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TV Fathers / TV Dads in the 1980s

I remember it clearly. I was eleven years old and on the cusp of puberty. My hormones were stirring like a gathering storm, and my body was changing rapidly in scary, grown-up ways. Girls, whom I’d previously found "icky" were suddenly...not so icky.

1980's TV ShowsI’d look at the blossoming young ladies in my elementary school classroom and want to (gasp!) kiss them. It was a young boy’s worst nightmare, even worse than those bad dreams I’d been having about the Sid & Marty Krofft-invented creatures from "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" chasing after me. Girls were way worse than monsters. Girls were real. What would my friends think? How could I focus on the newest issues of Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans when my mind was swirling with images of females I’d previously thought gross but now found beautiful? I was suddenly sniffing my female classmates’ sweet scent instead of doing my usual, kicking them in their scabby shins.

TV dads in the 1980sI was at a loss. I didn’t know who to turn to. My mother worked several jobs so she could keep food on the table for her five children, and was thus hardly ever home. It was then, at the dawn of my manhood, that I realized how important fathers truly were. And I didn’t have one. In television terms, my father had been written out of my life when I was three years old, like James had been written out of "Good Times," although my father hadn’t been killed off. One day, he simply went away and didn’t return. Too bad life isn’t more like television, or else there would’ve been a sassy maid in my home to help guide us children, but in real life most families can’t afford a live-in maid.

I was reaching a confusing time in my life, a time when I needed male guidance, but I had no father to turn to. Or did I?

"Wait a second," I thought. "I’ve got lots of dads!" It was true. I had many, many fathers whose advice I could take. They were right there under my nose all along. Sure, they weren’t my biological fathers, but they were mine nonetheless. They doled out advice on a weekly basis, in half-hour increments. I knew exactly when the advice was serious and meant to be followed, because the canned laughter would cease. My dads were knowledgeable. My dads knew everything. My dads were on television. My dads had a staff of writers who made sure they could solve any problem their smart-alecky kids could possibly have. My dads were the smartest ever, because they were on television, and everyone knows that television equals smart.

Family Ties castSo, which dad did I turn to when I needed advice about girls and sex and my suddenly-weird body? Why, Steven Keaton, of course, from "Family Ties." If his aging hippy wisdom was good enough for Alex P. Keaton, his Reagan-loving, conservative son, it sure as hell was good enough for me. His sage words helped me navigate through the confusing world of teenage girls.

Growing pains castBut my other dads helped too. When my virginity became something I wanted to shed, I turned to Dr. Jason Seaver from "Growing Pains" for advice, although I must admit that I didn’t take the abstinence path quite as long as his son, Mike Seaver, did.

Cosby show castWhen I needed advice about school and college and my future, I turned to Dr. Huxtable from "The Cosby Show," because, boy, Theo Huxtable sure was turning into a fine young man.

Brady Bunch castBut, of all my many television dads, Mike Brady from "The Brady Bunch" was my favorite. I wanted (and still want) to be a Brady. Mr. Bradys advice covered all of life’s many quandaries. I learned from Mr. Brady about greed and vanity and jealously and fairness, but most of all, I learned that you shouldn’t play ball in the house.

Some parents think kids shouldn’t watch too much television. Some parents think there’s nothing to be learned from silly situation comedies. I beg to differ. I learned everything from television. My own father turned out to be unreliable, but my television dads never let me down.

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