mr. Sunshine. But his devotion to his wife and kids harkens back a little to the 1950s family standards.

Al Bundy

Oh boy, here’s Al Bundy. Al, played by Ed O’Neill, has a tough life, having to sell shoes to people that don’t show their appreciation. Then he has to come home and face his nagging wife Peg, played by Katey Sagal. His kids, too? David Faustino played Bud and Christina Applegate played Kelly and they are a handful. Married…With Children didn’t sugarcoat family issues. Al would face them, maybe with a smirk and shrug of his shoulders. Dad, though, would giggle and laugh at some of the antics Bud and Kelly would get into on the show. The Bundys definitely did not fit into the “nuclear family” idea. Yet there are a lot of parental moments involving Al throughout the show’s run.