Happy Father's Day to the best (and worst) dads on TV!

June 15, 2012 at 1:34 PM ET

Peter Griffin on "Family Guy," Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) on "Modern Family" and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) on "Walking Dead."

The good, the bad and the downright terrible. Just as in real life, the small screen has its share of nearly perfect fathers and fathers of the worst sort, and each TV season brings a new crop of them. So in honor of Father's Day, let's take a look at some new(er) and classic scripted papas who deserve a little recognition -- either for their great parenting or lack thereof.


Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), 'The Walking Dead'

Who’s a better dad than a gun-toting sheriff’s deputy who kills zombies to keep his wife and son safe? Certainly not that poseur Shane, who tried to fill Rick’s shoes in the bedroom and in the daddy department. He got what was coming to him in season two of the AMC series when things finally reached a breaking point with his best friend. And young Carl, Rick’s son, learned a valuable lesson about loyalty and leadership in the process. Some would argue that Rick and the gang of survivors might be better off some days if Carl had never recovered from his gunshot wound to the belly. Does that kid ever listen to his parents? At the same time, a timely death for Lori, Carl’s mom, might please viewers who don’t like the way she’s treated Rick. So Rick really is a great dad -- faced with a cheating wife and an annoying son, he’s still done everything he can to keep them from becoming zombie lunch. – Kurt Schlosser

Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), 'Modern Family'

“Modern Family’s” Jay Pritchett likes to pretend that all he needs is his bombshell Colombian wife, Gloria, and the memories of his high-school football career. Dig a little deeper, though, and the successful construction-supply owner is reveling in Spanish soap operas, dancing with granddaughter Lily at her dance recital and sharing life lessons with stepson Manny at the kitchen bar. While Jay pushes Manny to be the type of sporty stud he purports to have once been, it’s clear that Jay is really just a sentimental, loving father. Good luck convincing his kids Mitchell and Claire of that. – Cody Delistraty

George Altman (Jeremy Sisto), 'Suburgatory'

Like many loving dads, super sweet George will always see his daughter as his little girl, no matter how smart and grown up and well adjusted she may be. The single dad -- although a tad overprotective --  always tries to do right by his teenage daughter, Tessa. Sure, he overreacts quite a bit (yanking her out of NYC and moving them to the suburbs after finding condoms -- not hers! -- in her bedroom, sending a neighbor to spy on her when he learns she's having a boy over while he's out), but his heart is always in the right place. And (very) slowly, he's learning to trust her and let her spread her wings. – Anna Chan

Don Draper (Jon Hamm), 'Mad Men'

On the surface, Don's the coolest dad ever: He has a swank Manhattan pad and a hot young new wife. Of course, if you're his child, you might see these things as not very cool at all. And while Don is very much a product of his era -- distant, authoritative -- he's also clearly got a soft spot for his children, evidenced by the fact that he married his secretary after she proved she could handle them. Maybe not the most hands-on papa ever, but Don is a good one. – Randee Dawn

Dan Connor (John Goodman), 'Rosanne'

Dan easily tops my TV-pop list. He's -- yeah, present tense (I'm pretending his series finale fate never happened) -- a hard-working, beer-drinking every-dad who sometimes loses his temper in a big way and spends a little too much time in the garage or parked in front of the TV. But more often than not, Dan fills the role of dependable family man (OK, just going to ignore that whole last season) and never leaves his kids in any doubt of his love. – Ree Hines

Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), 'The Cosby Show'

No, the ‘80s are not over, thank you. Not if they are the kind of decade that produces a dad like Dr. Heathcliff “Combustible” Huxtable, who somehow managed to deliver babies, court his charming wife, sneak giant sandwiches and serve as the most loving and entertaining patriarch on TV. Living with Cliff as your dad was like living in one of Cosby’s famed stand-up routines (“Dad ... is ... GREAT! Give us ... CHOCOLATE CAKE!”) Maybe the best example came when son Theo thought he could move out, become a model and make big bucks, and Cliff organized the family to show him just how wrong he really was. Cliff played his landlord, Clair sold him back his own furniture, Denise charged him for leftovers and little Rudy played banker Mrs. Griswold, who torpedoed his chance at a loan. It was an entertaining and educational reality check from the best dad of the ‘80s, and a dad who’d stack up nicely against any dad before or since.  – Gael Fashingbauer Cooper


Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny), 'Revenge'

He might put a beautiful roof over your head, he might buy you nice cars or even pay for your townie boyfriend to attend your elite private school, but Conrad Grayson is not the guy you want to be calling dad. In the span of one season, Grayson disowned his son Daniel for not wanting to be part of his company (only to take him back, of course), turned his back on his daughter and had a hand in the deaths of at least three separate characters. And that’s just scratching the surface. It’s difficult to quantify general, day-to-day awfulness and spite. But if he were your dad, you’d better go big on the Father’s Day gift — if you don’t keep him on your good side, odds are you’ll end up on the wrong side of the grass.  – Courtney Hazlett

Peter Griffin (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), 'Family Guy'

Selfish, childish and cruel, Peter is probably one of the worst dads to ever grace the television screen. At least Homer Simpson tries to do right by his kids every now and then (the saxophone he bought for Lisa and his love for baby Maggie, for example). But Peter? It's all about him and his wants, and poor teen daughter Meg is always the butt of his jokes. Reading your kid's diary for laughs? Not cool. Randomly shooting her when she says hello? Oh so wrong. Having to be paid to attend her 18th birthday celebration? Don't get us started. – Anna Chan

Anthony Cooper (Kevin Tighe), 'Lost'

My all-time, bottom-of-the-barrel TV dad pick? John Locke's kidney-nabbing father. Of course, conning Locke out of a spare organ wasn't even the worst of his deeds. He also left his son paralyzed after pushing him out of an eighth-story window, and the less said about what he did to Sawyer's parents, the better. – Ree Hines

Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), 'Entourage' 

It’s not just his former assistant (later, agent) Lloyd who took an emotional beating daily. Hyper-successful L.A. agent Ari Gold treated his wife and children to a barrage of misogynistic, crass comments that “Entourage” tried to play off as “good fun.” Sure, it may be funny when Ari's belittling Johnny Drama for his absolute lack of success or slinging previously unimaginable slurs at work, but missing birthdays, refusing to give his kids even a few genuine encouraging words, and that’s not to mention the phone call he takes in the series finale, well that’s not too fun. Even when he has the life so many men would envy -- spending a languid vacation with his super-hot wife in Florence, for example -- it seems Ari just can’t say no to work. It’s not to say he’s not somehow charming and likable (although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why), it’s just that a big smile and a “Hug it out, b----” only work so many times. After that you’re just not a very good father. – Cody Delistraty

So many dads on TV over the years! Who are your picks for the best and worst? Tell us on our Facebook page!

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