TV shows and movies have shown the stories of fathers and their sons for decades, and not all of them were ideal, either. Some fathers were crass, some were idiots, and some were nothing short of idealistic, but one thing was certain in all this; good or bad they were still fathers, and there was always some exchange between them and their sons. These are the 10 best such on-screen wisdom exchanges, for better or worse.
Don Vito and Michael Corleone – The Godfather
Michael Corleone made us all at least a little envious of him by growing up as the Don’s son, even though we all knew it was a pretty tough life for the kid. As he grew up, talks with his father, Vito, steadily became deeper and more serious, to the point that they would later consist mainly of ominous warnings about exactly which guy was going to shoot him and who was the obvious traitor. That aside, there were the occasional morsels of actual fatherly advice that didn’t involve killing people, one of them particularly terse but fitting for the time: “I spent my whole life trying not to be careless. Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.” Remember, he’s talking to the future Don, this is about as fatherly as it gets.
Al and Bud Bundy – Married… With Children
In Rites of Passage, Al, for some obscure and largely forgotten reason, feels it’s time to bond with his son, Bud, and take the hapless nerd to the Nudie Bar. This sort of escapade is a rarity in the series, as the two spend little time together under more normal circumstances. That being said, the trip was a memorable one. After leaving the club, Bud asks what he should tell his mother when she demands to know where he’s been all night. Al’s response is perfect: “Well, son, you’re a man now. When your mother asks you where you were, you do what your supposed to do. You look her right in the eye and tell her we were stuck in traffic.” While completely dishonest, he does cover a fairly common issue with his straightforward answer.
Michael and George Michael Bluth – Arrested Development
Many guys grow up dealing with extended family, and all too often this little problem crops up: The hot cousin. Of all the shows on television, Arrested Development centerpieces this dilemma most prominently, and most hilariously. George Michael suffers from an obsessive infatuation with his cousin, Maeby, who never really seems to catch on. When the boy finally comes clean to his father, Michael, the response he gets back isn’t fly-off-the-handle rage or ridicule. Michael simply lays it out, responding with, “Well, obviously, acting on those feelings is not an option. She’s a blood relative.” While he may be a joker in just about every other situation, he keeps things short and simple when it comes to his son possibly venturing into incestuous territory.
Mr. Levenstein and Jim Levenstein – American Pie
Just how would your dad have reacted had he walked in on you getting it on with a pastry? If he’s like most dads, you’d have some really awkward Christmas dinners for about 20 or so years, but if he’s Mr. Levenstein, then you’re golden. One of the most laid back fathers a guy could ever hope to have, especially when it comes to that hopeless time of life when sex is new and scary, we may all wish our dads would take a cue from Mr. Levenstein. Remember “the sex talk?” If you were Jim, it’d have included this little gem on masturbation: “It’s like playing a tennis ball against a brick wall, which can be fun. It can be fun, but it’s not a game. What you want is a partner to return the ball.” My dad wasn’t so good at analogies.
In The Telltale Head, Bart asks his father an important question: “How important is it to be popular?” In true form, Homer’s immediate response is, “I’m glad you asked, son. Being popular is the most important thing in the world.” After some prodding to be sure that Bart wasn’t about to kill somebody for the sake of being popular, Homer shoos him off and declares that “a boy without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid center.” Sure, Homer may be a bit extreme as far as bad examples are concerned, but he does end it right.
Sandy and Seth Cohen – The OC
It’s a tough choice with all the TV dads out there, but the real sleeper in the competition for best seems to be Sandy Cohen. Sure, the series had all the indicators of a complete chick-drama, but if you actually sat down to watch more than five minutes of it you were hooked for the duration, and for good reason. Sandy was cast as the perfect dad, there just wasn’t any way around it with the ridiculous amount of drama that scripts kept flinging his way throughout the show. One small moment of many came when his son Seth was down about a particularly unfunny friend ruining his jokes. Instead of the usual P.C. spiel that most parents feel obliged to give (don’t be so harsh, some people just aren’t as funny as you, blah, blah, blah), Sandy gave it to him straight. “Gentiles. I love your mother more than words, but not funny. Get yourself some funnier friends.” His method of brutal but jovial honesty always made for good advice.
Dan and D.J. Connor – Roseanne
Dan Connor was one of TV’s most sympathetic dads, not in that he was an overly gentle man, but in that we all sympathized with his situation. While his son, D.J., was mostly running around doing what all young boys do, there were times when they had to band together as the only two males in an estrogen-rich environment. One classic but short exchange involved D.J. running in terror from some unknown horror, with Dan jumping to see what was wrong. D.J. said his mom was telling him a story, and Dan said that running away was no way to act. When D.J. told him the story was about her being on her period, Dan’s stoic yet understanding response was “as you were.” He knew trying to stand up to that many dysfunctional women was a useless pipe-dream, but he did try to guide his son toward safety whenever he had the chance.
Red and Eric Forman – That 70′s Show
How many of us can relate to Eric, in the first season’s Thanksgiving, when he screwed up royally with Donna and made the mistake of trying to blame bad luck when confronted by his father? Red put it to him straight: “Son, all these bad things don’t happen to you because you have bad luck; they happen to you because you’re a dumbass.” While it’s nothing out of the ordinary for Red to call his son a dumbass, it’s a bit more rare an occasion when he actually teaches a lesson in doing it. It usually takes us years to learn that most of what we blame on luck is really no fault but our own in the end.
Peter and Chris Griffin – Family Guy
It’s probably pretty difficult having a dad who happens to be legally retarded, but Chris Griffin makes the best of it because he doesn’t notice the difference. While he usually gets nonsense answers to his extremely stupid questions, he actually got a useful bit of knowledge from his dad, Peter, when he told him he was afraid of a thunderstorm. Wrapped in creepy, Peter’s message actually rang true, in its own way: “Well, you know, I think the storm’s moving away from us, Chris. You know how I can tell? Here’s a little trick. When you see the lightning, you count all the terrible things that can happen to a child, until you hear the thunder. And if you count higher each time, you know the storm’s moving away from you.”
Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker – Star Wars
Of all knowledge-bombs that a father can drop on his son, actually telling him that he is the boy’s father is probably the biggest one. There isn’t a moment on screen when this is done more timelessly than that of Darth Vader informing Luke Skywalker that he is, in fact, his father. He doesn’t stop there, once the familial boundary’s been broken, he actually tells his son some useful information about his own fate, and even praises him. Awe … I need to call my dad now.