REMEMBERING BOB SAGET: THE LAST GREAT TV DAD
When I was growing up watching TV in the 1950s and the 1960s, it was a golden era for TV dads. All the heroes on TV at that time were either daddies or cowboys or both, like Ben Cartwright on “Bonanza,” the wonderful father of Adam, Hoss and Little Joe.
Daddies were revered figures on TV during the Eisenhower Administration and the New Frontier. The titles of the shows said it all. There was “Father Knows Best,” and TV dad Jim Andersen, played by Robert Young, did know best for his three children, Bud, Kitten, and the Princess.
On Monday nights, we would “Make Room for Daddy” as Danny Thomas came into our homes as TV Dad Danny Williams, father of Rusty and Kathy. In real life, Danny Thomas was the father of “That Girl”, and a champion for afflicted children around the world as the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
There was Ozzie Nelson, father of Dave and Ricky.
There was Ricky Ricardo, husband of Lucy (who often had some ‘splaining’ to do), and father of Little Ricky. The episode featuring Little Ricky’s birth was watched by 44 million viewers.
There were single TV dads, widowers like Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina who raised Opie with the help of Aunt Bea.
There was Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) raising his three sons, with the help of Uncle Charlie, who bore a striking resemblance to Ricky and Lucy Ricardo’s neighbor, Fred Mertz.
But by the 1970s, these good guy TV dads were fading from our TV screens. Sheriff Andy Taylor left Opie, Aunt Bea and Barney, when to law school, and changed his name to Matlock.
The father who knew best, Jim Andersen, left the wife and kids in Springfield, when to medical school, and became Dr. Marcus Welby.
The new TV dads did not know best. They were bumbling fools like Al Bundy in “Married With Children,” Homer Simpson, and “All in the Family’s” Archie Bunker who loved his daughter Gloria but was a racist bigot.
There were a few holdover model dads on TV during the Reagan Administration, most notably Dr. Cliff Huxtable, but unfortunately, Bill Cosby’s off camera life ultimately detracted from the image of the wise, caring Doctor Dad.
TV’s Murphy Brown seemed to marginalize fathers when she did not make room for daddy, becoming a single mom. The only person who apparently got upset about this was Vice President Dan Quayle. Unfortunately, the rest of America’s TV viewers did not miss Murphy Brown’s baby daddy, as TV dads had all but disappeared from our screens.
But in 1987, another single father came into our homes. Actually, he invited us into his house, a full one. His name was Danny. Not Danny Thomas, but Danny Tanner. A widower like so many of the great TV dads of the 50s and 60s, Danny Tanner raised his three daughters, DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle, with the help of his crazy brother-in-law, Jesse and his best friend, Joey. It was as if my three sons had grown, and were raising three daughters. For those of us who grew up watching the great TV dads of the 50s and 60s, watching “Full House” was deja daddy vu all over again.
I began watching Full House in my own house in the 1990s with my daughter Margaret. It was a sweet sappy TV series, and we loved it. To this day we still watch “Full House” reruns, and even though we’ve seen them all, we love them.
Bob Saget, the warm wonderful comedian who played Danny Tanner died suddenly this past weekend at the age of 65. When we heard the news, my now grown daughter and I texted each other about how sad we were to read the news, but we also shared our happy memories of TV dad Bob Saget.
He was the last great TV dad. He was loved by millions, and we will miss him. But sometime tonight I’m going to look for him. I will search my TV for a rerun, and I look forward to joining him, Jesse and Joey, and their girls in their wonderful full house!