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!

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.