World’s Greatest Dad is the best film Robin Williams has made this millennium.
It looked really cheesy, in the vein of RV, Old Dogs and all those other “family” films he’s been making to fatten up his kids’ trusts funds/pay for rehab. In fact, it was at once highly tragic AND comic. To explain it would ruin its surprises but I’ve stolen its title because it’s either spot on or completely ironic in describing Williams’ character, which suits the perverse nature of this feature. Basically, I’m showing my love and appreciation for the World’s Greatest Dad the same way I did my mum back in March, by highlighting 10 bad dads on TV that make me treasure him even more.
Hank Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Buffy’s fateful move to Sunnydale was prompted by her parents’ divorce. At the beginning of the series, Hank was reasonably attentive, treating Buffy to father-daughter weekends and the occasional holiday. But as Buffy’s responsibilities as world saviour mounted, his presence in her life diminished. He stood her up on her 18th birthday and she was unable to contact him when her mother Joyce died. After she was resurrected and found life hard to cope with (in large part due to the Trio’s meddling), she turned to Giles for support, telling him it was almost like having her mum back.
Thatcher Grey (Grey’s Anatomy)
As with Buffy, Meredith’s paternal problems seemed to begin when her parents divorced. Thatcher blamed his ex, Ellis, for his lack of relationship with his eldest daughter and instead focused on his second family. After somewhat reconciling with Meredith, the sudden death of his wife Susan (who had encouraged the reunion) led him to descend into alcoholism, blame Meredith for Susan’s death and ignore his other daughters, Lexie and Molly, to boot. Meredith has since had to give her apparently rehabilitated and contrite father a part of her liver. Let’s hope he doesn’t squander this second chance for happiness and health – and stops playing the blame game!
Leland Palmer (Twin Peaks)
Who killed Laura Palmer? You’re looking at him. While Hank and Thatcher were largely absent fathers, Leland was all too present in his daughter’s life, molesting and raping her throughout her adolescence, ensuring her journey to delinquent teen beauty queen. Sure he was apparently controlled by BOB, a mysterious demonic entity, but Laura’s trauma was all too real – as was her death.
Dr. Edward Porter (Felicity)
Dr. Porter was another overbearing father, though his abuse was emotional rather than sexual. Felicity was pretty much the model daughter, with straight As and a deeply compassionate nature, but unless she was willing to do exactly what he said – ie become a doctor and go to Stanford – he withheld his support, forcing his only child to struggle to cover her fees from year to year. He didn’t seem to understand that growing up is about making your own decisions – and mistakes. Worst of all, he was willing to put his daughter’s reputation at risk, by treating patients at her health centre while on anti-anxiety medication and pulling rank on her boss. He and Felicity eventually reconcile – but whether that’s because she eventually lives up to his expectations or because he understands that everyone is infallible, remains unclear.
Andrew Covington (Felicity)
Felicity was just rife with bad dads, which is why I can’t just choose one. The love of Felicity’s life, Ben, could probably attribute the brooding nature she found so alluring to an alcoholic father who could only be counted on to let him down. Mr. Covington was alternately volatile and pathetic, raging at Ben, refusing to pay his college tuition, then begging for forgiveness as part of his 12-step programme. And just when Ben thought everything was finally getting better between them, his father made a move on his girlfriend, placing her in a horrible position. Worst of all, after Ben’s mother takes him back and donates part of her liver to help him get better – he starts drinking again. Incredibly, he still thinks he has the right to advise Ben when the latter is facing unexpected (and unwanted) fatherhood.
Tom Scavo (Desperate Housewives)
Tom is one of those those dads that doesn’t seem quite so bad at first. He’s fun and amiable. He obviously loves his wife Lynette and his sprawling brood – of seven! – but he just doesn’t love them as much as he loves himself. He keeps a child he conceived before his marriage a secret for years, forces his family to follow his dream of opening a pizzeria (engaging his children in child labour when times are tight), buys a Mustang after suffering a midlife crisis, and childishly competes with his wife for a dream job, scuppering both their chances in the process. He’s the kind of dad that refuses to grow up, the kind that would rather be cool than responsible – Lynette reckons he is overcompensating for being a band geek in high school.
Ian Thomas (Pretty Little Liars)
Most of the men on Pretty Little Liars have a paedophile-vibe but Ian is so far over the line that he wouldn’t be able to see it with the Hubble telescope. He didn’t just snog his then-girlfriend/now wife’s 14-year-old sister, or have a full-blown affair with said sister’s also 14-year-old friend (who he may just have murdered) – he’s been filming all the young girls around him since they were tots and doing who knows what with the footage. Ian is currently MIA, but wherever he is, be it in hell or on the lam, he’s about to become a father. Let’s hope it’s not a girl, as his motto seems to be the younger, the better. Which is probably why he is a PE teacher – all that young, jiggling flesh and short shorts. Ick.
Rene Lenier (True Blood)
Like Tom Scavo, Rene makes a good first impression. Unlike Tom, he’s not immature – he’s murderous. Through the first season of True Blood, Bon Temps is plagued by grisly murders of fangbangers – women that sleep with vampires. The easygoing Cajun is an unlikely suspect – until it’s revealed that his accent is as fake as his outward demeanour, and that his slew of murders began with his sister, whom he probably fancied. (Incest! Always a sign of psychosis, unless it’s consensual and you’re in a Virginia Andrews novel.) Although he’s ultimately dispatched in a violent manner befitting his victims’ fates, his legacy lives on in the womb of his former fiancee Arlene, who, rightly or not, is terrified of having a devil baby, and still shaken by the notion that she let such a man so close to her existing children. Can you ever really know a person? Hopefully the loveable Terry, PTSD and all, will show Rene’s “bad-blooded” offspring the way to true goodness and tolerance.
Ned’s Father (Pushing Daises)
Ned’s father is another absent bad dad – so absent that we don’t even know his name. When Ned’s mother dies, he sends his son to boarding school and starts a new family – which he then abandons for inexplicable reasons, as part of a disappearing act in a magic show. He didn’t even tell Ned when he moved and remarried! This man shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce! Towards the end of Pushing Daisies he seems to regain an interest in his son(s), and possibly even saves the lives of Ned and Chuck (Ned’s sort of girlfriend) – but even if the series hadn’t been prematurely cancelled, he’d never be able to make up for depriving his kids of the happy and secure childhoods they deserved.
Jerry Whitaker (How I Met Your Mother)
Barney’s father was one of HIMYM‘s biggest mysteries (besides the obvious, but don’t remind me). For a long time, Barney believed his father to be The Price is Right host Bob Barker. (For our English readers, that would be like thinking Bruce Forsythe was your dad.) The reality was that Barney’s dad was Jerry Whitaker, a roadie that his mother asked to stay away until he could be more dependable – and whom Barney had regarded as a crazy uncle of sorts. Jerry eventually got his act together and became a solid, even boring, family man, utterly devoted to his wife and two kids. He regretted that he missed Barney’s childhood and has recently made serious efforts to make amends – but it’s going to take more than a basketball hoop, a fishing trip and a faked night on the lash to rehabilitate our favourite sleazebag. Which I suppose is what Season 7 is going to be all about…
After thinking about all these bad dads, I’d rather focus on being enormously grateful for what I have – and what I most certainly haven’t. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! (And to all the other World’s Greatest Dads out there.)