In honor of Father's Day tomorrow, I have compiled a list of my six favorite screen dads (three from TV, three from film). This is by no means a definitive list, and I left out plenty of great fathers. Click through to see it, and please feel free to mention your own favorite film and TV fathers in the comments.
Note: This list is in no particular order.
1. Keith Mars ("Veronica Mars") - Shows about teenagers usually feature either parents who are absent or parents who just don't care. Perhaps the best thing about "Veronica Mars" (arguably the best teen-centered show of all-time) is that it doesn't utilize this cliche. Keith isn't overprotective, but he's always watching Veronica's back even as he's teaching her the P.I. trade. And of course, he also saved her life on at least one occasion. Functional parent-child relationships on TV are rare enough. Genuinely loving ones are almost unheard of.
2. Marlin ("Finding Nemo") - Marlin's overbearing nature causes Nemo to act out and get captured by a diver. So what does he do? Why, he sets off on a dangerous journey across the ocean to get his son back. That's pretty awesome as dads go, is it not? And that kind of devotion is what forms the emotional core of Pixar's magnum opus.
3. Louie ("Louie") - Playing a fictionalized version of himself, Louis C.K. on "Louie" is a complete mess in most aspects of his life. But as he points out in season 1's "Night Out", he's good at a few things. One of them is being a father to his two young daughters. (Reminder: "Louie" returns this Thursday, and I'll be covering it every week.)
4. Arthur Pope ("Running on Empty") - Arthur Pope isn't going to win any father of the year awards after raising his kids on the run for years. But as played by Judd Hirsch, you never doubt that he's anything less than a decent, caring man trying to keep his family together. And that makes the movie's deeply moving final scenes all the more powerful.
5. Eric Taylor ("Friday Night Lights") - Perhaps this is an odd choice, particularly since Tami was usually the more hands-on parent with regards to Julie. But consider how many young men Eric was a surrogate father to. Matt, Vince, Smash, Tim, and countless others with absent fathers turned to him for guidance, and he gladly obliged (albeit often in a very tough-love kind of way).
6. Mac MacGuff ("Juno") - J.K. Simmons is always good in whatever he does, but one of my favorite performances by him was in the delightful "Juno": in which he played a hilariously down-to-earth, "live and let live" type of father. But don't let that fool you. As he proves in a key scene late in the film, he's there when Juno needs him.