In the early days of television, most family shows featured two-parent households. Notable exceptions included The Andy Griffith Show and The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Dads were always right back then and squeaky clean. They parented in a firm, strict, but loving manner. Enter the 1980s and 1990s TV dads into the picture though and you had a load of hot guys playing the role of a single dad who had a bit to learn about life. They usually learned from their child in the space of an hour or less.
Studies show that women file for the majority of divorces, but single fathers are far less common than single mothers, accounting for 16% of single-parent families. So, who are these fabulous fathers who TV Guide featured on their front covers during a two-decade span who defined 1980s and 90s TV and culture?
Let's start with the show that gave women of America not one, but three dad characters to drool over. You had a blonde, a brunette, and a black-haired fellow from which to choose on Full House which ran from 1987 to 1995. Comedian Bob Saget played TV dad Danny Tanner who suddenly becomes a single parent when his wife perishes in a car accident. He has four daughters to rear and needs help grieving, too, so he moves into an apartment with his best friends, Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) and Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier). The four Tanner girls now have three dads played by two stand-up comedians (Saget and Coulier) and a soap opera actor. The Tanner girls (Candace Cameron, Jodie Sweetin, and twins Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen) mix cute with naughty, and the three men handled child-rearing alone until Katsopolis marries his sweetheart Becky (Lori Loughlin). By that time, it is more like crammed full of people house, but the guys provided nice TV dad eye candy for eight years, so no one complained.
In the early 1970s, Greg Evigan became known as a soap opera actor and later starred on B.J. and the Bear as a long haul trucker, but a generation remembers his turn as a hot dad on My Two Dads with standup comedian Paul Reiser as the other hot dad. In this single dad take, Evigan's character begins parenting when his daughter's mom perishes in a car accident. Although about half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, others may end in tragedy, as is the case in this show. The two dad twist comes in because the mom of his daughter never revealed whether he or the other guy she dated at the time of the daughter's conception was actually her dad. Rather than have her undergo a paternity test, both guys decide to parent a teenaged girl together. All three move into the same house. The daughter character never suggests a simple blood test, so TV gets an odd parenting couple.
There was way more to The Nanny than Fran Drescher's nasal tones and annoying laugh. It featured hot dad Charles Shaughnessy as a hoity-toity single father needing serious parenting assistance. His cultured voice and perfect suits dripped culture. He didn't parent as much as most dads, but when he did, he typically backed up the advice of his nanny or co-parented with her. This left audiences with that same feeling they had about Mulder and Scully on The X-Files – essentially, the oh-would-you-hook-up-already feeling. Unless you were a little kid and then you just wanted to go shopping with his character.
He gave Joel Higgins of Silver Spoons a run for his money. Higgins' character had the son he did not know he had (Ricky Schroeder) show up on his doorstep one day. The Silver Spoons dad had no idea how to parent, so the show turns out to be a little kid with a big kid hanging out in really nice digs.
If you wanted a sports-angled single dad show, you had two choices in the 1980s and 1990s. Both featured hot guys, one as a retired athlete, the other as a coach. When comedic actor Tony Danza left Taxi no one pictured the actor as anything but the wise-cracking, but kind of ditzy Taxi character. He came into his own as the pro baseball player turned hot housekeeper, Mr. Micelli, in Who's the Boss running from 1984 to 1992. He parented his own daughter on the show, played by Alyssa Milano plus Judith Light's little man, Jonathan (Danny Pintauro).
On Coach, Craig T. Nelson plays Coach Hayden Fox, the head football coach of a successful college team. This HBC is hot and parents his 20-year-old daughter while coaching and occasionally dating. Coach Fox is divorced, and his daughter Kelly was raised mostly by her mother but she chose to enroll at Minnesota State primarily because she wanted to be closer to her father. After all, children typically spend 277 days out of the year with their custodial parent in divorce cases. This comedy mostly revolved around sets in the athletic department offices and locker room where daughter Kelly would show up to see dad. Co-parenting took place with the assistant coaches offering sometimes truly random advice. It all works out in the end for this long-running series that lasted from 1989 to 1997.
There you have it. The memorable, funny, quirky, hot dads of the 1980s and 1990s television series. You can re-watch them online to see single parenting at its hottest.