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Top TV Dads

This Father's Day, America will celebrate its 64.3 million dads. While you're busy appreciating your own dear old dad, there are a few other pops you might want to keep in mind, too: TV dads. They may not be real, but these dads have wielded tremendous paternal influence over generations of American families.

Here's a look at TV's top dads: From the 1950s cardigan-wearing, "Father Knows Best" types to the 21st century guys juggling dysfunctional families and questionable careers.

TV's Top Dads (in chronological order)

Ward Cleaver

Played by Hugh Beaumont, Ward Cleaver was the model of fatherly patience on the hit sitcom Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963). No matter what calamity son Beaver embroiled himself in - and there were some doozies, Ward was always ready with an encouraging word and some life wisdom.

Ben Cartwright

Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, was the thrice-widowed patriarch in the long-running Western series, Bonanza (1959-1971). A pillar of the community, Ben was also a solid family man, raising his three dissimilar sons on the family's 1000-acre ranch, the Ponderosa. At the core of the show was Ben's commitment to helping his sons to face life with strength and integrity.

Andy Taylor

Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) was one of TV's first single dads on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). The down-home sheriff for the town of Mayberry, North Carolina, Andy set about raising his son Opie with a bit of hokey humor and a heaping of soliloquy-style discipline - and the help of the ever-present Aunt Bee.

Archie Bunker

Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O'Connor) was TV's most morally offensive character - long before being morally offensive was popular. A working class father from Queens, Archie sat in his striped armchair, dispensing his always loud, usually bigoted opinions about people and politics. Pivotal to the show were Archie's daily spars with son-in-law Michael (AKA "Meathead"), whose liberal views and perennial student status were fodder for Archie's slurs.

Mike Brady

TV's first stepdad, Mike Brady (played by Robert Reed) was the widower patriarch whose new blended family included three sons (his) - and three daughters (wife Carol's). The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) managed to face their weekly dose of overly dramatic family dilemmas with some firm discipline from Mike (and fresh baked cookies from Alice, the housekeeper). One of TV land's strictest dads, Mike was also the most even-handed - not to mention the hippest (remember the perm?).

Howard Cunningham

Ever-jolly Howard Cunningham (played by Tom Bosley) was the Midwestern TV Dad on the 1950s-style comedy Happy Days (1974-1984). Howard earned his living by running the hardware store, but always managed to find time to solve the woes of his teenage kids. And he even played surrogate dad to son Richie's rather wayward collection of friends.

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