The 70's

The 70's

Single Dads in the Age of Polyester

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Consider the differences between the Seventies Single Dad shows and the shows of the preceding two decades. The classic focus of TV Single Dad shows had been directed on the relationship between Dad and his kids. This decade concentrated more on the career activities of the Dad (and in some cases, the children!), without much emphasis on the struggling developmental relationships with the children.

The Hall of Fame Shows of the 70's...

Getting Together 1971-1972

Bobby ShermanBobby Sherman


DAD: Bobby Conway (Bobby Sherman) / Single older brother

DAD'S JOB: Songwriter

KIDS: Jennifer Conway (Susan Neher) (12)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - so is Dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": Rita (Pat Carroll) / Landlady

A spin-off of another single-parent show (The Partridge Family), this "vehicle" for teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman put him as guardian of his 12-year-old sister, Jennifer.

Unlike its successful parent series, Getting Together came apart after 3 months. There was a small hit song to come out of this series: "Jennifer," which climbed the charts around Thanksgiving, 1971.

Nanny & The Professor 1970-71

Nanny and the Professor


DAD: Professor Howard Everett (Richard Long) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Math Professor

KIDS: Hal(David Doremus) (12), Butch (Trent Lehman) (8), Prudence (Kim Richards) (5)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead a few years. Unknown cause.

STAND-IN "MOM": Phoebe Figalilly (Juliet Mills) - "Nanny"

Nanny & The Professor represented a "last hurrah" for Sixties-style TV Single Dads; in fact, it barely made it into the Seventies. The story was a thinly-veiled ripoff of Disney's Mary Poppins, with the added spin of a Single Dad in the mix.

ABC ran the boards in the early 70's with multitudes of single and recombinant TV parent sitcoms such as The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, and the aforementioned Getting Together.

A slight casting irony - - TV Single Dad Richard Long was returning to television after a four-year run on one of the most famous TV Single *Mom* shows: The Big Valley.

Sanford & Son 1972-76

Sanford and Son


DAD: Fred G. Sanford (Redd Foxx) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Junk Dealer

KIDS: Lamont (Demond Wilson) (almost 30)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead a few years. Unknown cause.

STAND-IN "MOM": Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page) / aunt

Fred Sanford pushed the limits of role reversal in the TV Single Dad framework. Fred's world was basically financed by his son, Lamont. Lamont had no love for the situation he found himself in (caring for his incompetent Dad), but he realized his "duty" to Fred and continued operating the family junk business, no matter how difficult it was dealing with his father. This kind of child-guidance reversal of roles wasn't matched by any other TV Single Dads' show. In fact, the only show it comes near is the relationship between the niece Penny and her uncle in the animated series "Inspector Gadget" in 1982.

Paper Moon 1974

Paper Moon


DAD: Moses Pray (Christopher Connelly) / Widower(?)

DAD'S JOB: Con Man

KIDS: Addie Pray (Jodie Foster) (8)

WHERE'S MOM?: Missing - Dead maybe.

STAND-IN "MOM": Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page) / aunt

From the movie of the same name. Dad was a con man who sold Bibles in depression-era Kansas. Addie was his world-wise 13-year-old daughter who was actually a lot tougher than Dad. Mostly operating outside the law, they did show subtle affection for each other.

In keeping with the mood of the movie version, Paper Moon was shown in black-and-white.

Audiences didn't like it very much, so the Pray family got cancelled after just four episodes.

The Love Boat 1977-86

Love Boat


DAD: Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) / Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Your Ship's Captain (according to the credits)

KIDS: Vicki Stubing (Jill Whelen)(10)

WHERE'S MOM?: Showgirl girlfriend - left when daughter was a baby.

STAND-IN "MOM": none

Vicki, the near-invisible daughter on Captain Stubing's Love Boat, was a throw-away, forgettable character. No probing episode focused on the relationship between Vicki and her dad was ever aired. Then again, when was any episode of this show "serious"?

For an astounding view of the Love Boat, see what Rick Portes has created on The Un-official Love Boat Home Page

Want to know something icky? On the last season of Love Boat, Captain Stubing married Emily Haywood - played by that ultimate mom, Marion Ross. Fortunately the series ended before Stubing was hit by the Mike Brady Rule and disqualified.

Update: Alert Viewer Dave Leifer has some insights on the captain's wife: Merril Stubing's first wife was Stacey Stubing played by Actress Bonnie Franklin. He was married but she wasn't the mother of his daughter...go figure. I guess even the righteous Captain fooled around a little!

A snap of the Uncle Charley Memorial Dish Towel to Dave Leifer for the info. Thanks, Dave!

The Texas Wheelers 1974-75


DAD: Zack Wheeler (Jack Elam) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Layabout

KIDS: Truckie (Gary Busey) (24), Doobie (Mark Hamill) (16), Boo (Karen Obediear) (12), T.J. (Tony Becker) (10)


STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Wow. Mark Hamill and Gary Busey in a SITCOM - with Jack Elam as a dad! This show was ripe with interactions between the kids and their no-account dad. Picture Fred Sanford with 4 kids, and that's the comedy level.

A flap of the William Demarest Memorial Dish Towel to Ellen Vance for reminding me of this funny little show. Thanks, Ellen!

Joe & Sons 1975-76


DAD: Joe Vitale (Richard Castellano) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Factory Worker

KIDS: Mark (Barry Miller), Nick (Jimmy Baio) (teenagers)

WHERE'S MOM?: Recently dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Estelle (Bobbi Jordan) / next-door neighbor

The man who said "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" in The Godfather played a sheet metal worker raising two kids without the benefit of a Foreign-Born Domestic like Hop Sing or Mr. French.

The Cop and the Kid 1975-76


DAD: Frank Murphy (Charles Durning) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Police officer

KIDS: Lucas Adams (Tierre Turner) (11)


STAND-IN "MOM": Brigid Murphy (Patsy Kelly) - Frank's mom.

One of the Things Wrong with the Seventies was the "Chico & the Man Syndrome" -- the shows where white foster parents raise minority "street-wise" kids. This show was typical of the syndrome. Frank Murphy was a cop who collapsed from an asthma attack while trying to arrest Street-Wise Lucas. So, Street-Wise Lucas blackmailed Frank into adopting him.

Nothing really groundbreaking with this show. Both cop and kid disappeared after four months on the air.

Sunshine 1975


DAD: Sam Hayden (Cliff DeYoung) / widower

DAD'S JOB: Composer/Singer/Odd Jobs

KIDS: Jill (Elizabeth Cheshire) (5)


STAND-IN "MOM": Nora (Meg Foster) / neighbor

Getting Together returns. How about a one-man Partridge Family, with Dad taking the Shirley Jones role, and the one kid doesn't sing? Okay, that's stretching a bit. Dad is raising his stepdaughter, left to him by his late wife, and is not following accepted norms of raising kids. Being in a rock-and-roll band, for example, is frowned on by Sam's neighbors. Anyway, this tedious little show only lasted eight weeks, so don't even worry about it.

Bronk 1975-1976



DAD: Lt. Alex Bronkov (Jack Palance) / widower


KIDS: Ellen (Dina Ousley)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - accident


Kind of a west coast Kojak. Lt. Bronko was a tough special-cases cop who fought The Man in Ocean City, California. Meanwhile, he was also The Dad to his wheelchair-bound daughter, who was disabled in the same car accident that killed his wife. All the typical cop show standard plots were in tow - Want to guess how many times Ellen's life was in danger?

Three for the Road 1975


DAD: Pete Karras (Alex Rocco) / widower

DAD'S JOB: Photographer

KIDS: John (Vincent Van Patten) (16), Endy (Leif Garrett) (15)



Let's try analogies on this one -- picture Jonny Quest without Race Bannon; make Dr. Quest a freelance photographer; give him a Winnebago instead of a jet; and make Hadji blonde. Another of the many "Dad takes kids on the road with him" dramas. This one went neck-and-neck with Sunshine and was cancelled the same month.

Vincent Van Patten and Leif Garrett - how blonde is THAT?

Mr. T and Tina 1976


DAD: Taro Takahashi -- Mr. T (Pat Morita) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Inventor

KIDS: Sachi (June Angela )(10), Aki (Eugene Profanato) (8)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - unknown circumstances

STAND-IN "MOM": Tina Kelly (Susan Blanchard)

No, silly, the OTHER Mr. T!

Yet another twist: how about if the rest of the family was foreign-born, but the live-in domestic wasn't? Lots of cultural clashes marked this simple-minded comedy.

Popi Jan-Aug 1976


DAD: Abraham Rodriguez (Hector Elizondo)/ widower

DAD'S JOB: Building Handyman

KIDS: "Junior"(Anthony Perez)/14, Luis (Dennis Vasquez)/10


STAND-IN "MOM": Lupe (Edith Diaz) / Neighbor

Based on the 1969 movie starring Alan Arkin, Popi followed tenement living for the widowed superintendent and how he kept his boys out of trouble. Strange how this show was the mid-season replacement for the cancelled TV Single Dad show Joe and Sons.

The Tony Randall Show 1976-1977(ABC), 1977-1978(CBS)

Tony Randall



DAD: Judge Walter Franklin (Tony Randall ) / widower

DAD'S JOB: Judge

KIDS: Roberta "Bobby" Franklin (Devon Scott '76-'77, Penny Peyser '77-'78) (18), Oliver Wendell Franklin (Brad Savage) (11)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for past two years

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. McClellan (Rachel Roberts) / housekeeper

How did I miss *this* one? This show, about a widowed Philadelphia judge and his two kids, was CLASSIC in terms of TV Single Dad templates. You've got the wacky housekeeper, the precocious kids, the one-episode girlfriends, and even Uncle Tonoose (Hans Conried) as Grandpa.

A large tilt of the Bruce Wayne Memorial Brass Shakespeare Head to Lynne Torgersen ( for pointing out this missing gem. Thanks Lynne!

Nancy Drew Mysteries 1977-78

Nancy Drew Mysteries


DAD: Carson Drew (William Schallert) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Criminal Lawyer

KIDS: Nancy (Pamela Sue Martin) (18)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for quite some time

STAND-IN "MOM": Bess (Ruth Cox)

Nancy Drew wasn't that much different from another child of a Single Dad, Ellery Queen (Ellery's show doesn't count, however,since he didn't live with his father). The plots revolved around Nancy, a paralegal research assistant of her dad's firm, sleuthing cases, winding up at the wrong end of a gun, and having her dad bail her out on a few occasions.

The Hardy Boys Mysteries 1977-79


DAD: Fenton Hardy (Edmund Gilbert) / widower

DAD'S JOB: Private Investigator

KIDS: Joe Hardy (Shaun Cassidy), Frank Hardy (Parker Stevenson) (teens)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for some time

STAND-IN "MOM": Aunt Gertrude (Edith Atwater) / Aunt

Just as Xena has Hercules, so Nancy Drew had The Hardy Boys. Like Nancy Drew, the boys had a father deeply involved in police work. The boys seemed to have little to no supervision, though, as they always seemed to be jetting off to Peru or Paris or Timbuktu to solve a case.

Apparently these two shows didn't support enough of an audience by themselves, so the shows were blended into one big show at the end of 1978 as The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.

The Oregon Trail 1977


DAD: Evan Thorpe (Rod Taylor) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Wagon Train Pioneer Guy

KIDS: Andrew Thorpe (Andrew Stevens) (17), William Thorpe (Tony Becker) (12), Rachel Thorpe (Gina Marie Smika) (10)


STAND-IN "MOM": Margaret Devlin (Darleen Carr) / Girlfriend

Perhaps this is another motif buried in TV Single Dad shows: the idea of the Single Dad taking the Jed Clampett route: "moving away from thar" and heading West. Evan Thorpe packed up his family and headed to Oregon with a wagon train. They were only on the trail for a month when the show got cancelled, though. Too bad.

How the West Was Won 1978-1979

James Arness


DAD: Zeb Macahan (James Arness) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Pioneer Homesteader

KIDS: Luke (Bruce Boxleitner), Laura (Kathryn Holcomb), Josh (William Kirby Cullen), Jessie (Vicki Schreck)


STAND-IN "MOM": Molly Culhane (Fionnula Flanagan) / Aunt

Sure, The Oregon Trail didn't work AT ALL, but would that stop a network from building a GIGANTIC series starring TV icon James Arness in the lead TV Single Dad role?

Zeb Macahan, homesteading pioneer guy, wound up with custody of his brother's kids after the brother went back East to fight in the Civil War The kids had all kinds of problems: Luke, for example, was on the lam from the law, due to his being wanted for killing a few guys in self-defense.

Diff'rent Strokes 1978-86



DAD: Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Corporation President

KIDS: Kimberly Drummond (Dana Plato), Arnold Jackson (Gary Coleman), Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges)

WHERE'S MOM?: Drummond adopted dying maid's kids / Kimberly's mom died.

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae)

The source of most "troubled child actor" stories. Based on the outcome of their growing up, maybe Conrad Bain could qualify as the worst Single TV Dad; even worse than Dr. Quest or Flipper's Porter Ricks!

Land of the Lost 1974-77

Land of the Lost


DAD: Rick Marshall (Spencer Milligan) / Unknown Marital Status

DAD'S JOB: Some kind of river explorer

KIDS: Will (15), Holly (11)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown - back on normal Earth, somewhere

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

A Sid & Marty Krofft show. Dad wound up stranded in a time vortex that dropped Dad and the two kids into a dinosaur-type world.

In the last (3rd) season, Dad disappeared to the normal Earth and was replaced by his brother, "Uncle Jack" (Ron Harper)

BattlestaR Galactica 1978

Battlestar Galactica


DAD #1: Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) / Widower

DAD #1'S JOB: Defending refugees fleeing the Cylon tyranny

KIDS OF DAD #1: Apollo (20-something), Athena (20-something)

WHERE'S MOM #1 ?: Dead from Cylon attack

STAND-IN "MOM #1": none

DAD #2: Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch) / Widower

DAD #2'S JOB: Defending refugees fleeing the Cylon tyranny

KIDS OF DAD #2: Boxey (8)

WHERE'S MOM #2 ?: Dead from Cylon attack, Apollo's stepson

STAND-IN "MOM #2": Possibly Aunt Athena, or Cassiopea, Apollo's sidekick's girlfriend.

Alert Viewers sometimes wonder if Lorne Greene was the first actor to portray two TV Single Dads, but that honor goes to John Forsythe, of Bachelor Father and To Rome With Love fame, a decade earlier. This does seem to be the first show to have two TV Single Dads on the same series, though.

A tip of the Sky King Memorial Stetson to 'OM' for the clue-by-four about Boxey's Stand-In Mom suspects. Thanks, OM!

Dukes of Hazzard 1979-85

Dukes of Hazzard


DAD: Uncle Jesse Duke (Denver Pyle)

DAD'S JOB: Old Coot, and retired Moonshine Runner

KIDS: Bo (John Schneider), Luke (Tom Wopat), Daisy (Catherine Bach), Coy (Byron Cherry), Vance (Christopher Mayer) (all supposedly in their 20's)

WHERE'S MOM?: Who knows? The cousins and nephews of Jesse Duke are why there's so many West Virginia jokes.

STAND-IN "MOM": none

Update: Alert Viewer Johnathan Carter writes in with news about the Duke orphans - "I don't know if it was ever mentioned on the series, but I believe the E! True Hollywood Story on The Dukes of Hazzard explained exactly how the Duke cousins ended up with Uncle Jesse. Apparently, all of Jesse's brothers and/or sisters and their spouses -- the parents of Bo, Luke, and Daisy (and maybe Coy and Vance) -- were killed in a car accident (big car!), so Jesse, the last remaining sibling, took in their children. That's what I heard, but as I said, I don't know if it was ever mentioned on the show."

Anyone have any further word on this?

A tap on the Lt. Worf Memorial Communicator Pin to "" for the information about Uncle Jesse's previous career. Thanks!

...and a wave of the Mrs. Livingston Memorial Feather Duster to Jonathan Carter for the insight on the Dukes' parental demise. Thanks!

Big Hawaii 1977


DAD: Barrett Fears (John Dehner)

DAD'S JOB: Pineapple Rancher

KIDS: Mitch Fears (early 20's)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, maybe

STAND-IN "MOM": none

This was Dallas in the Aloha State. But the plot more closely resembled the Jack Klugman show You Again, where this successful conservative dad winds up with a radically different son. The show didn't last long enough to worry about.

Sidenote: Veteran actor John Dehner makes his second appearance in the Single TV Dad arena. Go check out his role in Baileys of Balboa, a 60's TV Single Dad show.

Hello, Larry! 1979-80

Hello Larry


DAD: Larry Alder (McLean Stevenson) / Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Radio Host

KIDS: Diane(Donna Wilkes, then Krista Errickson) (16), Ruthie (Kim Richards) (13)

WHERE'S MOM?: Divorced - played (occasionally) by Shelley Fabares

STAND-IN "MOM": Leona Wilson (Ruth Brown)

The third series in the downward, post-M*A*S*H spiral of McLean Stevenson, it wasn't much different than Frasier with two little girls at home.

NBC tried propping up the ratings of this saggy show with crossover cast appearances from another TV Single Dad show: Diff'rent Strokes. The storyline was that Larry was an Army buddy of Strokes's Phil Drummond. Wacky hijinks, unfortunately, did not ensue.

Kim Richards was in her second role as the TV Single Daughter of a TV Single Dad. Her first role was in Nanny & the Professor.

It's interesting to note that Shelley Fabares plays the ex-wife of a TV Single Dad -- In the Nineties, she would play a character who marries a TV Single Dad; namely, the title character on Coach!

Operation:Runaway! 1978-79


DAD: David McKay (Robert Reed) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Psychologist

KIDS: Mark Johnson (Michael Biehn), Susan Donovan (Ruth Cox) (teens)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unclear where the whereabouts of birth parents were.

STAND-IN "MOM": Karen Wingate (Karen Machon) / Girlfriend of David's

Kinda like a dead serious version of Bachelor Father. David McKay was a psychologist who counselled teen runaways, and he apparently liked to take his work home with him. Mark and Susan were two runaways who became his Youthful Wards, a la Dick Grayson.

This whole premise didn't seem to work out, so in the last half of the series run NBC dumped David McKay. Too late -- the series cratered after a month with the revamped show.

The Mackenzies of Paradise Cove 1979


DAD: Cuda Weber (Clu Gulager) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Fishing Boat Operator

KIDS: Timothy Mackenzie (Keith Mitchell) (7), Michael (Sean Marshall) (12), Bridget (Lory Walsh) (17), Kevin (Shawn Stevens) (17).

WHERE'S MOM?: Drowned. So did Dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

I never saw this show, but based on the writeups I've seen, it's not too much different from the 80's show Father Murphy. A bunch of kids, not wanting to be split up after their parents drown in a boating accident, convince a tour boat operator to pose as their "uncle." Not exactly sure if this show was a comedy or a drama. If you've seen this show, please e-mail me with your thoughts. Thanks!

Big Shamus, Little Shamus 1979

The Shamus Family


DAD: Arnie Sutter (Brian Dennehy) / Unknown Marital Status

DAD'S JOB: House Detective

KIDS: Max Sutter (Doug McKeon) (13)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Two episodes. That's how long this absolute stinker of a show lasted. Arnie Sutter was a hotel detective in the gambling resort of Atlantic City. I don't know about how or why he was a single dad, and apparently no one else cared. Can you imagine a show so bad it didn't make it to Columbus Day? Sheesh.

Archie Bunker's Place 1979-83

Archie Bunker


DAD: Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Bartender

KIDS: Stephanie (11) (Danielle Brisebois)

WHERE'S MOM?: Edith died. Edith's niece abandoned by dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Canby (Barbara Meek)

Coming out of the ragged edges of the monumental All in the Family, this show pieced together life after Mike and Gloria Stivic moved away and Archie had managed a saloon. At the end of the first season, Edith died, and Archie was left to raise Stephanie, the abandoned niece of Edith's. Archie hired a housekeeper, Mrs. Canby, and started back on the dating scene after a 25-year hiatus.

Benson 1979-86


DAD: Gov. Gene Gatling (James Noble) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Governor

KIDS: Katie (Missy Gold)(11)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - went to a costume party dressed as a sugar cube and was attacked by a horse.

STAND-IN "MOM": Benson (Robert Guillaume)

One link to think about and then just put it out of your mind: Benson worked with a stuffy assistant of the Single Dad/Governor, played by Rene Auberjonois. Twenty years later, Captain Benjamin Sisko would have a stuffy assistant named Odo, played by the same Rene Auberjonois. Go figure.

Update 12 May 1999: Okay, so I asked Mr. Auberjonois how come he's been in so many proximities of Single Dads. Here's his response:


Geeze! I have no idea why I've been in the thrall of Single Dads. Coincidence would be my guess.

Best- René Auberjonois

A snap of the Uncle Charley Memorial Dish Towel to Michael Duclos ( for the info on the late Mrs. Gatling. Thanks, Michael!