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.

Sea Hunt

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-88 Syndicated

DAD: Mike Nelson (Ron Ely) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Scuba Guy

KIDS: Jennifer (Kimber Sissons) (18)


STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know

"By now, my lungs were begging for air!"

No, it’s not Lloyd Bridges’s Sea Hunt, it’s that perpetual crossword-answer-of-six-letters-for-"TV Tarzan," Ron Ely in the Mike Nelson role. This time, Mike’s a widower, in order to accomodate the Eye Candy daughter Jennifer. Not as high-tension as an episode of Flipper, but it did have pretty pictures. Twenty-two episodes and it bubbled away.

The Hogan Family

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1988-91 NBC

DAD: Michael Hogan (Josh Taylor) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Pilot

KIDS:David (Jason Bateman) (15-16), Willie (Danny Ponce) (10), Mark (Jeremy Licht) (10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. "Accident" (see notes below).

STAND-IN "MOM": Sandy Hogan (Sandy Duncan) / aunt, and Mrs. Poole (Edie McClurg) / next door neighbor

So Valerie Harper bombs in "Rhoda," and she gets another show named "Valerie." Perfect, huh? So, she quits the show, because, hey, what’s NBC gonna do, keep going with a show named "Valerie?" — Guess what? The show goes on, as The Hogan Family

According to Pam (, "Willie and Mark Hogan were actually fraternal twins. A lot of their storylines dealt with the conflict created by the fact that Mark was a ‘brain,’ and Willie was a ‘dumb jock.’ "

And this from Bill Weichand "’The Hogan Family’ was the follow-on series to the show ‘Valerie’. In the final episode of ‘Valerie’, the kids’ mother was killed in a house fire. I still remember the episode."

Or maybe that’s not QUITE the way they dropped Valerie out of the series. Here’s a clarification on the Hogan Hand-off to Aunt Sandy, from Alert Viewer Mark Taylor: "In your entry on ‘The Hogan Family’, you mention that ‘Valerie died in a fire in the last episode…’ This is incorrect – Valerie Harper’s character written out of the series (Ms. Harper had left in a dispute with the shows producers) prior to the start of the next season. The first episode of that next season introduced Sandy Hogan (Mike’s sister and the boys’ aunt). It was established at the beginning of that episode that Sandy moved in to help take care of the boys so Mike could return to his job as an airline pilot. When Mike Hogan discusses going back to flying, He mentions that ‘its only been six months since Val’s accident.’ Later, David urges his dad that is time to go back to flying by stating, ‘its time, Dad, its been six months since Mom died.’ Further, the ‘Fire’ episode was the second episode of that same season. In that episode, David Hogan recalls driving up to see the house on fire and praying ‘Dear God, I just lost my mother, don’t take them too.’ In a later scene, the family has gone back into the house, and David goes to check on his room — it has been totally gutted. In the room he finds a picture of his mother and starts sobbing when the picture falls apart in his hands. This last scene is what your contributor remembers — it was pretty dramatic."

A bow of the Jeff Tracy Memorial Palm Trees to Katie Meddaugh ( for some of the additional info on the show. Thanks, Katie!

And a flap of the William Demerest Memorial Apron to Bill Weicand ( for his thoughts on mom’s demise. Thanks, Bill!

Plus a triple bounce of the Flipper Memorial Beach Ball to Mark Taylor ( for the details on the Hogan kick-off episodes. Thanks, Mark!

Empty Nest

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1988-95 NBC

DAD: Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Pediatrician

KIDS: Carol (Dinah Manoff) 20-ish, Barbara (Kristy McNichol) 20-ish, and Emily (Lisa Rieffel) 20-ish.


STAND-IN "MOM": Nurse Laverne Todd (Park Overall)

Set in Miami, "Empty Nest" is the TV Single Dad situation of a widowed pediatrician, Harry Weston, and his two adult daughters, Barbara and Carol Weston, who have come back to live with him after failed marriages. Emily, the third daughter, popped in at the end of the series run to replace the departing Kristy McNichol, who was having some bipolar stuff going on at the time.

Full House

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-96ABC

DAD: Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Sportscaster

KIDS: Donna Jo – "D.J." (Candace Cameron) (10), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) (5), Michelle (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) (6 months)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead – killed by a drunk driver

STAND-IN "MOMS": Uncle Jesse (John Stamos), Becky (Lori Loughlin), Joey (Dave Coulier)

This show, the anchor-point for ABC’s successful "TGIF" family-friendly Friday night programming, was similar to the theme of My Three Sons, except the kids had TWO Uncle Charleys in Uncle Jesse and Joey.

Jesse was the brother of Danny’s wife. Joey was an honorary uncle as he and Danny were pals since grade school.

A swing of the Michael Dorn Memorial Bat’leth to Alert Viewer Carlos for the info about Uncle Joey.

A tip of the Chuck Connors Memorial Cowboy Hat to Katie Burell ( for the information about the stand-in "moms" of the Tanner kids. Thanks again, Katie!

…and a big toot on the Fred MacMurray Memorial Saxophone to "John Rompala, a.k.a. Lucky" for the details about Uncle Jesse’s relationship to Danny – – plus the news about how Mrs. T. met her unsavory end. Thanks, Lucky!

My Two Dads

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987-88 NBC

DAD# 1: Michael Taylor (Paul Reiser) / Single

DAD#1’S JOB: Businessman

DAD# 2: Joey Harris (Greg Evigan) / Single

DAD#2’S JOB: Artist

KIDS: Nicole (Staci Keanan) (12)

WHERE’S MOM?: Recently dead ex-girlfriend of both Dads

STAND-IN "MOM": Judge Wilbur (Florence Stanley), who assigned both Dads joint custody.

This show, like the show to follow (ABC’s Full House), poses an interesting question: Are you a single Dad if you live with other single Dads?

Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan’s characters both had "flings" with the same woman a dozen years before the series started. When the show starts, the woman has died, leaving cute little Nicole in the care of the state. Wacky Judge Wilbur, who obviously has an eye for a potable sitcom, assigns the men joint custody of Nicole. So, Paul Reiser’s straitlaced Michael Taylor moves into swingin’ hippie/artist-type Joey Harris’s apartment. A good description of the show would be that it’s like Who’s the Boss? meets The Odd Couple. Oh and did I mention that Judge Wilbur (played by the woman who played Fish’s legendary wife, Bernice) is also Joey’s landlord? So, add Three’s Company into that mix.

**AUTHOR’S NOTE**: This is the show many people bring up when they’re trying to stump me on TV Single Dad shows. If you’ve asked me about the show, I’m guessing you’ve done a site search and found your answer right here. 🙂

Buck James

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1987

DAD: Buck James (Dennis Weaver) / Divorced

DAD’S JOB: Trauma Unit Surgeon

KIDS: Dinah (Elena Stiteler), Clint (Jon Maynard Pennell) – teens.

WHERE’S MOM?: Dee-vorced

STAND-IN "MOM": Jenny (Shannon Wilcox) / the Ex.

When I was going to school at the University of Texas, ABC used to have a guy named Dr. Red Duke, who was also from UT and who did health segments on the nightly news. Finding a quick way to turn someone’s life into a weekly drama, ABC turned Red Duke’s life into a vehicle for Dennis Weaver. Buck James split his time between putting people back together at Holloman Medical Center and being a dad to his kids on his ranch.

The Cavanaughs

Jim 1980s

Aired: 1986-88 CBS

DAD #1: Francis Cavanaugh (Barnard Hughes) / Widower

DAD #1’S JOB: Retired

DAD #1’S KIDS: Kit (Christine Ebersole) (20’s), Chuck (Peter Michael Goetz) (40’s)

WHERE’S MOM #1: Dead

DAD #2: Chuck Cavanaugh (Peter Michael Goetz) / Widower

DAD #2’S JOB: Construction Company Manager

DAD #2’S KIDS: Fr. Chuck (John Short) (20’s), Mary Margaret (Mary Tanner) (teens), Kevin (Danny Cooksey) (10), John (Parker Jacobs) (10)

WHERE’S MOM #2: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM #2": Kit (Christine Ebersole) / Aunt

Wheels within wheels. Kit Cavanaugh was the prodigal daughter of Nice Catholic Guy Francis Cavanaugh, a retired widower living in Boston. Kit returned home to help out taking care of her brother Chuck’s kids. Chuck, a recent widower, had four kids – one of whom was a grown-up Catholic priest. Picture the arguments about who’s raising who and what the ground rules are in the multi-generational family.