Thursday, June 12, 2014

Go (Father) Figure: Lessons from TV Dads in the 80s

It's almost Father's Day, so in honor of the occasion, I was thinking about some of my favorite TV dads, and the life lessons they imparted week-to-week. When you think of television dads, the first ones that come to mind are probably from shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, or even Happy Days. And yes, those were awesome dads. But you see, I am a child of the '80s, and so my list includes more recent father-figures who were a part of my weekly viewing as a kid. Let's take a look at some of these very of-their-time dads and the parts of their parenting that are pretty much universal.

Let's start with the Big Kahuna, the dad of all 1980s television dads: Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show. To know him was to love him; he was smart, he was funny, and he was sensitive enough to survive raising four daughters and one totally clueless son. We learned a lot from Dr. Huxtable because he knew how to be wise without being preachy, and he talked to his kids about everything from drinking to finances to coping with the loss of a dead pet goldfish. He also showed us that no matter what your dad's fashion sense (those sweaters had a life of their own), or how bad his dance moves are, he's still good ol' lovable dad. You might as well grin and embrace it, or you'll get a zerbert (if this reference doesn't ring a bell, find yourself some Cosby Show reruns immediately--you have a Cosby deficiency).

These next two are personal favorites of mine: Joey and Michael from My Two Dads. For those of you who need a refresher course, young Nicole's mom passed away and joint custody was awarded to two men, both of whom had a thing with Nicole's mom. Joey was the free-spirited artist who showed Nicole how to lighten up and not take herself so seriously, while nervous, responsible Michael helped with school work and accountability. The two dads were complete opposites, but what we can take from them is this: no matter what type personality your dad has, or how opposite from yours it might seem, he's your dad. You may not always understand each other completely, but when it comes right down to it, you're family, and that's what counts. Bonus points if he buys you a couch in the shape of a car like Nicole's dads did.

Another dad who captured my heart was millionaire Nick Foley from the musical show Rags to Riches (he made me want to break into song, too, girls). Nick adopts five orphan girls. The girls aren't used to living in the lap of luxury, and Nick has really only ever thought of himself, so everyone has to adjust to this new "family" situation. This one comes to mind because we could all stand to remember that fatherhood does not come with an instruction manual. Dads are doing their best to fumble their way through it, they learn as they go, and most of the time--hopefully--they get it right. Bear with them, and unless they are as wealthy are Nick Foley of Foley's Frozen Foods, resist the urge to treat the man like an ATM machine. He worked hard for the money you begged him for...even all those times it was "the very last time" you were ever going to ask.
Okay, maybe there wasn't a lot to be learned from Edward Stratton, III, but I really loved Silver Spoons. How can you not love a father who lets you have your own train running through the house? Growing up, when I would ask my dad for certain things, one of his most frequent responses was that he "had to think about it." This usually involved waiting a day or two and then being told no. However, during the suspenseful waiting period, I would sometimes buoy my spirits by thinking that if Ricky Schroeder could have a train in his house, maybe I really could bungee jump/get a go-cart/insert childhood plea here. Stranger things have happened--like railroads running through the living room.

There's no way to talk about television in the '80s without mentioning Punky Brewster (well, not for me, anyway. I had the Punky doll and my mom was patient enough to let me dress like her, bandanna tied around my knee and all). You see, orphan Punky shows up at Henry's apartment building, needing a home. Henry Warnimont is not exactly warm to the idea. In fact, Henry started off a grumpy old man but after the two got to know each other, they became an adorable, unlikely pair. So even when your dad is a tad grouchy, or fails to appreciate your undeniably spunky fashion sense, he would still doing anything for you.

Of course, these are just a few of the fantastic fathers we met during those good old days known as the 1980s. Those were the times when Charles was in charge (of our days and our nights), we all had our Family Ties, Mr. Drummond knew exactly what Willis and Arnold were talking 'bout, and Jason Seaver coaxed everyone through their Growing Pains. I'm willing to bet you can add some great memories of your own dear old dad in with those television ones as well. Take a moment to appreciate all the things your dad brings to the table, and keep in mind the biggest thing these sitcom dads illustrate: when it comes to family, there's no such thing as normal. And sometimes, that can be a really great thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember: brains and looks will only take you so far, but flattery will get you everywhere.