Best TV Father Figures

Father's Day: TV's 10 Best Substitute Dads From Grey's, The Flash and More

Before you go gifting that “World’s Best TV Dad” mug to, say, This Is Us‘ Jack Pearson or The Middle‘s Mike Heck this Father’s Day, how about a hand for the small screen’s greatest paternal pinch-hitters?

In years past, TVLine has ranked TV’s best and worst dads, and to do so again seemed almost as lazy as buying pops another tie clip. Instead, what follows is a list of substitute dads (or father figures, in some cases) who have helped fill the void left by some M.I.A. parents.

Having chosen to only focus on current TV shows, we expanded our criteria beyond responsible role models, also including a couple of “fun dad” types. This eclectic bunch includes a Yacht Rock-lovin’ landlord from One Day at a Time, a 1980s tech man from Halt and Catch Fire and a bearded buffoon just trying to survive a nuclear apocalypse on The Last Man on Earth. Also featured are the men of Grey’s Anatomy, The Originals and Fuller House, among others.

Check out the attached gallery (or click here for direct access) to review our choices for TV’s best fatherly stand-ins, then drop a comment below and tell us who else you might have included among these ranks.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Derek says:

    Why not real dads too?

  2. Lolo says:

    J’onn J’onzz??

    • katlynneylon says:

      Right?! How do you get Joe West and no love for Space Dad?! :)

    • Tess says:

      Yes!!!! Such an oversight! J’onn and Joe are the best surrodads on tv and all I wanted was for them to commiserate on their adopted kids during the crossover

  3. CF says:

    I think Gibbs from NCIS is a father figure for so many characters on that show.

  4. Diana says:

    Henry and Nora raised Barry until he was eleven, though, so I’m not sure you can say ‘the dad he never had’, even if you add in sort of. The first eleven years are pretty formative. I think sometimes the show forgets that, like when they had Joe say he taught Barry to swim. Unless Barry didn’t learn how to swim until after he was eleven, Henry was probably the one that taught him. I guess it’s possible that he learned swimming from Joe at a pool party or something like that since Barry and Iris were best friends before Barry went to stay with the West’s so they would have known each other’s parents, but it seems more like an oversight.

  5. kirads09 says:

    Alfred – Gotham (THAT season finale – I openly wept)
    Nolan – Defiance
    Real dad – Cal (SHIELD) Sub – Coulson

  6. Dominique says:

    joe west is one of the best father-figures out there, along with richard webber. a shame general hammond from stargate sg1 isn’t mentioned here, he was essentially a dad to all those crazy kids. same goes cabe gallo from scorpion.
    a really big no for klaus mikaelson. the amount of times he’s threatened, tortured, abandoned and wanted to kill marcel is ridiculous. he might get there with hope some day, but he does not deserve to be on this list yet.

  7. Mac says:

    I realize you guys were focusing only on current shows, but whenever the topic of the substitute dad trope comes up, my mind can’t help but go to Giles and Buffy. I think they’re one of the best examples of that dynamic out there.

  8. Red Snapper says:

    I agree with the person who mentioned Giles. This list feels a little incomplete without him. He wasn’t just Buffy’s father figure, he was the father figure for the whole Scooby Gang. Also,
    Klaus wasn’t Marcel’s father figure for nearly 2,000 years, I think it was more like 200. I can’t remember exactly when Marcel was turned but I think it was probably in the early/mid 19th century.

  9. Cobra says:

    Coach Eric Taylor was surrogate dad to many a youth.

  10. ChrisGa says:

    Joe West all day, every day.

  11. iloentje says:

    I immediately think of Sandy Cohen, looking at this list. He was a real dad, but a surrogate as well :)

  12. Lyndy says:

    That B99 Like Father,Like Son video is awesome. Can’t get enough of Jake & Captain Holt

  13. Jec says:

    Lol Klaus. In no world he was a good surrogate dad for Marcel.

    Where is Coach Taylor? He was pretty much a surrogate dad for everyone

  14. Karen says:

    Alfred on Gotham deserves a spot on this list.

  15. msemmyjones says:

    Current show even though the character may be dead, but I’m throwing out Bobby Singer.

  16. Toni says:

    Barry and Joe’s relationship in S1 was by far the best on the show. Very heartwarming.

  17. Hannah says:

    “Are you sure he isn’t your dad? He banged your mom enough.” – Alex RE: Meredith and Richard on Grey’s Anatomy

  18. Mo says:

    Thanks for the incesty WestAllen reminder! Poor Joe is it any wonder we only got 1 Joe Barry moment this entire WA season & that was at the end.*lol*

  19. Ally Oop says:

    Um…you got The Originals one wrong. Klaus sired Marcel int the 17th century so their father-son bond didn’t exist for 2000 years.
    One substitute dad I would have added here was Sam Tarley on Game of Thrones.ANother would have been Alex on Casual.

  20. Einhornpups says:

    Phil Coulson, Agents of SHIELD is the best substitute dad in my opinion. Melinda May is the best substitute mom.