The late Tom Bosley's Howard Cunningham set the bar high for prime-time parents. He was patient. He was kind. He judged the Fonz by the content of his character, and not the color of his leather jacket.
Here are five current TV fathers we think meet the Mr. C standard:
1. Burt Hummel, Glee: You don't have to be a gay teen to admire, or envy, Kurt Hummel's open dialogue with his mechanic dad (played by Mike O'Malley with an unsentimental sensitivity we didn't get from Yes, Dear). You just have to be a teen.
2. Cam Tucker, Modern Family: To be honest, all the dads in the branch-rich Pritchett family tree are good TV dads. But, in the end, we have to give the nod to Eric Stonestreet's fretter. It's not that the man can imagine raccoons trying to make a sandwich out of daughter Lily; it's that he leaps into action to save her from the (imaginary) critters.
3. Jim Bob Duggar, 19 Kids and Counting: We don't know how the reality dad does it, but it sure seems like he's done it. We're not talking about his (and wife Michelle's) ability to bring more than two-and-a-half dozen children into the world; we're talking about his (and wife Michelle's) ability to raise more than two-and-a-half dozen apparently happy children in our world. Bonus points for keeping his cool when things go bad—and scary.
4. Dexter Morgan, Dexter: OK, so Howard Cunningham wasn't a serial killer, but Mr. C was the kind of father who looked out for Richie and Joanie—and that's just what Michael C. Hall's damaged dad is doing this season as he tries to do right by his kids in the wake of mom Rita's murder. (By the by, ol' Howie's parental resume wasn't entirely spotless itself: Whatever did happen to his eldest son, Chuck?)
5. Tim Gunn, Project Runway: No, Gunn hasn't sired the countless designers who have competed on his reality show. But he's as much a TV dad as Mr. C or anyone else with a prime-time brood that needs guidance, patience—and a tactful, respectful kick in the ass. In fact, his "make it work" motto may just be the best fatherly pep-talk ever.