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Image: Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Peter Krause
AMC (2), AP
There are some great fathers on TV (Peter Krause's Adam Braverman on "Parenthood," right), and then some really not-so-decent ones, such as Jon Hamm's Don Draper on "Mad Men," left, and Bryan Cranston's" Walter White on "Breaking Bad."
TODAY contributor
updated 6/15/2011 8:37:22 PM ET 2011-06-16T00:37:22

He's the first man in your life, the guy who (often) brings home the bacon and can occasionally be found mowing the lawn without his shirt on. But there's more to being a father than just being called "dad": He's around to help with scraped knees and teach life's lessons.

Since he can often be found right in front of the TV with his feet propped up, here's a look at five of the best — and worst — examples of fatherhood currently on the small screen today.


Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley, 'Glee')
On first glance, mechanic Burt didn't seem like he was going to be the kind of guy who could handle his teen son's homosexuality — even if it hardly came as a shock when Kurt came out. But Burt surprised everyone by not just being supportive and understanding, but by his spirited defense of his son's right to be who he was born to be. Even if Burt doesn't always understand his son's methods, he'll stand behind him 100 percent. And that's the kind of father who should be guiding us all into adulthood.

Words to live by: (To stepson Finn) "What, you think I didn't use that word when I was your age? You know, some kid gets clocked in practice, we tell him to stop being such a f--, shake it off. We meant it exactly the way you meant it: That being gay is wrong. That's some kind of punishable offense. I really thought you were different, Finn. You know, I thought that being in Glee Club, and being raised by your mom, meant that you were some new generation of dude who saw things differently, who just kinda came into the world knowing what it's taken me years of struggling to figure out. I guess I was wrong."

Adam Braverman (Peter Krause, 'Parenthood')
Being the eldest child in a clan of quirky siblings is no easy task. Fortunately, Adam is the one to get the job done. Yeah, he's overly fixated on being average and normal, but he takes life's divergences from that middle of the road well — as when his son Max was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. He organized family outings to Max's ball games, and is generally doing his best to be a good father to his daughter Haddie as well, no matter how challenging life gets.

Words to live by: "What makes (having kids) worth it is the connection, the bond you feel, they're yours. You know, you're part of them."

Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck, 'Blue Bloods')
Police work runs in the Reagan family, so when you're the son of a onetime police commissioner and are now Police Commissioner for New York City yourself, you know you've got a lot to live up to. But Frank must be doing something right — almost his entire family is either in law enforcement or at the district attorney's office. While he can be a bit difficult at times, Frank makes sure to lay down the law on life at his regular family dinners.

Words to live by: "Family is what makes us strong."

Image: Neil Flynn
Craig Sjodin  /  ABC

Mike Heck (Neil Flynn, 'The Middle')
Mike's head isn't as hard as the rocks he works around, though he would likely want to bash it against a wall from time to time dealing with his sarcastic teen son Axl and awkward daughter Sue. But the quarry manager's doing his best to understand them and stick by them, even when they're being complete pills. (Let's just say Mike's ideas for punishing his kids can be a little out there.)

Words to live by: Brick: "Wait, who's the lion?" Mike: "I am. I'm the lion. I'm the lion in all of the stories."

Jim Powell Sr. (Mike Chiklis, 'No Ordinary Family')
It's nice to have a dad who really can leap tall buildings ... though not always with style and grace. But that's not what makes Jim Powell a super father — it's because he'll do anything to keep his family together, including taking them on a trip to Brazil. This, admittedly, went a bit haywire when their plane crashed and they all ended up with superpowers. But you know he's trying. And it turns out that a family full of superheroes needs to rely on one another more than ever.

Words to live by: Jim: "When was the last time we did something as a family?" Daphne: "Last month, when you forced us to play charades and then you pulled out your back miming some scene from 'Iron Man.' " Jim: "That was an old sports injury I re-aggravated."


Image: Bryan Cranston
Ursula Coyote  /  AMC

Walter White (Bryan Cranston, 'Breaking Bad')
Walter only started out a little bad. After learning he had lung cancer, he used his chemistry expertise to cook up methamphetamine to keep his family well-financed after his death, but with time, he's become a whole lot worse. Walter has turned ruthless and at times cruel, partnering with a former student to sell more drugs while dodging other drug kingpins, and not that long ago graduated to murder.

Needless to say, his cerebral palsy-afflicted son has become more distant thanks to his father's personality change. And when the child sets up a website to solicit donations to help with his dad's cancer treatment, Walt's lawyer uses it to launder the drug money. Walt's life was never going to end well, but this all makes it worse.

Words to live by: "My wife is seven months pregnant with a baby we didn't intend. My 15-year-old son has cerebral palsy. I am an extremely overqualified high-school chemistry teacher. When I can work, I make $43,700 per year. I have watched all of my colleagues and friends surpass me in every way imaginable. And within 18 months, I will be dead. And you ask why I ran?"

Slideshow: Celeb fathers and sons: Leading men (on this page)

Hank Moody (David Duchovny, 'Californication')
Some kids would kill to have a dad who can't say "no." After all, you could get away with anything — staying out all night, partying, drinking, taking drugs and sleeping around. Except Hank is the one who's doing all those things, which doesn't give him a lot of time to be a good role model to his teenage daughter, Becca. Then again, if he ever just decides to throw in the towel altogether, she'll know exactly where she can get a six-pack if she wants one.

Words to live by: " 'Girl' makes it sound so pleasant. I have one big pain in the ass teenage daughter."

Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, 'The Good Wife')
He's been caught hanging around with hookers and sent to jail for a different kind of hanky-panky while serving as Chicago's attorney general. Nice work! Bad enough for a bachelor, but when Peter's got two teenaged kids — Zach and Grace — and a wife at home, maybe it's time to redefine the concept of being a grown-up.

Peter has been paroled (and re-elected) so things may turn around for him, and his kids still have a great deal of affection for him (they even did some sleuthing on his behalf to clear his name) but with a divorce looming, he's likely to end up with the short end of the stick.

Words to live by: (Speaking to his wife Alicia) "I found condoms in your bedside table. I was looking for your letter opener. I thought maybe they belonged to Zach. You know, you found them in his room. But then I thought you wouldn't take them. You'd have a sensible conversation with him about responsibility."

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Don Draper (Jon Hamm, 'Mad Men')
Yes, Don's a typical 1960s macho dad: long hours at the office, drinks too much, ogles the secretaries (and sometimes much more). But he's also an atypical '60s pop as well: a divorce on his hands and a recent, sudden engagement. But no matter what his marital state, Don's always been a fairly hands-off parent. When he had little Sally over to his bachelor apartment, she cut her hair off. Still, he has potential: At least he let his three kids meet Megan Calvet before he asked her to marry him.

Words to live by: Betty: "Did you look at Sally's face? I think she has a bruise." Don: "I didn't see it." Betty: "On her cheekbone, under her eye." Don: "I thought that was ketchup."

Peter Griffin (voiced by Seth McFarlane, 'Family Guy')
Peter's a laugh-a-minute riot with an active imagination, but there's not a lot of evidence of his ostensible love for his wife and kids. In fact, he completely disrespects them most of the time, ignoring little prodigy Stewie (which admittedly is sometimes the best way to handle the brat), laughs at son Chris and once sold daughter Meg so he could pay off a debt! If parenthood came with a license, Peter's would have been revoked long ago.

Words to live by: (To Meg and Chris) "When you were babies, I used to knock you kids out every month or so. Some times by accident. Sometimes when the Patriots lost. You just gotta cover it up and everything works itself out."

Who do you think are the best dads on TV? The worst? Tell us on our Facebook page for our TV blog The Clicker.

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Photos: Celebrity daddies 2011

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  1. Brad Pitt

    Actor Brad Pitt is among the ultimate celebrity dads, traveling the world with partner Angelina Jolie -- and their six children. Vivienne (from left), Shiloh, Knox, Zahara, Pax and Maddox have enjoyed time with their dad from New Orleans to Venice. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Ben Affleck

    Actor-director-writer Ben Affleck collects daughter Violet from pre-school in Santa Monica, Calif. He and his wife, actress Jennifer Garner, also have another daughter, Seraphina. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Christian Bale

    Oscar-winner Christian Bale spends a quiet afternoon with his wife, Sibi, and daughter, Emmeline, at the Farmer's Market in Pacific Palisades, Calif. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. David Beckham

    Soccer star-spokesmodel David Beckham attends a basketball game with son Romeo on March 31, 2011, in Los Angeles. He and wife Victoria Beckham have two other sons as well, Brooklyn and Cruz. They are expecting a baby girl in 2011. (Harry How / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Larry Birkhead

    Larry Birkhead kisses his daughter, Dannielynn, as they arrive for the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, May 7, 2011. Birkhead has been Dannielynn's sole parent since her mother, model Anna Nicole Smith, died in 2007. (Darron Cummings / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Jack Black

    Actor Jack Black and his oldest son, Samuel, attend the Milk and Bookies Story Time Celebration in Los Angeles on March 20, 2011. Black also has another son, Thomas, with wife Tanya. (David Livingston / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Orlando Bloom

    Orlando Bloom became a father in January 2011 when his wife, model Miranda Kerr, gave birth to their son, Flynn. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Bono

    U2 frontman and philanthropist Bono watches the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters men's tennis final with his two youngest sons, Elijah and John, on April 17, 2011, in Monaco. The rock star also has two daughters, Jordan and Memphis, with his wife of 30 years, Alison Hewson. (Stephane Drapot / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Jeff Bridges

    Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges brought his whole family with him -- his daughters Jessica, Hayley and Isabelle, and wife Susan -- to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 27, 2011. "The Dude" became a grandfather for the first time on March 31, 2011, when Isabelle gave birth to a daughter. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Matthew Broderick

    Tony Award-winning actor Matthew Broderick regularly walks his son, James Wilkie, to school in the West Village of New York. He and actress wife Sarah Jessica Parker also have two daughters, Marion and Tabitha. (Ray Tamarra / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. James Caan

    James Caan, left, and his son, actor Scott Caan, pose together at the premiere of the HBO documentary film "His Way" in Los Angeles on March 22, 2011. The elder Caan also has a daughter, Tara, and two other sons, James Arthur and Jacob. (Chris Pizzello / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Steve Carell

    Actor-comedian Steve Carrell and his son John attend an NBA playoff game in Los Angeles on April 17, 2011. He also has a daughter, Elisabeth, with his wife, Nancy. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Michael Chiklis

    "The Shield" star Michael Chiklis, center, took his daughters Autumn, left, and Odessa, right, to the Alice Olivia Fall 2011 presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York on Feb. 14, 2011. (John W. Ferguson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Tom Cruise

    Tom Cruise enjoys spending time with his adopted son Connor, left, adopted daughter Isabella, behind, and daughter Suri (in his arms). He adopted his two eldest with ex-wife Nicole Kidman. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Michael Douglas

    Michael Douglas takes a ride on the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster with his son Dylan at Universal Orlando Resort on Nov. 27, 2010. His daughter Carys is riding with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones in the car behind him. The Oscar-winning actor also has a son, Cameron, from his first marriage. (Matt Stroshane / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Will Ferrell

    Actor Will Ferrell sits with his middle son, Mattias, during the first half of the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA game against the Denver Nuggets on April 3, 2011, in Los Angeles. The "Talladega Nights" star also has two other sons, Magnus and Axel. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Andy Garcia

    Actor Andy Garcia and his family -- Daniella, Alessandra, Andres and Dominik -- arrive at the premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" on May 7, 2011, in Anaheim, Calif. (Jordan Strauss / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Scott Grimes

    Former "ER" star Scott Grimes and daughter Madison arrive at the 11th Annual Lupus LA Orange Ball held in Beverly Hills, Calif., on May 12, 2011. (John Shearer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Harry Hamlin

    Actor Harry Hamlin arrives at the "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" premiere with his wife, actress Lisa Rinna, left, and their daughters, Delilah and Amelia, on May 7, 2011. Hamlin also has a son, Dimitri, from his relationship with actress Ursula Andress. (Jordan Strauss / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Tom Hanks

    Tom Hanks and his youngest son, Truman, attend a Lakers game in Los Angeles on Jan. 4, 2011. The Oscar-winning actor has another son with wife Rita Wilson, Chet. He also has two children, actor Colin Hanks and daughter Elizabeth, from his first marriage to Samantha Lewes. (Noel Vasquez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. James Hong

    Chinese American actor James Hong strikes a pose as he arrives with his daughter April for the premiere of the animated movie "Kung Fu Panda 2" in Hollywood, Calif., on May 22, 2011. Hong voices the role of Mr. Ping in the movie. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Matthew McConaughey

    One-time confirmed bachelor Matthew McConaughey now spends his time with partner Camilia Alves and his children, son Levi (holding McConaughey's hand) and daughter Vida. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Matthew Modine

    Actor Matthew Modine and daughter Ruby attend the "Too Big to Fail" premiere in New York on May 16, 2011. (Michael Loccisano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Jack Nicholson

    Actor and devoted Los Angeles Lakers fan Jack Nicholson attends a game with his son Raymond at the Staples Center on May 2, 2011. Nicholson also has three other children, daughters Jennifer, Honey and Lorraine. (Lucy Nicholson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Ed O'Neill

    "Modern Family" star Ed O'Neill also has a family of his own. He brought his daughters with him to the Fifth Annual Kidstock Music and Arts Festival at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., on June 5, 2011. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Peter O'Toole

    Actor Peter O'Toole, center, hugs daughter Kate O'Toole, left, and son Lorcan O'Toole, right, after leaving his hand and footprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on April 30, 2011. The acting legend also has another daughter, Patricia. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Tom Petty

    Rock star Tom Petty takes in an NBA game with stepson Dylan on Jan. 2, 2011, in Los Angeles. The singer-songwriter has two daughters, Adria and AnnaKim, with his first wife. Dylan is the son of his current wife, Dana York. (Noel Vasquez / Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Gavin Rossdale

    Musician Gavin Rossdale is father to sons Zuma, right, and Kingston, left. Singer Gwen Stefani is their mother. On Jan. 23, 2011, Rossdale and sons attended the premiere of "Gnomeo & Juliet" at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. (Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Adam Sandler

    Actor and comedian Adam Sandler brought daughters Sunny Madeline, left, and Sadie Madison with him when he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Feb. 1, 2011. Actor and director Henry Winkler, right, was among the stars on hand. (Jason Redmond / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Adam Scott

    "Parks and Recreation" star Adam Scott and his son enjoy Amtrak's National Train Day on May 7, 2011, in Los Angeles. He also has another child. (Jerod Harris / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Jerry Seinfeld

    Actor-comedian Jerry Seinfeld, left, took in a baseball game with his daugher, Sascha, and son Shepherd on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010, in New York. He also has another son, Julian, with his wife, Jessica. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Liev Schreiber

    Actor Liev Schreiber carries his two boys Alexander, right, and Samuel, left, into the New York apartment he shares with their mom, actress Naomi Watts. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Will Smith

    Actor Will Smith arrives at the premiere of Justin Bieber's movie "Never Say Never" in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2011, with his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, right, and son Jaden, left, and daughter Willow. Jaden was Smith's co-star in "The Pursuit of Happyness" and starred in the remake of "The Karate Kid." Willow became an Internet sensation with her song, "Whip My Hair." Smith also has a son, Trey, from his first marriage. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Steven Spielberg

    Director Steven Spielberg arrives for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 27, 2011, with his daughter, Destry Allyn. The famed filmmaker also has five other children with current wife, actress Kate Capshaw and a son, Max, with ex-wife, actress Amy Irving. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Jon Stewart

    "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, center, holds his daughter Maggie backstage after a performance of “Mary Poppins” in New York on March 5, 2011. The comedian also has a son, Nathan, with his wife, Tracey. (Amanda Schwab / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Taboo

    Black Eyed Peas member Taboo, right, brought his son Josh with him to the world premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on May 7, 2011. (Mike Nelson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Billy Bob Thornton

    Actor Billy Bob Thornton and his girlfriend Connie Angland took their daughter Bella to the premiere of "Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 2010. Thornton also has two sons and another daughter from two of his five previous marriages. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Keith Urban

    Country music star Keith Urban became a dad for the first time in July 2008 when he and actress-wife Nicole Kidman welcomed daughter Sunday Rose, center. The couple have a second daughter, Faith Margaret, who was born via surrogate. (Splash News) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Mark Wahlberg

    Actor-producer Mark Wahlberg has four children with wife Rhea Durham -- daughers Ella and Grace and sons Michael and Brendan. The family attended the Pottery Barn Kids' Halloween Carnival benefitting Operation Smile in Los Angeles on Oct. 23, 2010. (Noel Vasquez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Noah Wyle

    Actor Noah Wyle, who rose to fame playing Dr. John Carter on the long-running drama "ER," is also dad to his son, Owen, right. The pair attended the 2011 NBA All-Star Game together at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 20, 2011. Wyle also has a daughter, Auden. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Jolie-Pitt family
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    Above: Slideshow (40) Hollywood daddies
  2. Peter Fonda, Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda on Location for "Our Town" - December 14, 1969
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    Slideshow (20) Celeb fathers and sons: Leading men

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