As I did for Mother’s Day, it’s time to trawl through television to find the best parental examples.
Despite the unplanned mystical conception of his son Connor, Angel was overjoyed to be a father- in part because, as a vampire, he had assumed that he’d never get to be a parent.
He got all excited about their future together- even getting his son a personalised hockey shirt- until he was overcome with despair when his old enemy, Holtz, snatched the baby and headed off into a hell dimension with him.
Upon discovering his friend Wesley’s involvement in this plot, Angel found it impossible to forgive him (despite Wesley’s noble intentions) and tried to smother him to death.
Angel eventually got Connor back, but he was going through the awkward teenage phase where he wanted to kill his father (by sticking him in a coffin at the bottom of the ocean) and sleep with his amnesia-addled mother figure, Cordelia. Angel was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice by replacing Connor’s memories with fake ones- to give him the happy childhood and stable family life he wanted so desperately to have been able to provide for him.
Marvin Eriksen Sr. (How I Met Your Mother)
Compared to the rest of the gang’s daddy issues, Marshall and his father had a wonderfully close relationship. Marshall’s partner Lily might have said it was too close, as she began to resent Marvin’s interference in her life, and especially in her and Marshall’s attempts to start a family of their own. Still, the fact that Marshall called his dad every day and thought of him as his best friend was certainly sweet. His death came as a shock to his family, and had a lasting emotional impact on Marshall and his friends (it convinced them all to get their hearts checked, and inspired Barney to search for his own dad). Marvin Sr. left all of his family with some important last words, but Marshall especially cherished his advice to rent Crocodile Dundee 3. (And his last “I love you”).
Emerson Cod (Pushing Daisies)
This crotchety private investigator kept the secret of his daughter hidden from his friends. Given that they’d shared some supernatural surprises with him (such as Ned bringing Chuck back from the dead) they were a little hurt, but the situation was complex. His grifter ex-wife Lila (Gina Torres) had left him one rainy day, and taken their daughter with her. He was desperate to find her again, and was even willing to make a deal with Lila when she turned up again. After he realised that she’d played him he was heartened to discover that his pop-up book, Lil’ Gum Shoe, was being published as he hoped that his daughter- Penny- would read it and use it to find him. And in the series finale she arrived at his office in order to find her father.
Richard Castle (Castle)
Although somewhat immature, Richard Castle is definitely a good father to his daughter Alexis. And given that she often exhibits a maturity- and seriousness- beyond her years, his playfulness presents much-needed diversions for her. He was pretty much raised by a nanny, and was determined that Alexis wouldn’t have the same upbringing. Since he’s a writer he was able to work from home and therefore be very present throughout her childhood. He sort-of joined the police force later on (for book research) but still got to spend plenty of time with her. He’s always seemed to be concerned with her happiness, dispensing good advice (at least most of the time) and being willing to help her out if he can. And since he’s managed to raise one of the most pleasant teenagers of all time he’s clearly a good dad.
Rufus Humphrey (Gossip Girl)
Despite not being part of the over-privileged Manhattan scene, Rufus was determined that his kids- Dan and Jenny- would get the best education possible so he enrolled them in private school. Although this led to them feeling like ostracised outsiders, it also gave them amazing opportunities. Thanks to their relatively reasonable upbringing they seemed a lot more grounded- and moral- than many of their classmates. Through myriad dramas, and especially Jenny’s preposterous scheming, Rufus has worked hard to maintain his relationships not only with his biological children but also his step-children, Serena and Eric. As a former rock star and gallery owner he gets to be a cool dad, but intervened when Dan seemed set to be the same- by untangling Georgina’s lies and discovering that baby Milo wasn’t Dan’s son.
Burt Hummel (Glee)
Kurt’s initial attempts to hide his sexuality from his father, and Burt’s somewhat gruff demeanour, didn’t suggest that he’d turn out to be such a lovely father figure. He’s very proud of Kurt and fiercely defends him against bullying and homophobia. When Kurt was denied the chance to sing ‘Defying Gravity’ (because it’s usually sung by a girl) Burt intervened and complained to the principal, resulting in a diva-off. He did the same when Kurt was being bullied by Dave Karofsky, garnering the sympathy of Sue Sylvester (no mean feat). Burt and his new wife Carole (Finn’s mother) spent money that they couldn’t really afford to send Kurt to Dalton Academy because of its zero tolerance bullying policy. He’s also gotten over his embarrassment and talked to Kurt frankly about sex, when Blaine urged him to. Kurt was initially jealous over how easy it was for his father to bond with Finn (over manly things like football) but Burt was willing to throw Finn out, and potentially jeopardise his relationship with Carole, for using the word “faggy”. Finn’s since made an elaborate apology, and the step-brothers formed a happy “Furt” union at their parents’ wedding.
Sandy Cohen (The O.C.)
Sandy’s kind and generous nature resulted in him not only raising his son Seth to a be a genuinely lovely person, but to take troubled teen Ryan Atwood into his home. Sandy and his wife Kristen ended up adopting Ryan, and his experience of living with them obviously had a profound effect on him as the series ended with him essentially repeating history and offering help to a random kid. As the show’s moral centre and his family’s rock, Sandy functioned as a role model to Newport’s teenagers. He might have sometimes had to intervene in their dramas, but he wasn’t judgemental about it. He realised that they were good kids with good hearts, and treated them as such.
Martin Crane (Frasier)
Despite having completely different interests and tastes to his sons- and his estrangement from them until his leg injury forces him to accept Frasier’s offer to come live with him- he clearly loved them deeply. He might not have understood or agreed with them, but that didn’t stop him from being proud of them. It also didn’t stop him from speaking his mind about their decisions and opinions, and while it might have sometimes come across as blunt and rude, they came to appreciate these injections of common sense which they sorely needed. And without him Niles would never have met his wife Daphne, and both he and Frasier might never have grown as people.
Danny Tripp (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)
Danny already knew that Jordan was pregant when he announced that he was romantically interested in her:
“I’ve been married twice before and I’m a recovering cocaine addict and I know that’s no woman’s dream of a man, or of a father. Nonetheless I believe I’m falling in love with you. If you want to run, I understand, but you’d better get a good head start ’cause I’m coming for you, Jordan.”
Danny proposed to her in the hospital, in part because he was concerned that if she died due to complications that he wouldn’t have any parental rights or responsibilities because he wasn’t the biological father. After she regained consciousness she asked him to sign the adoption papers that she’d already prepared and they got on with deciding on a name for their baby.
Cal Lightman (Lie to me)
Despite using his powers of detection for mischievous purposes and mildly terrorising his daughter and her boyfriends, Cal and Emily displayed a close, loving relationship. Perhaps it’s because he raised her to give as good as she gets, and then some. He was willing to do pretty much anything to protect her, and slowly learnt to temper his overprotective urges. I sorely miss this father/daughter duo being on my screen, can someone magically uncancel the show for me already?
Emily: Would you ever lie to protect me?
Cal: You’d never put me in that position.
Emily: That’s a deflection, and a little naive, by the way.
Cal: You see, you’ve been spending far too much time hanging around in my office.
Emily: Just answer the question, please.
Cal: I’d lie my ass off to protect you.
Emily: Me too.
If you prefer another papa to this lot then tell us all about it in the comments. (FYI, the correct answer is me, and the correct response is chocolate.)