The Sexiest Men On Television Are By Far The Dads

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hot dadsMy first TV crush was Gopher from The Love Boat. He seemed like ideal boyfriend material to my 7-year-old self: a sense of humor, hair you could really run your fingers through, a physical resemblance to Bob from Sesame Street.

In the 70s and early-80s, few TV hunks held a candle to Gopher – except, perhaps, Robert Wagner as Jonathan Hart in Hart to Hart, another (considerably) older man who looked best pulling up in one of his sexy Benz convertibles and heading indoors with Jennifer for an apparent afternoon shag.

It’s worth noting that neither of these early crushes were father figures (though it’s feasible both had unwittingly sired offspring in their program runs); that would come later. But they were curiously time-worn. Had this affinity of mine ever come to light, it might have reflected badly on my own father, who had never abandoned us, abused us or been untoward in any way – quite the opposite, in fact. No, I had no daddy issues to speak of. I suppose these older characters were simply drawn with more depth than their teen-idol co-stars. Who could resist the villainous William Devane on Knot’s Landing after discovering Paige was his daughter?

Sure, I watched 90210, but I could never understand the draw of Luke Perry – all those bones! The Nanny for me was all about the cheeky British widower. When My So-Called Life debuted and the world was in thrall of Jordan Catalano, I preferred Angela’s father, Graham.

This all might have sounded weird in the age of My Two Dads and Full House (those could’ve been saved for me by two words: Tony Danza). But these days it seems TV’s biggest heartthrobs are fathers.

Let me rephrase that. The biggest heartthrob is a father. Arguably the best scene in Mad Men to date features Don Draper’s “carousel” pitch to Kodak in Season 1, a seminal moment for both the program and for daddy-watchers like me. And in the next season, when Don Draper fried an egg in an ominously dark kitchen with Sally, I reckon I could hear a million women sigh.

These days there are, perhaps, more interesting things to watch on my computer than on cable TV (I’m excluding reality television from my thesis here), but the dads keep me coming back to the tube. To me, Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights was Jon Hamm’s unofficial rival for Father of the Year back in 2010. There’s a reason Ty Burrell is racking up Emmys for his role in Modern Family. John Krasinski in The Office? The producers needn’t have worried about removing the sexual tension when he finally got together with Pam. Now that she’s given birth – twice – he’s become twice more appealing.

Mike O’Malley, who plays Kurt’s dad on Glee, positively lights up the screen when he comes into the frame – and it’s not because of his bald pate (when freed from those unfortunate ball caps). After re-watching the episode where Burt Hummell gets hitched to Finn’s mom recently, my daughter asked why my face was so red.

I’d always thought it was the Jew in me that made me worship the desk on which Jon Stewart lays his coffee mug. But when Stephen Colbert joined the late-night line-up I realized it was their buttoned-up dad appeal. Possibly the hardest-working fathers on TV, they still manage to work in anecdotes about their kids. And it’s pretty clear fatherhood helps inform their opinions on whatever heinous business Syria or Sarah Palin are getting up to.

You get the feeling Stewart and Colbert always make it home on time for supper – which may or may not be true, but I gather we’re suspending disbelief here. After all, disbelief suspension is the name of the game when it comes to watching TV. I’m just thankful less of it is necessary now than when the TV dad du jour was Alan Thicke.