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.

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!