Dear Television Industry:
As I open my Father's Day cards and gifts today — you know a longtime dad when he's actually excited by presents of free cologne and underwear — I'm wary of a returning trend you guys seemed to squelch in recent years, to my extreme relief.
The rise (again!) of the dunderhead dad.
Once upon a time, these guys were everywhere on the TV dial, flanked by smart-alecky kids and wives way too hot for their dumpy, disconnected status. Ray Romano, George Lopez, Jim Belushi, Ozzy Osbourne and the voice of Dan Castellanetta (as Homer Simpson), were the most visible culprits, raking in millions making all of us dads look like oddball blends of ADHD kids and, well, Homer Simpson.
The death of the TV sitcom helped kill that trend, as Romano moved on to create a flawed, hopeful dad struggling with a gambling addiction on TNT's Men of a Certain Age and Lopez briefly warmed up TBS' 11 p.m. time slot for Conan O'Brien.
But I hear this dunderhead dad character may be making a bit of a comeback.
I look at the most successful new comedy of last season, ABC's Modern Family, and I see him reflected in the show's breakout character, Ty Burrell's clueless Phil Dunphy. This is a guy who re-enacts dance scenes from High School Musical for his kids while insisting he and his fellow Realtors are like "ninjas with blazers" — forever convinced he's cool, while constantly proving he is not.
Then I flip in a DVD of CBS' new fall shows and see $#*! My Dad Says, a flabby comedy based on a Twitter page starring William Shatner as the kind of crusty father who nicknames one son "James Gandol-fatty," accepting a gift from him by saying "if I wanted piles of crap around the house, I would have bought a bird."
I see where this is going. And it must stop. Now.
Nobody expects a return to the days when Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady made us look like know-it-all gods (sigh!). But to help you guys figure out how to stop sabotaging American fathers, I'm going to give you a well-considered short list of TV's coolest current dads.
Don't thank me. Just learn a lesson or two and stop giving our wives and kids even less reason to listen to us than before.
Peace and hair grease,
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) AMC's Breaking Bad
First, this high school chemistry teacher keeps his lung cancer from bankrupting his family by manufacturing crystal meth, then he saves his partner by mowing down two rival drug dealers with his car. Is there a more menschy dad on TV today?
Joe DuBois (Jake Weber) CBS' Medium
Surrounded by a wife and three daughters who can talk to the dead and see the future, Weber's DuBois is cool, supportive and appropriately irreverent when needed. Smart real-life dads take notes on every episode.
Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley) Fox's Glee
In one season, we've seen Burt morph from a macho mechanic bewildered by his effeminate son to a proud father of a gay teen who banned the three-letter f-word from his home. Hopefully, some offscreen parents will take the hint.
Eddie Sutton (Russell Hornsby) ABC Family's Lincoln Heights
When a world of drama exploded after he convinced his middle-class family to move into a huge house in one of Los Angeles' worst neighborhoods, Hornsby's Sutton spent three seasons enduring the mother of all I-told-you-sos. I been there, my man. I been there.