— Fred Sanford (“Sanford & Son”)
The quintessential widowed TV dad, Fred G. Sanford wasn’t exactly the lovey-dovey type. He was eternally disappointed in his “big dummy” son Lamont, and he never let him forget it. Fred was left to raise Lamont after his beloved wife Elizabeth died and Lamont dropped out of high school. But Elizabeth was never far from Fred’s thoughts. He called upon her every time things stopped going his way and he had to pretend he was having a heart attack as a distraction, calling out, “Elizabeth! I’m comin’ to join you, honey!”
Michael Bluth (“Arrested Development”)
As if he didn’t already have enough to worry about with his family’s antics, Michael Bluth was coming off the passing of his wife Tracey. Michael was quite the eager dad to his son, George Michael, sometimes having George Michael sit on his lap to steer the car on a road trip and coordinating mandatory father-son bike rides. Michael often put his love life on hold — even passing up a chance to hook up with Heather Graham — for fear that George Michael wasn’t ready to see his father with a woman other than his mom.
Danny Tanner (“Full House”)
Danny Tanner’s wife Pam was killed in a drunk driving accident, setting the stage for Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey to move in and start one of TV’s most popular comedies. With a 9-month-old and two older daughters to care for while working full time as a morning TV show host, Danny needed the help of his best friend, Joey, and Pam’s brother, Jesse, who were dedicated to making their new living arrangement work. While some short-lived romances came and went for Danny Tanner — he nearly remarried toward the end of the series — his heart was always set on caring for his daughters.
Philip Drummond (“Diff’rent Strokes”)
Back when TV shows confronted issues of race head-on, New York housing developer Phillip Drummond, made good on a promise. Already a widower raising a teenage daughter, the rich white man took in the two black sons of a woman who once worked for him, just as she’d asked him to on her death bed. Despite the initial objections of older son Willis, who thought the boys should go back to Harlem because they were out of place in Drummond’s Manhattan penthouse. Over eight seasons, Drummond learned as much from the boys as they learned from him, particularly during some of its many “very special episodes.”
Michael Taylor and Joey Harris (“My Two Dads”)
Though neither was ever married to the mother of their adopted teenage daughter Nicole, Michael and Joey took on the task of raising her as their own despite not knowing which of them was her real dad. Hilarity ensued for three seasons the two men — a straight-laced financial advisor and a care-free artist — tried to steer their daughter right, all under the watchful eye of the stern judge who gave them shared custody. Nicole once took a DNA test to find out the truth of her paternity, but she tossed the results because she preferred not knowing.