Punky Brewster

Jim 1980s

Punky Brewster 1984-86 NBC

DAD: Henry Warnimont / Single

DAD’S JOB: Photographer / Building Manager

KIDS: Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) (7)

WHERE’S MOM: Abandoned by parents

STAND-IN "MOM ": Betty Johnson (Susie Garrett) / neighbor and Punky’s friend Cherie’s grandmother

Try not to get cavities: Punky was the oh-so-lovable bundle of joy that Henry found one day living with her puppy in Henry’s apartment house.

To understand this show, viewers should ask themselves: who can turn the world on with a smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

Am I being too cynical?

A spin of the Andy Griffith Memorial Badge for Greg Bulmash at the "IMDB WASHed UPdate" for the lowdown on Punky. Thanks, Greg!

…and a victory loop of the Benton Quest Private Jet for ‘Nancy’ for the scoop on the substitute "mom" — thanks, Nancy!

You Again

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-87 NBC

DAD: Ed Willows (Jack Klugman) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Supermarket Manager

KIDS: Matt (20-something) (John Stamos)

WHERE’S MOM?: Around (in one episode)

STAND-IN "MOM": Enid Tompkins (Elizabeth Bennett)

After he finished turning guest stars into canoes on Quincy, Jack Klugman played divorced store manager Henry Willows in a weird twist on his Odd Couple persona. Klugman this time played a conservative, quiet bachelor who suddenly had his hell-bent 17-year-old son come to live with him. His son Matt was a womanizer, and a boy who knew how to work the angles. Added into the mix, of course, was the mandatory foreign-born (in this case, British) wisecracking housekeeper, Enid.

Henry’s ex-wife showed up in one episode, and was played by Brett Somers — Klugman’s ex-wife in real life, and also the actress who portrayed his ex-wife on The Odd Couple.

This show was based on a BBC show called Home to Roost, and boasted a television first: the actress who portrayed the housekeeper, Enid, played the same character on the BBC in the "parent" show. This required Elizabeth Bennett to commute between Los Angeles and London to do both shows at the same time.

The Tracey Ullman Show

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-91 FOX

DAD: David (?) (Dan Castellaneta) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: (?)

KIDS: Francesca (Tracey Ullman) (playing 13)

WHERE’S MOM?: Left. Didn’t wanna be a mommy.

STAND-IN "MOM": William (Sam McMurray) / Dad’s Significant Other

Okay, what if Dad’s gay, and he’s raising an almost-adolescent, braces-wearing 13-year-old with excessive energy? Oh, and your "show" is a segment on a comedy show that lasts maybe 11 minutes per episode, tops? You wind up with excellent writing, acting, and storylines that make the "Francesca" skits the funniest and most poignant parts of Tracy’s show.

Dan Castellaneta, of course, became the voice of the best-known Dad on television today: Homer Simpson.

The Robert Guillaume Show

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1989 ABC

DAD: Edward Sawyer (Robert Guillaume) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Marriage Counselor (ha ha.)

KIDS: Pamela (Kelsey Scott), William (Marc Joseph) (teenagers)

WHERE’S MOM?: Around.

STAND-IN "MOM": Ann Scherr (?) (Wendy Phillips) / Secretary

Here’s your premise: Robert Guillaume is a marriage counselor who is (get ready for the huge laugh) divorced. His teenage children lived with him and really didn’t like his secretary/girlfriend, Ann. Tedious, and cancelled after just three and a half months.

Rin-Tin-Tin, K-9 Cop

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1988-93 Family Channel

DAD: Hank Katts (Jesse Collins) / Single


KIDS: Stevie (Andrew Bednarski) / nephew

WHERE’S MOM?: Maggie Davenport (Cali Timmins) died in Season I

STAND-IN "MOM": Rin Tin Tin?

How on earth did Rin Tin Tin survive Fort Apache and make it into modern day Anytown? Probably the same way David Carradine’s character made it into the spin-off Kung Fu series.

Uncle Hank was a K-9 dog handler who wound up taking care of nephew Stevie after Stevie’s mom died in one episode. Of course, Stevie wound up on the business end of a lot of police busts during the run of the series.

I’ll bet you’re wondering how come THIS show qualifies, and the ORIGINAL Rin Tin Tin DOESN’T? Well, in the original, the little boy Rusty winds up being generally adopted by the WHOLE troop stationed at Ft. Apache. Thus, there’s no one fighting to take on that singular role of TV Single Dad in that original show.

The Redd Foxx Show

Jim 1980s

Aired 1988-91 ABC

DAD: Al Hughes (Redd Foxx) / Divorced Guy

DAD’S JOB: Diner Manager

KIDS: Toni (14) (Pamela Segall)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, or something. Al adopted "street-wise kid"

STAND-IN "MOM": Maybe Diana Olmos (Rosanna DeSoto) / Waitress

One of these days I’m going to have to go through this site and figure out the role of the "Street-Wise Kid" in TV Single Dad shows. Maybe I’ll call it the "Chico and the Man Syndrome."

Redd Foxx reprised his Sanford and Son schtick, only this time it was in a diner/grocery store setting. He adopted a "street-wise" kid named Toni, and reacted to people that wandered in and out of his place of business. Predictable and hackneyed, this show chugged along for 13 weeks and fell off the end of the world. Another victim of the "Saturdays at 8" Pit of Death.

Raising Miranda

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1988 CBS

DAD: Donald Marshack (James Naughton) / Divorced Guy

DAD’S JOB: Contractor

KIDS: Miranda (Royana Black) (15)

WHERE’S MOM?: Wife Bonnie hit the road to "find herself"

STAND-IN "MOM": Russell (Bryan Cranston) / Goofy Uncle

Did you blink? This show, about a Wisconsin construction agent and his family, lasted from Election Day to New Year’s Eve, 1988. Dad had to grab the reins of his teenage daughter Miranda after his wife hit the road. Stories were by the book, and this show’s placement in the early-Saturday-night lineup on CBS ensured its quick demise.

For the skinny on "whatever happened to that girl who played Miranda?" — check out the Royana Black interview.

Update: James Naughton is now the deep-voiced announcer for commercials about the Cialis pill. Hey, Bob Dole was Mr. Viagra – – maybe it’s a good career move.

First Impressions

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1988 CBS

DAD: Frank Dutton (Brad Garrett) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Commercial Voice-Over Guy

KIDS: Lindsay Dutton (Brandy Gold) (9)

WHERE’S MOM?: Somewhere else

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Madison (Ruth Kobart) / Next-door neighbor

And you thought those shows based on comedians’ acts started with Seinfeld

Frank Dutton, recently divorced guy, was trying to balance being a parent with managing his own radio-commercial business. Brad Garrett, non-famous impressionist, thus got a chance to show off his mimicking skills in this short-lived show. Funny part is, they replaced this show with Raising Miranda, basically the same show!

It’s a safe bet that most audiences don’t know Brad Garrett from this show, but do know him as Robert, Ray Romano’s brother on Everybody Loves Raymond.

Rags to Riches

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-88 NBC

DAD: Nick Foley (Joseph Bologna) / Bachelor

DAD’S JOB: Playboy

KIDS: Rose (16) (Kimiko Gelman), Marva (15) (Tisha Campbell), Diane (15) (Bridget Michele), Patty (13) (Blanca DeGarr), Mickey (7) (Heidi Zeigler)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, or something – they’re all orphans

STAND-IN "MOM": John Clapper (Douglas Seale) / Butler

Let me see if I can explain this show: Okay, picture Family Affair, only Uncle Bill has no family relation to these orphans. Plus there’s no little boy. Oh, and they live in a Jed Clampett-style mansion in Los Angeles. I think that comes pretty close. Did I mention that the show would stop frequently to have the orphans sing songs from the 60’s? And that the butler danced?

Can you believe this show stayed on the air an entire year?

Mr. President

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-88 FOX

DAD: Samuel Arthur Tresch (George C. Scott) / Separated

DAD’S JOB: President of the United States

KIDS: Cynthia (Maddie Corman) (16), Nick (Andre Gower) (12)

WHERE’S MOM?: Left mid-series to "find herself"

STAND-IN "MOM": Lois Gullickson (Madeline Kahn) / Sister-in-law

Barely makes it to the list, but passes the Mike Brady Clause. Mr. President tracked the home life of the American President and his family. The wife, Meg (played by Carlin Glynn), disappeared during the run of the series, just under halfway through the entire life of the series. President Tresch hired his sister-in-law Lois (who had the hots for him) to watch his kids. The show plodded along but never really developed its audience when it was moved to the network basement of Saturday night in the second season. A shame, really – the jokes were pretty fun and full of wit.