A Family for Joe

Jim 1990s

Aired: 1990 NBC

DAD: Joe Whitaker (Robert Mitchum) / Single Homeless Guy

DAD’S JOB: Homeless Guy

KIDS:Nick Bankston (David Lascher) (16), Holly Bankston (Juliette Lewis) (15), Chris Bankston (Ben Savage) (9), Mary Bankston (Jessica Player) (7)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom and Dad dead – unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Roger Hightower (Barry Gordon) / Neighbor

A great way to kick off the decade is to try parenthood-by-coercion. Joe was a homeless guy in need of a home. The Bankston kids lost their rich parents and were going to be forced to live in orphanages and foster care unless they could produce an adult, like a grandpa or something, to live in their house. Voila! Instant Sitcom!

Oh, what a TEDIOUS, "heartwarming" show this was. A mid-season replacement, this show didn’t survive the summer. Robert Mitchum’s TV swan song sank into ratings oblivion.

Side note: In the pilot episode, Nick was played by Chris Furrh, Holly was played by Maia Brewton, and Chris was played by Jarrad Paul. I guess they only liked Jessica Player from the original cast to play Mary.

Sister, Sister

Jim non-1990s

Aired: 1990 The WB

Questionable Dad: Tamera’s Dad (Tim Reid)

Why It Doesn’t Count: THIS is the reason TVDads.com gets so many hits – – people talk about this show INCESSANTLY and then write me about their opinion of whether or not this show qualifies as a true TV Single Dad show. Understand that this site has been operating since 1996 and people are STILL writing in to argue about this series.

My ruling on this dubba-dubba-WB series is that it is NOT a TV Single Dad show.

Why? Because it violates Rule One of the Single Dad Rules: "The Single Dad must be seen in a parental role, caring for his ‘children’ without their biological mother or stepmom ." The sisters Tia and Tamera sleep in the same room as each other, and Tamera and Tia both live in the same house as Tia’s stepmom. Therefore, Tim Reid’s character, single or not, is not caring for his "children" without a stepmom. If you don’t like my decision, build your own website!

Oh Grow Up

Jim non-1990s

Aired: 1999 ABC

Questionable Dad: Hunter (Stephen Dunham)/Divorced

Why It Doesn’t Count: Would have almost worked, except Chloe (Niesha Trout) doesn’t live in the same apartment as Dad – she’s just moved back and lives in his *neighborhood* – Sorry, Hunter!

The Critic

Jim non-1990s

Aired: 1993 ABC, 1994 FOX

Questionable Dad: Jay Sherman (voice of Jon Lovitz) / Divorced

Why It Doesn’t Count: Jay Sherman doesn’t have primary custody. His ex-wife Ardith does. However, he does have his son Marty with him on many occasions. Under the Martin Tupper Sub-Rule of Parental Possession, Jay’s not custodial, and ineligible. Sorry!

Working It Out

Jim non-1990s

Aired: 1990 NBC

Questionable Dad: David Stewart (Stephen Collins)

Why It Doesn’t Count: David and Sarah are single parents who meet during a cooking class and decide to "work out" their relationship. David is a single dad. What’s the problem? We NEVER SEE his kids — they’re AWAY at college. This violates Rule One of the Single TV Dad Rules: The Single Dad must be seen in a parental role, caring for his "children" without their biological mother or stepmom. Dad must have an obvious participation in providing for his children’s well-being.

The implicit thought here is that we, as viewers, must actually SEE these kids on screen at least once. This never happened during the brief history of that show.


Jim non-1990s

Aired: 1994 – 2002 NBC

Questionable Dad: Frasier’s Dad, Martin Crane (John Mahoney)

Why It Doesn’t Count: Frasier is not included in this list because the dad is not the head of household; Frasier is the head. The dad is in the same position as Grandpa on The Munsters.

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.