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Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Dads of My Fathers

TV shows always had a Dad when I was growing up, and he wasn't the bumbling knucklehead that he is on today's TV.

When I was a kid, TV Dads were the rock of reason that stepped aside gracefully when their children gushed about movie stars or sports heroes. They were the final word on logic, grace under fire, and knowing the difference between right from wrong.

Shows like Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and even I Love Lucy, (all of which I saw in reruns... I'm not that old that I would have seen them in their first runs), all portrayed the husband and father as the one member of the family to be convinced, consulted and satisfied.

TV has always been about advertising and selling products, but somewhere along the way, Madison Avenue saw the writing on the wall. They realized that while the concept of Dad's approval of every household purchase was waning, Mom was still in the trenches, slugging it out at the grocery store, the department store and dealing with the people who come and go through our families.

Viewing The Honeymooners as an exception to the rule, it began in the 1960's & 70's. Shows like That Girl and The Mary Tyler Moore Show put the males of the culture in secondary roles, often as comedic relief... exasperated with their own weakening power as they faced the fact that women were actually people, with minds of their own.

Somewhere between then and now, though, men became the joke. Watch any sitcom, or even most commercials, and men are portrayed as buffoons to be saved by their all-knowing wives or better halfs. Conjuring up one hair-brained scheme after another, (I can almost hear Lucille Ball's "Lucy" character saying, "Come on... really?"), today's TV Dads are little more than child-men who can't find their way home on their own, have no idea what to say to their daughters or spend most of their time trying to convince their wives that they really do deserve compassion.

I didn't have a Dad growing up. My parents split when I was a baby, so the concept of "Daddy" was one that other people had. I learned what it meant to be a Dad from those old TV shows, (which I watched over and over and over). Sure, Lucy was crazy and Marjorie Lord was way too hot for Danny Thomas, but the men of that era still ruled the roost, (at least in their own minds), while making sure that the audience knew that they respected their wives and believed in the power that women have to turn a bunch of people into a family.

I don't wish for the days of "women, barefoot and pregnant". I don't pine for the "way things used to be". I embrace the mirror of society that TV can be, while shunning the worst of it, (yes, Reality TV, I'm looking at you). I only wish for the days before everyone realized that, as a Dad, I don't have a clue about most things, and would be utterly lost without the stable influence of the women in my life. They don't need to be shown all of that, all the time.

They already know.