Gideon Oliver

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1989 ABC

DAD: Gideon Oliver (Louis Gossett, Jr.) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Anthropology Professor / Detective

KIDS: Zina (Shari Headley) (19)

WHERE’S MOM?: Teaches at Tuskegee

STAND-IN "MOM": Doesn’t seem to be one

Picture a modern-day Indiana Jones-ish guy who is more like a really adventurous Ellery Queen. Oh, and he has a daughter. And he’s big on handing out Fortune-Cookie Philosophy ("A school of learning is the departure lounge, not the baggage claim").

I’d say more but there really wasn’t much more to this show. Well, except that most viewers would remember Shari Headley as the girl Eddie Murphy’s character falls in love with in the movie Coming to America.

Island Son

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1989-90 CBS

DAD: Dr. Daniel Kulani (Richard Chamberlain) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Surgeon

KIDS: Sam (William McNamara) (15)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. Unknown how.

STAND-IN "MOM": Nana Kulani (Betty Carvalho) / grandma

While Dolphin Cove was dragging on, CBS tried yet another tropical TV Single Dad show. This time, nice-guy touchy-feely Dr. Dan was treating patients with Poi Overdoses and such. Big cast, lots of interactions with the other doctors. Picture Trapper John, M.D., but with pineapples. Gone by Easter of its first and only season.

Dolphin Cove

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1989 CBS

DAD: Michael Larson (Frank Converse) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Dolphin Researcher

KIDS: David (Trey Ames) (16), Katie (Karron Graves) (11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. Tragic auto accident

STAND-IN "MOM": Didge (Ernie Dingo) / Mandatory Aborigine

Oh dear. Flipper-mania. Picture the story conference: "Okay, we want DOLPHINS! And AUSTRALIA! Put in some Aborigines!" So it is written, so it is done.

Dolphin researcher Michael Larson, broken up about the Tragic Auto Accident that killed his wife, does the only thing a TV Single Dad can do to heal his grieving family: move them all to Australia and stick them in a different culture. Gee, son David HATES Australia, and daughter Katie is so brain-bent with grief, she can only talk to her dad’s dolphins. What a fun show. The Yoda-like groundskeeper, Didge, dispenses Pearls of Wisdom to Mr. Larson in every episode. I guess he’d qualify as the foreign-born domestic, even though it’s HIS country. Kinda like Mr. T and Tina.

What kind of hack would pen this melodrama? No less than Mr. Jaws himself – Peter Benchley. Unbelievable. It was put on the barby after 13 episodes.

Last tidbit – if you’re like me, you’re snapping your fingers trying to remember who Frank Converse is. Here’s the key – he was the co-pilot with Claude Akins on Gerald Ford’s favorite show, NBC’s Movin’ On.

Jesse Hawkes

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1989 CBS

DAD: Jesse Hawkes (Robert Conrad) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Former Mountain Search and Rescue Chief, now a bounty hunter

KIDS: Matt Hawkes (Christian Conrad), Cody Hawkes (Shane Conrad) (both late teens)

WHERE’S MOM?: Separated – lives in Reno

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Ever watch the old CBS show It’s About Time? That show was set in the distant past with two astronauts living with cavemen. When the storyline ran out, the producers moved the show to present day, with the cavemen coming to the modern world.

To a lesser extent, CBS pulled an It’s About Time-style revamping of High Mountain Rangers. The producers moved the Sierra Nevada-based show off the mountains and into downtown San Francisco, where the show became a Single Dad version of McCloud. That fabulous idea created a show that lasted exactly one month.

High Mountain Rangers

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1988 CBS

DAD: Jesse Hawkes (Robert Conrad) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Mountain Search and Rescue Chief

KIDS: Matt Hawkes (Christian Conrad), Cody Hawkes (Shane Conrad) (both late teens)

WHERE’S MOM?: Separated – lives in Reno

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

I try to relate these shows to other TV Single Dad shows to explain the plots. For this show, think: Flipper, in the mountains, without the porpoise.

Robert Conrad wangled jobs for his two real-life sons in this adventure show. The stories of the Hawkes men rescuing people miles from any 7-11 only maintained interest for a few months. CBS couldn’t let a moderately unsuccessful show die, though. See Jesse Hawkes, below.


Jim 1980s

Baywatch 1989-90 NBC 1990-2002 (Syndicated)

DAD: Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff)

DAD’S JOB: Lifeguard

KIDS: Hobie (11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Gayle Buchannon (Wendie Malick) / Divorced, lives with some rich guy

STAND-IN "MOM": unknown

Cobbling together information from a few episodes, Mitch is apparently divorced from Hobie’s mom, but it’s amicable. Mom somehow needed to "find herself," and that could best be accomplished by leaving Hobie with Dad. There is some episode where Mom is out with her Bruce Wayne-boyfriend, and their jet crashes, so Mitch has to save them (fortunately they crashed just in front of his stretch of beachfront, huh?)

According to Joshua Burgin, there is another episode where Mitch’s ex-wife comes back into his life, and regrets not being around for Hobie’s teen years.

Gayle Buchannon, played by Wendie Malick, also played Martin Tupper’s ex-wife (Judith Tupper Stone) on Dream On. Guess she must be typecast!

If you have any more info about Baywatch, please email me about details of the show.

A tip of the Lorne Greene Memorial Cowboy Hat to Gene Floyd ( for the info on Baywatch. Thanks, Gene!

Also, a one-gun salute of the Chuck Connors Memorial Rifle to Joshua Burgin ( for the info on Mitch’s ex-wife. Thanks, Joshua!

Hey Dude!

Jim 1980s

Hey Dude! 1989-93 Nickelodeon

DAD: Mr. Ben Ernst (David Brisbin) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Manager of a dude ranch in Arizona

KIDS: Buddy (Josh Tygiel) (10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced, lives in NYC

STAND-IN "MOM": Lucy, a ranch-hand (Debra Kalman)

A tip of the Adam West Memorial Cowl to Katie Burell (, who came up with the info on Buddy and his mom, and his STAND-IN "MOM". Thanks, Katie!

Free Spirit

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1989-90 ABC

DAD: Tom Harper (Franc Luz) / Divorced Guy

DAD’S JOB: Lawyer

KIDS: Robb (Paul Scherrer) (16), Jessie (Alyson Hannigan) (13), Gene (Edan Gross) (10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Lives somewhere else

STAND-IN "MOM": Winnie Goodwinn (Corinne Bohrer) / Witch-Housekeeper

Remember how when you watched Nanny and the Professor in the 70’s and you thought it was cute how they never revealed whether or not Nanny was a witch? Well this show is just like that, except they blew the mystery in Episode One. Winnie was a witch sent by the Great Warlock to help around the house of a single dad with three kids. The stories were ever-so-treacle-filled, and the whole series collapsed in three months.

Franc Luz was on a previous Single Dad show — Hometown — but he didn’t play a single dad on that show.

Most viewers of 90’s television will recognize Alyson Hannigan in her role as Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s sensible buddy.


Jim 1980s

Aired 1988-91 CBS

DAD: Ethan Allen Cord (Lee Horsley) / Single-Uncle

DAD’S JOB: Quickdraw Gunfighter

KIDS: Claire Carroll (Jenny Beck) (13), Joseph Carroll (Matthew Newmark) (11), Ben Carroll (Brian Lando) (9), George Carroll (Michael Patrick Carter) (5)

WHERE’S MOM?: Lucy Cord Carroll, sister of Ethan, died in Episode One

STAND-IN "MOM": Amelia Lawson (Sigrid Thornton) / Landlady-Girlfriend

Lots and lots of classic TV Single Dad elements in this show. Ethan Cord, like Andy Griffith, has a job protecting his town (in this case, it’s the Wild-West town of Paradise, California). Like Uncle Bill in Family Affair, he’s the uncle called upon to take care of his dead sister’s kids. And like Porter Ricks in Flipper, his exploits fighting bad guys typically wind up with his kids on the business end of a revolver. And this show lasted *4* entire years — a rarity in the chop-it-off 80’s.

A quick tip of the Bruce Wayne Memorial Cowl to Brígida González of Monterrey, N.L. México, for pointing out a missing Carroll child. Gracias, Brígida!

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-94 Syndicated

DAD: Worf (Michael Dorn)

DAD’S JOB: Security Officer, USS Enterprise

KIDS: Alexander Rozhenko (Brian Bonsall)

WHERE’S MOM?: Assassinated by rival Klingon House.

STAND-IN "MOM": Worf’s step-parents, and maybe Counselor Troi

Another "just barely qualifies" series. Worf really didn’t get to be a TV Single Dad until the third season of the show, but he was a TV Single Dad for the majority of the run of the series, so he’s In The Club. He was also one of the more reluctant TV Single Dads. In fact, there probably isn’t any other TV Single Dad who resisted the role more than Worf. My nearest guess would be the dad on Silver Spoons.

Update: Alert Viewer Carlos points out – "Worf’s mate Ambassador K’Ehleyr (played by Suzie Plakson aka Paul Reiser’s ‘sister-in-law’ in Mad About You.), was assassinated by a rival Klingon house." Thanks, Carlos!