Thursday, 18 June 2015

My Five Favourite TV Dads

Fathers are sadly under-represented and unsung on television - most programmes featuring familes seem to be aimed mainly at women and therefore feature a disproportionate amount of mothers. So as Father's Day was on the horizon, I decided to write about five of my own favourite TV fathers in celebration of all the unsung dads out there!. 

I chose my five based on several criteria: entertainment value, parenting skills (or lack of, in one case!), dedication to their families but also how much a facet or two of each portrayal and parenting style reminded me of my own dad.

So - in no particular order: My

 Charles "Pa" Ingalls played by Michael Landon in "Little House on the Prairie".

Although "Pa" Ingalls was not a fictional character but a real person, I include him here because of the outstanding success of the series and the all-too-rare way in which Michael Landon and the programme in general did not deviate from or sensationalise the original memoirs in any way.

I grew up on the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, reading the series many, many times, so when I actually watched it, I had a clear picture in my mind of how Pa should look and behave. Michael Landon did not disappoint and fulfilled the portrayal of the man who had a "wandering foot that gets to itching" to perfection.

His only concern was the wellbeing and safety of his family and he encountered and overcame many trials and obstacles in the process. Outrunning wolves, swimming icy creeks, taking on bears - there was nothing Pa would not do for his wife and daughters and the show was all the more enjoyable because it was all true!

Pa was a loving, firm and wise father to Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace, managing to send Mary to a college for the blind and allowing Laura to become a schoolteacher - a very enlightened man for his time and the type of father any literary loving girl with an interest in the human and heartwarming side of history would love to have!

                            "Pete Brockman" played by Hugh Dennis in "Outnumbered".

In spite - or perhaps because! - of  being the father of two teenagers and a pre-teen, Pete still seems to be struggling to get to grips with this adventure called "fatherhood".  Despite being blood relatives and sharing a lifetime of history together, Pete and his kids, Jake, Ben and Karen, seem to have only one thing in common - embarrassing each other!

He does have the best interests of his kids at heart though, and takes a keen interest in their lives and activities. It emerges that Pete was bullied as a child so when he suspects Jake is being bullied, he's in an ideal position to advise him - even if things don't quite go to plan! As Jake becomes increasingly obsessed with girls, Pete has a midlife crisis fuelled by reminiscences of his own youthful dalliances and this adds a new dimension to their already complicated relationship. It's made all the more complicated by the disapproval of wife and mother Sue who disapproves of her son's objects of affection and her husband's appreciation of them.

His relationship with Ben is a little more complicated. Despite Pete's training as a history teacher, he has no idea how to answer some of the outlandish questions - usually revolving around his obsession with dead bodies and serial killers - that Ben presents him with.

Ben has an amazing ability to convince anybody of anything and whilst this is funny to Pete in the earlier episodes, it rapidly causes problems as he discovers that parents of Ben's schoolmates are convinced Pete is both fighting cancer and personal friends with PM Gordon Brown.

His relationship with his youngest child Karen, a very intelligent but very literally thinking and  outspoken little girl is immensely rewarding and simultaneously immensely frustrating as she plays the Daddy card to great effect, often landing Pete in trouble with Sue who had previously forbidden the request he had so indulgently granted.

Pete is by far my favourite TV Dad of all - he reminds me so much of my own Dad - lovable, bumbling, meaning well and messing up but always there when needed.

                                                              "Peter Löwenbräu Griffin"

 Peter Griffin, star  and title character of Family Guy, has to be in the running for the worst Dad since the
beginning of TV history.

Peter and his wife Lois have four children, Chris, Meg, genius toddler Stewie and the never-seen Peter Jr who, we are told, died because the terminally stupid Peter Sr shook him too much as a baby. After a typical Peteresque sperm  bank accident, he also became, unbeknownst to him, the biological father of the psychopathic Bertram, an evil child who is the dead ringer for nemesis half-brother Stewie.

Peter prefers to spend time drinking and discussing the finer points of breaking wind with his best friends Joe,
Quagmire and Cleveland than with his own children - indeed, we rarely see him say anything to his daughter other than "Shut up Meg". A typical father-daughter activity for Peter usually involves shooting Meg, tripping her over or reading her private diary aloud to the rest of the family whilst the long-suffering Meg tries in vain to gain her father's love.

His relationships with his other two children are not much better - he fails to notice that one son is the object of affection for a creepy old man known as Herbert the Pervert  and that the other son is a diapered genius disappearing on round-the-world trips with the family's talking, drinking, womanising dog Brian  whilst simultaneously creating time machines and changing the course of history!

Peter is the type of father who ideally should receive a visit from Social Services and lose any right to see his kids ever again but his idiotic antics seem to go unnoticed in the bizarre town of Quahog and he parents on, unrestrained and unmedicated, loved by all and a classic figure in the annals of TV fatherdom!

                "Homer Jay Simpson", seen here with son Bart in a classic "Why, you little...." pose.

Despite the frequent stranglings of his son Bart and equally frequent letting downs of his daughter Lisa, Homer is a dedicated and loving father who adores his wife Marge and his children Bart, Lisa and Maggie with all his heart.

Homer and Bart are often at odds: the latter taking great delight in playing practical jokes on the former, but they are just as often allies and share many adventures and heartwarming father/son moments together.

Lisa is far more intelligent than her father - not a difficult accomplishment as Homer is a bumbling fool - and he often feels intimidated by her accomplishments and ends up letting her down. After his family, Homer's great love is Duff beer so it's a testament to his love for Lisa that he sold his beloved ride on the Duff Blimp in order to pay for her entry to  a beauty pageant and give her a huge and much needed boost to her self esteem.

The show gives the impression that Homer often forgets he and Marge have a third child - baby Maggie -  and he rarely interacts with her or notices her. When push comes to shove, though, he lets the Dad in him shine through and gives up his chance of untold wealth in order to let Maggie keep her precious teddy bear.

Homer's relationship with his own father, Abraham J Simpson is a fractious one and explains much about his love-hate relationship with his own children. Ultimately Homer always comes through for his children and is the father he himself would have liked to have had.

                                                      "Ian Beale", played by Adam Woodyatt

The minute I saw the challenge to write about my favourite TV Dads, I knew Ian Beale would be one of them.

We watched Ian grow from a young boy into the man he is today and saw that he had a very closeknit family - grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course his loving parents Pete and Kathy. Family meant everything to the Beale/Fowler clan and the effects of Pete's strong fatherly ethics are visible in his son today.

Sadly, Ian has spent his life trying to build hos own family but has ivariably ended up being unlucky in love. A string of failed marriages and engagements saw him become the adoptive father of his first wife's eldest son, a dad to twins called Peter and Lucy, a son, Bobby, and the legal guardian of his estranged first wife's daughter, the troublesome Cindy.

More pillock of the community than pillar of the community, Ian has had many failures in both business and romance; the most recent of which caused Ian to have a breakdown and simply disappear under the stress of it all. Meanwhile, his teenage daughter Lucy  - very much relying on everything she had learned from her father over her few short years - singlehandedly saved his business, his house and took care of little Bobby - everything he had been unable to do.

When Ian returned, he recognised true business genius in his daughter and encouraged her all the way as she set up her own successful estate agency. It was evident to all - including twin brother Peter -  that Lucy was the apple of his eye and the inheriting recipient of all his own failed dreams of success.

Sadly, Lucy's body was discovered in the woods - killed by persons unknown. Ian's distress was tangible. Misery etched all over his suddenly haggard face, he begged on TV for any information that may help catch the people who took his angel from him.

Given his history, it would not have been a shock to see Ian have another breakdown, but he became the rock of the family, keeping Peter, stepmother Jane and little brother Bobby together through the heartbreak and stress of the police investigation. I thought these moments of supportive strength were the pinnacle of Ian's fatherhood but the best was yet to come.

It was, in time, revealed that little brother Bobby had been the one to accidentally kill his beloved elder sister during an argument. Bobby had no idea that he had been responsible for her death and Ian, in a true display of fatherly love, agreed that nobody, including Bobby himself, must ever find out, realising that it would devastate the small boy and wrench apart the remainder of the closeknit and loving Beale family.

That was a complex and difficult emotion for Ian to wrestle with - he had promised the deceased Lucy he would not rest util she had received justice but he had to break the promise in order to save his small son from the misery of knowing what he had done. It was the moment that the viewers realised the irritating, patronising man known as Ian  Beale was  above all else, a dad, and a very,  very good one.

So there are my five favourite TV dads. Each very different fathers who, like all fathers, make mistakes and get it wrong sometimes but there is no doubting their love for their children and their desire to see them emerge into the world as well-rounded, confident and happy adults. Happy Father's Day to them all and to any fathers reading this - including my own who, I suspect, would have liked a Lucy Beale but got a female version of Ben Brockman!

1 comment:

  1. That whole Lucy/Ian storyline was brilliant, Ian was dead good acting that.


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