For as important as fathers are in our lives, Father’s Day has become a non-event. It’s marked by little more than a greeting card, a beer, a burger and a “thank you”. Things can be different this Father’s Day, and the dad in your life deserves more. So we here at TheCoolist turned to TV to find inspiring figures in modern culture that can tell us a bit about fatherhood. From Phil Dunphy of Modern Family to Zeek Braverman of Parenthood, great fathers are central to today’s best shows. We’ve profiled 7 inspiring TV dads that can teach us all something about Father’s Day, and even serve as something to share with dad on June 21st. So pull up a seat and clear your Hulu cue, Father’s Day is upon us.
Phil Dunphy – Modern Family
Phil Dunphy: “I’ve always said that if my son thinks of me as one of his idiot friends, I’ve succeeded as a dad.”
He’s the perpetual kid. The king of the Dad Jokes. Phil Dunphy is the kind of dad who relates to his family on their level, not as some stuffy patriarch who rules with a strict hand. Despite his efforts, his out-of-touch charm makes him embarrassing to his kids, but what good dad doesn’t embarrass themselves?
When it comes to fatherhood, Phil Dunphy is inspiring for his complete inability to take anything too seriously. It’s a lesson we could all learn a little something from, and a key take-away when watching Modern Family on Father’s Day.
John Teller – Sons of Anarchy
John Teller: “The true outlaw finds the balance between the passion in his heart and the reason in his mind. The solution is always an equal mix of might and right.”
The story of Sons of Anarchy starts long before Jax Teller wears the club jacket. It began with John Teller, the late father of Jax, who wrote a manuscript to guide his motorcycle club to legitimacy. As Jax rises in the ranks of his father’s motorcycle club, this manuscript serves as both inspiration and prophecy. It shows that some of the best bad boys are guided by something deeper than just a thrill.
On Father’s Day, a show like Sons of Anarchy isn’t just exciting, it’s inspiring. It’s a symbol to those who have dealt with adversity, but never lose sight of the path that leads them to greater things.
Lucius Lyon – Empire
Lucious Lyon: “Music, that’s forever. They’ll dance to it forever. They’ll sing to it forever. They’ll be inspired by it forever. Put the bad blood behind us. Tell your truth in the music.”
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Empire Entertainment founder Lucious Lyon must choose a successor. His three sons are each talented and flawed in their own way, and his ex-wife is the wild card in the deck. As a father, Lucious is strong and strict, but only in the interest of the success of his children. For Lucious, family is a part of the business, and the relationship between the two is central to the story.
Lucious Lyon and the Empire story can teach a lot about fatherhood. The most important takeaway of this show is that beneath the success, fortune and fame, our own mortality makes family the number one priority.
Sterling Archer – Archer
Lana Kane: “Have you at least baby-proofed this place?” Sterling Archer: “I don’t think a baby can hurt anything.”
For arguably the funniest show on television, can Archer be instructive for fatherhood? Surprisingly, yes. While Sterling Archer has shown a penchant for alcoholism and womanizing, fatherhood was thrust upon him from someone he holds dear. Season 6 of Archer sees Sterling adjust his priorities — slightly — to make sure his daughter is number one. Sure, he’s still perpetually drunk, but when it comes to danger, he only engages when little Abbiejean Archer is accounted for.
You might think you need to reach a bit to find a lesson in the story of Archer. Not entirely. Despite shifting to the responsibilities of parenthood and monogamy, Sterling Archer is still Archer. It shows that a man’s individuality and spirit aren’t muzzled by responsibility, they’re enriched by it.
Zeek Braverman – Parenthood
Zeek Braverman: “Do you know what I told my kids every day of their lives? I mean, all four of them, whether I was angry or frustrated or sad or whatever, I… You know what I told them every day? ‘I love you.’ I wanted it to be clear to them, that’s why I told them.”
For a show about parenting, you can expect there to be inspiring fathers in Parenthood. It’s the family patriarch, the “grandparent” of the bunch, that stands out the most. Zeek Braverman (portrayed by Craig T. Nelson) is the quintessential grandfather, a fun and humorous guide through the scrapes and bruises of parenting. Each of the show’s new parents often rely on his advice and assistance in raising children of their own. Meanwhile, Zeek is outspoken, honest and no stranger to humor. Again, he’s the quintessential grandfather.
The inspiration of Parenthood is in the value of experience. The young parents in the show face plenty of trials in their new roles, but the experience of Zeek is found to be irreplaceable.
Raymond Reddington – The Blacklist
Elizabeth Keen: “You’re a monster.”
Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington: “Yes.”
Elizabeth Keen: “How can you live with yourself?”
Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington: “By saving your life.”
There’s another subplot beneath the cloak-and-dagger story line of The Blacklist. The question yet to be answered but is on every viewer’s mind: is anti-hero Raymond Reddington the father of the shows heroine, Elizabeth Keen? Whether or not Red is Lizzie’s father, he fills a common role of unofficial father figure. While Red and Elizabeth play for two very different teams, their nature shares plenty of common ground. Through their criminal-meets-agent partnership, Red is constantly working to protect and guide Elizabeth on her career path.
On Father’s Day, a show like The Blacklist can illustrate that anyone can be a father figure, true parent or not. All it takes is time, effort and love, and a good man can fill an important role for one who needs it.
Louis Huang – Fresh Off the Boat
Louis Huang: “If you pretend like you have a bad back [in bed], you don’t have to do so much work.”
The hilarious book-to-sitcom success of Fresh Off the Boat is chock full of fatherly moments. The most memorable might be the “birds and the bees” talk that father Louis Huang gives to son Eddie Huang (in real life, the author of the book that inspired the show). It turns one of the most uncomfortable speeches a father has to give into a humorous, insightful, slightly embarrassing take on humanity.
The story of Fresh Off the Boat is about more than just a boy’s adjustment into adulthood, but a family’s adjustment to a new culture. In a way, it’s an adjustment we’ve all felt from time-to-time. It’s the perspective of Fresh Off the Boat that makes the lessons of fatherhood all the more enjoyable.
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Happy Father’s Day to you, your dad or any father figure in your life. If you need a way to wind down toward the end of the big day, these seven shows are available for instant streaming on Hulu. Is there a show or a moment that speaks to you on Father’s Day? Hit us up on Facebook or Twitter to share!