17 Seriously Flawed TV Dads, But We Still Love Them

bryan-cranston Walter White

Watching television helps us escape into other worlds, forget about our troubles, and meet interesting characters. In the world of TV families, there are plenty of characters to love and hate. But sometimes, you come across a true enigma, a person who isn’t always the best, but you like them anyway. This conundrum occurs frequently in the realm of TV dads.

Check out this list of famous TV fathers who won fans’ hearts despite all their flaws.

1. Homer Simpson

Photo Credit: 2014 Fox Broadcasting

(The Simpsons – Voiced by: Dan Castellaneta) The donut-loving Homer Simpson makes no apologies, tells it like it is, and isn’t above hurling insults. Also, like many dads, he loves watching football, drinking beer, and hanging with his pals. However, he also loves his wife and kids, even though he sometimes shows it in unusual ways. Homer has a good balance of flaws and positives, especially his humor. Add to that his trademark, “D’oh!”, and it’s easy to see why people love him.

2. Malcolm Merlyn

Photo Credit: 2016 The CW

(Arrow – Played by: John Barrowman) You wouldn’t think it would be possible to love a villain, but every now and then a bad guy comes along that we manage to still care about. Malcolm Merlyn has plenty of negative qualities and isn’t likely to win any Father of the Year awards. He’s a member of the League of Assassins, manipulates his daughter, and treats his son poorly. However, he also has a vested interest in training his daughter to defend herself, and ultimately, he gives his own life to save her.

3. Tony Soprano

Photo Credit: Getty Images/IMDB

(The Sopranos – Played by: James Gandolfini) Tony Soprano reminds you of what you would get if a mobster and a teddy bear magically melded into one person. One minute he’s visiting his kid’s college, the next he’s burying a body, and then he’s talking to his therapist. For all of his faults, and there are many, he loves his family, and he’d do anything for them, no matter the cost.

4. Walter White

Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC

(Breaking Bad – Played by: Bryan Cranston) Walter White starts off as a mild chemistry teacher living a normal life when he receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. He decides to do what any logical chemistry teacher would — make meth. He tells himself it’s only temporary, just long enough to make enough money to take care of his family after he dies. But he soon realizes he’s better at this whole drug thing than he expected and spirals into a life of murder, lies, and mayhem.

5. Frank Reynolds

Photo Credit: Fox Television – Photo by 3

(It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Played by: Danny DeVito) Frank doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, least of all the idea that he’s a dad. He also has some pretty gross habits, like picking at his feet with a knife, or as he calls it, a “toe knife.” He seems to relish messing with people, or maybe he just doesn’t care. But when Danny DeVito plays a character, it’s pretty much impossible to do anything but laugh.

6. Al Bundy

Married With Children Ed O Neill Fox Network
Photo Credit: Fox Network

(Married with Children – Played by: Ed O’Neill) Al Bundy is the stereotypical guy who peaked in high school and never fails to remind you about it. He’s a classic grump, always ready with a snarky comment, and doesn’t hesitate to say exactly what he’s thinking, whether it’s to a stranger, his wife, or his kids. But when you strip everything away, he wouldn’t let anyone hurt his family. This all-important quality, and the brilliant comedic chops of Ed O’Neill, are enough to make audiences overlook Al’s numerous shortcomings.

7. Don Draper

Photo Credit: AMC Film Holdings LLC – Photo by Justina Mintz

(Mad Men – Played by: Jon Hamm) Advertising guru Don Draper makes a lot of bad choices, including lying, cheating on his wife, and excessive drinking. He also participates in many questionable moves as a parent, but he makes some good ones, too. But despite his seemingly untouchable persona in the advertising world, he often feels vulnerable, lost, and uncertain. These moments, along with Jon Hamm’s incredible performance, make Don relatable, which pulls audiences in and makes them feel for him. 

8. Frank Costanza

Seinfeld Jerry Stiller NBC
Photo Credit: National Broadcasting Company (NBC)

(Seinfeld – Played by: Jerry Stiller) Frank is over-the-top, loud, and overbearing, but Jerry Stiller performs these traits in all the right ways, making this character one of the series most-loved. He may put his nose where it doesn’t belong and put a lot of pressure on his son, but he does it all from a place of love. In real life, his emotional outbursts and lack of empathy would likely make him difficult to handle and strain family dynamics. But when it comes to television, it’s comedy gold.

9. Rick Sanchez

Photo Credit: Adult Swim 2013

(Rick and Morty – Voiced by: Justin Roiland) Rick Sanchez doesn’t make any effort to disguise his bad parenting, even exclaiming in one episode that he’s a terrible father. But his no-nonsense approach to life also earns him a certain degree of respect. He’s both the hero and the villain in many cases, or the ultimate anti-hero. One day he’s draining his grandson of his enthusiasm so he can control him, and the next, he’s willing to sacrifice himself for his family.

10. Red Forman

That 70s show Kurtwood Smith Fox Network
Photo Credit: Fox Network

(That ’70s Show – Played by: Kurtwood Smith) Red delivers the ultimate tough-love approach when it comes to parenting and often doesn’t appear to have a very high threshold for fun. He’s strict, stoic, and insulting lots of times. He even charges his son a fine anytime he steps out of line. But he cuts loose every now and then, dotes on his wife, and wouldn’t hesitate to protect his family. He also continues to let a bunch of teenagers take over his basement, so how bad can he be?

11. Marty Byrde

Photo Credit: 2022 Netflix, Inc. – Photo by Tina Rowden Netflix

(Ozark – Played by: Jason Bateman) Marty is a perfect example of someone who could be a good person deep down (way deep down), but he’s made a lot of poor choices. Because of his bad choices, he ends up laundering money to survive, involving his family in the process. His life becomes a string of murder, robbery, and all the things you don’t want your children to do. But he does all of these horrible things to protect his family, so you find yourself feeling bad for him often enough to keep him likable.

12. J. R. Ewing

Photo Credit: CBS Worldwide, Inc.

(Dallas – Played by: Larry Hagman) This oil mogul, portrayed so devilishly well by the late Larry Hagman, is arguably one of the most loved TV villains of all time. J.R. made it his mission to be as rich as possible, doing anything necessary to get more money. He lied, cheated, and manipulated his way through numerous nasty dealings, yet audiences loved to hate him. But he had a heart deep down there somewhere. When he sets out to reign vengeance on his ex-wife, Cally, and take away his son, he changes his mind when he discovers them living happily in another state.

13. Peter Griffin

Photo Credit: E2014 Fox Broadcasting

(Family Guy – Voiced by: Seth MacFarlane) Peter gets into his fair share of schemes and often puts his family in perilous situations. He’s everything you would think a father shouldn’t be — irresponsible, selfish, and relatively immoral. Yet, despite all the insults Peter lets fly toward his wife and kids, he has many moments where he stands up for his family. (Even if it’s quickly followed with a quip about if anyone’s going to treat them badly, it’s going to be him).

14. Archie Bunker

Photo Credit: 1997 Ken Whitmore – Image courtesy mptvimages.com

(All in the Family – Played by: Carroll O’Connor) The popular sitcom All in the Family likely wouldn’t go over well today with many viewers, primarily due to the bigoted and crass remarks of its father figure, Archie Bunker. But Archie’s narrow-mindedness is fuel for the other characters who try desperately to see reason. But although he possesses no shortage of offensive lines and lacks empathy, Carroll O’Connor delivers one-liners with perfect comedic timing that makes audiences chuckle. There’s also no question that he adores his wife and would die for his family, even if he doesn’t always show it.

15. Rick Grimes

Photo Credit: Entertainment Exclusive

(The Walking Dead – Played by: Andrew Lincoln) Audiences are more than willing to cut this TV dad some slack since he’s trying to parent during a zombie apocalypse. He’s a likable guy and a good dad, most of the time. But he also has a string of traits that make you think twice, including murder and talking to his dead wife on the phone. So, although his actions may not always set the best example, his loving, caring demeanor helps balance things out a bit.

16. Dexter

Photo Credit: 2006 CBS Photo Archive – Image courtesy Getty Images/IMBD

(Dexter – Played by: Michael C. Hall) It might be fairly obvious what’s not to like about Dexter — you know, the whole being a serial killer thing. But hey, he only kills bad people, so that’s enough to make him a hero in the eyes of many viewers. He tries to be a good father to his son but fears that young Harrison will follow in his footsteps. He ultimately decides to disappear, realizing that Harrison will have a better life without him.

17. John Dutton

Photo Credit: Kevin Lynch/Paramount Network

(Yellowstone – Played by: Kevin Costner) John Dutton owns one of the largest ranches in the US, and he is willing to do anything to protect it. He doesn’t hold back from getting involved in questionable schemes and violent moments while claiming to do it all for his family. However, his real driving force for much of the show appears to be his pride, making him a puzzle for many viewers. Should they like him or hate him? His charm seems to keep viewers wondering, and that makes him another flawed TV dad that we love anyway.