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."
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."
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?"
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."
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.
Randee Dawn is a freelance writer based in New York, and was born with a remote control in her hand. She is the co-author of "The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion."