The 90’s

Single Dads in Space

The Nineties saw the further disintegration of the classic broadcast networks. Alternate cable broadcast outlets spawned the need for more software (programs), and writers turned yet again to the TV Single Dad for familiar, snappy storylines.

It’s surprising that so many of these Single Dad shows were half-hour cartoons, a return to the days of Jonny Quest*.

The third development of this decade was the rise of the Single Dad peripheral character. Shows such as Rug Rats and Clarissa Explains it All had Single Dad characters who were not the main focus of the show.

*Jonny Quest, surprisingly enough, made a comeback himself. See below…

First, the Questionable Shows of the 1990s...

  • Frasier

    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.

  • Working It Out

    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.

  • The Critic

    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!

  • Oh Grow Up

    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!

  • Sister, Sister

    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!

Next, the Hall of Fame Shows:

  • A Family for Joe

    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.

  • The Family Man

    Aired: 1990-1991 CBS

    DAD: Jack Taylor (Gregory Harrison) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Fireman

    KIDS: Jeff (John Buchanan) (16), Steve (Scott Weinger) (14), Brian (Matthew Brooks) (11), Allison (Ashleigh Blair Sterling) (5)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Died in an automobile accident

    STAND-IN “MOM”: Joe Alberghetti (Al Molinaro) / Father-in-law.

    From the creators of Full House. My 3 Sons + 1 Daughter would be a great name for this show. This show was SUCH a throwback to the 60’s. You’ve got the boys and their differences, you’ve got the precocious daughter. You’ve even got THE Murray the Cop for a live-in housekeeper!

    Now, you’re reading the cast list and you’re saying, “Scott Weinger … Scott Weinger..WHY do I know that name?” Well, Scotty shows up in not one but TWO single dad situations in the future. In 1992, he winds up as D.J.’s boyfriend on Full House and later that year pops up as the speaking voice of Aladdin in the movie of the same name (Aladdin, in case you didn’t notice, is a Movie Single Dad film).

  • Flesh ‘n’ Blood

    Flesh ‘n’ Blood 1990 NBC

    DAD: Arlo Weed (David Keith) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Mooch

    KIDS: King (Chris Stacy) (16), Beauty (Meghan Andrews) (11)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead – unknown reason

    STAND-IN "MOM": Rachel Brennan (Lisa Darr) / Aunt – District Attorney

    Okay, you’re thinking: Thursday night lead-in on NBC’s brand-spankin’ Must-See-TV lineup of Cheers, Wings, and the L.A. Law slot. So NO show could be a miss, right? WRONG. To put it briefly, this show was Ally McBeal meeting The Beverly Hillbillies. Except it just could NOT get itself in gear.

    David Keith, the man made famous by swallowing a diamond ring in An Officer and a Gentleman, played dirtbag Arlo Weed, the long-lost brother of District Attorney Rachel Brennan. Arlo and his two near-teen knockoff children, patterned on Elly May Clampett and Jethro Bodine, moved in with the unobliging Rachel to "share the wealth." The hijinks never ensued, however. Cap this one off with a theme song by Leon Russell AND David Keith (!!) and you have an easy recipe for a cratering disaster.

    Some day, someone will write a book about the Bad Show Choices of NBC, hopefully naming it, "What on EARTH Were They THINKING??"

  • Blossom

    1991-95 NBC

    DAD: Nick Russo (Ted Wass) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Musician

    KIDS: Blossom (Mayim Bialik) (16), Joey (Joey Lawrence) (17), Anthony (Michael Stoyanov) (20-something)

    WHERE’S MOM?: (Melissa Manchester) Divorced, lives in Paris

    STAND-IN "MOM ": Nick’s last-season wife, Carol (Finola Hughes)

    Update: Mom’s alive! A few readers of this page pointed out a 2-hourBlossom TV movie where Blossom went and lived with her mom in Paris for a while – well, for two hours. And guess who Mom is? Melissa Manchester!

    (A tip of the Fred MacMurray Memorial pipe to "bob@superiway.net" for the latest info.)

    And thanks again to Katie Burell (gt6243c@prism.gatech.edu) for the info on Blossom’s "stand-in mom" and the eldest Russo child. Thanks again, Katie!

    Update #2: Lee Yancey wrote in with some interesting "inside" info about Blossom’s pilot episodes:

    "Speaking as a person who worked as a lighting technician occasionally on Blossom, I can tell you that the show debuted in January of 1991 and concluded in May of 1995. The January episode was the second pilot, having Ted Wass replacing Richard Masur (Masur is currently the president of the Screen Actors Guild!) as the father, and they deleted Barrie Youngfellow as the mother as well, in this second pilot."

    "Also, actress Paige Pengra played Maddy Russo (the mother) in early flashback episodes."

    A tip of Mrs. Livingston’s Memorial Duster to Lee Yancey (PAWS@PRODIGY.NET) for the info (including getting the decade right!) on Blossom. Thanks, Lee!

    Update #3: Please don’t write to me about a 1990 FOX series with Mayim Bialik called Molloy — her dad was MARRIED in that show, a fact that seems to elude past viewers of that show. Thanks!



  • American Dreamer

    1990-91NBC

    DAD: Tom Nash (Robert Urich) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Columnist/Ex-TV Newsman

    KIDS: Rachel Nash (Chay Lentin) (14), Danny Nash (Johnny Galecki) (12)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead

    STAND-IN “MOM”: Lillian Abernathy (Carol Kane) / Research assistant

    TV Formula: when your wife dies, quit your Peter Jennings-style day job, move to Walton’s Mountain, and write “slice of life” articles. This show was trotted out for the fall season in 1990, then yanked and used for schedule-plugs the following spring.

    This was NBC’s blurb for the show: Robert Urich (“Spenser for Hire”) returns to series television in the new NBC comedy “American Dreamer,” in which he stars as a widower who gives up his career as a TV foreign correspondent to raise his two children and write a newspaper column drawn from the perspective of his past and present life. Joining him in the series are Margaret Welsh as waitress Holly Baker; Johnny Galecki as his son, Danny; Jeffrey Tambor as his editor, Joe Baines; Chay Lentin as his daughter, Rachel; and Carol Kane as his research assistant, Lillian Abernathy.

    Note: this show was the beginning of the Robert Urich TV Single Dad Hegemony… read on as Mr. U’s tries at single parenthood haunt the 90’s…

  • Uncle Buck

    1990-91CBS

    DAD: Uncle Buck Russell (Kevin Meaney) / Foster Parent

    DAD’S JOB: Slob. No defined job.

    KIDS: Tia (Dah-ve Chodan) (16), Miles (Jacob Gelman) (8), Maizy (Sarah Martineck) (6)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. So’s Dad. Accident.

    STAND-IN “MOM”: Maggie Hogoboom (Audrey Meadows) / Kids’ grandmother

    What a mistake! CBS was trying to take a leaf out of the FOX playbook and show a nasty Married With Children-styled sitcom during WEEKNIGHT PRIMETIME! This showed died a miserable, lingering death in just a few months. Here’s a rule for sitcom writers who think they want a career in Family Hour: NEVER have the first words of the show, from the mouth of a six-year-old, be “You SUCK!”

  • Goof Troop

    1991-93ABC

    DAD: Goofy / Widower?

    DAD’S JOB: Works for Pete – something to do with sales

    KIDS: Max (14-ish)

    WHERE’S MOM?:Unknown

    STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

    Gawrsh! Since the days of Pinocchio, the Disney Organization has been parlaying the Single Dad genre into hundreds of cartoons. In this venue, Goofy and Max live in the dog-eat-dog suburb of Spoonerville, and all sorts of wacky (or should I say, "goofy?") hijinks ensue.

    ABC, the gloved Hand of Disney, pumped this show on its network on Saturday mornings, and syndicated it on weekdays through the Disney’s Afternoon cartoon omnibus.

  • Coach

    1990 – 1997 ABC

    Dad: Hayden Fox (Craig T. Nelson) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Coach

    KIDS: Kelly (Claire Carey) (20)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced. Around.

    STAND-IN “MOM”: Christine Armstrong (Shelley Fabares) / TV journalist

    I am a dim bulb on Coach. However, astute viewer Msdelta308@aol.com couldn’t help but point out that Christine is now a full-time mom to a new baby boy. Also, Kelly was no longer a regular on the show for the last, so if the show lasted much longer, Hayden Fox would have fallen under the Mike Brady majority exemption and be kicked out of the TV Single Dads Hall. Fortunately, the ax fell…

    I’m the only person in the universe who didn’t watch Coach. If you have more information on Coach, please e-mail me.

    Another tip of the Sebastian Cabot Memorial Bowler to Katie Burell (gt6243c@prism.gatech.edu) for the info on Shelley Fabares’s character name. Thanks again, Katie!