The 00's

The 00's

Single Dads at the End of Television

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Now into the *sixth* decade of primetime television, TV Single Dad shows are more popular than ever. With the increase of cable / satellite / HDTV venues, the demand for the familiar plotlines of Single Dad shows only increases as the years roll by.

It's difficult to say how long this fascination with the genre will last, but stay tuned. Analog television has ended, but the fascination remains.


First, the Questionable Shows of the 00's...


Normal, Ohio Premiered Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2000

John GoodmanJohn Goodman

FOX

QUESTIONABLE DAD: Rex Gamble (John Goodman) / Divorced Gay Dad

DAD'S JOB: Unknown

KIDS: Charlie Gamble (Greg Pitts)(20-ish)

WHERE'S MOM?: Remarried - nearby

STAND-IN "MOM ": Possibly Aunt Pamela (Joely Fisher) - Rex's sister

WHY IT DOESN'T COUNT: Formerly called Don't Ask, this could have been a major-league, groundbreaking series. The hole in the boat on this show's qualifications in the Hall of Fame is that Goodman's character doesn't live in the same house as his son, thus failing the Mindy McConnell Occupancy Act. (see The Rules). Sorry, John.


24 2001 -

Courtesy Imagine EntertainmentElisha Cuthbert

FOX

QUESTIONABLE DAD: Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Agent for Counter-Terrorism Unit

KIDS: Kimberley Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert) (17?)

WHERE'S MOM?: Quite Dead

STAND-IN "MOM ": Nobody

WHY IT DOESN'T COUNT:The Mindy McConnell Rule and The Mike Brady Clause come into play here, despite those Non-Alert Viewers who keep screeching to me about including this series.

Quick rundown: Jack became single when his wife got killed in Hour 24 of the first season. Okay, so that means he'd qualify under Mike Brady in Hour 24 of Season Two. Problem: Little Kim ain't living in the same house as Daddy, so she's unqualified by the Mindy McConnell-ness of the plot. Sorry, Jack.


Karen Cisco 2003

Photo © 2003 ABCRobert Forster

ABC

QUESTIONABLE DAD: Dad Cisco (Robert Forster)/ Widower

DAD'S JOB: Retired Cop

KIDS: U.S. Marshall Karen Cisco (Carla Gugino) / 20-something

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

WHY IT DOESN'T COUNT:The movie Out of Sight was based on a book of the same name (written by Elmore Leonard). The book was originally supposed to be turned into a TV series, but the movie came first. According to folks reading the scripts, there's going to be a lot more of the humor of the book than there was in the movie. Sounds like this show could have legs.

Unfortunately, Karen doesn't live in Dad's house, so she's disqualified under the Mindy McConnell Rule.


Next, the Hall of Fame Shows of the 00's...


Wonderland March / April 2000

Cast of WonderlandCast of Wonderland

ABC

DAD: Dr. Derrick Hatcher (Michael Jai White) / Unknown

DAD'S JOB: ER Physician

KIDS: Zoe (Yada Beener)(13)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown (not even the writers knew this)

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

It was up against ER in the same time slot, but this show would have carted home wheelbarrows of Emmys if it had survived the competition. Two episodes aired on ABC and WHAM - "on hiatus" (that's TV-talk for "DEAD").

Formerly titled "Bellevue", this series was like St. Elsewhere meeting NYPD Blue. An interesting element was the divorced non-custodial dad on the show in the form of Dr. Robert Banger (Ted Levine). If you're trying to place Ted Levine - he's got quite an acting range in him. Ted's played Alan Shepard on HBO's From the Earth to the Moon, as well as the expert tailor/serial killer Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs. Michael Jai White played the title character in Spawn (the movie, not the HBO cartoon).

Michael Jai White's character wouldn't have had his own "focus" episode until the unaired April 13th, 2000 episode (an episode called "Spell Check"), when the audience would have been introduced to Dr. Hatcher's home life. Since the writers hadn't determined what happened to Mom, it's unclear whether Dr. Hatcher was divorced, single, or a widower.

Here's a quandary: since we never got to see Dr. Hatcher's character actually BE a TV Single Dad, should this show have counted?

Fortunately, in 2008 DirectTV begin airing the long-mothballed series - - so Wonderland escaped the "doesn't count as a series" closet.

Interesting to note that this production had Ron Howard as Executive Producer - a nice progression for a two-time son of a Single Dad (Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show and the original Movie Eddie in The Courtship of Eddie's Father with Glenn Ford).

A big help for the show was the lead-in of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for the first month of shows. Unfortunately, the show couldn't make it against ER and dropped out of the schedule rather quickly.

Here's ABC's take on the show:

"Wonderland," a riveting, gritty, one-hour drama shooting on location in New York City, delves into the lives of the doctors manning Rivervue Hospital's psychiatric and emergency programs. Writer, director and former "Chicago Hope" star Peter Berg is the executive producer/writer/director.

Mr. Berg and the writers of the drama spent months at a New York hospital researching the project and working side by side with top psychiatrists and ER physicians. They were able to observe everything from electric shock therapy sessions, to interviews with serial killers, schizophrenics and suicidal housewives.

Edgy and real, the stories for "Wonderland" are inspired by the experiences of staff and patients. The cast of "Wonderland" is encouraged to improvise, and the show is shot documentary style, resulting in nothing less than gripping television. With personal lives as complex as their patients' minds, the doctors of Rivervue endure joys and sorrows that often mirror the triumphs and tragedies of the afflicted they strive to heal.

The cast stars Ted Levine ("Silence of the Lambs") as Dr. Robert Banger, Martin Donovan ("The Opposite of Sex") as Dr. Neil Harrison, Michelle Forbes ("Homicide: Life on the Streets," "Kalifornia") as Dr. Lyla Garrity, Billy Burke as Dr. Abe Matthews, Michael Jai White as Dr. Derrick Hatcher, and Joelle Carter as Dr. Heather Miles.

In the realm of psychiatric medicine, this public, city hospital is the Mecca, and its doctors are among the world's best, brightest and toughest. Professionally, Dr. Robert Banger (Mr. Levine) heads up the forensic psychiatry department (the psychiatric study of criminology); while personally, he struggles to cope with the break-up of his marriage. Still in love with his wife, Dr. Banger is forced to fight her tooth and nail for the custody of their two young sons. Dr. Neil Harrison (Mr. Donovan), who also specializes in forensics, grapples with the fears and joys of impending fatherhood. His wife, Dr. Lyla Garrity (Ms. Forbes), heads up the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, a.k.a. CPEP (a critical response facility for people suffering psychiatric emergencies).

Dr. Abe Matthews (Mr. Burke) is recognized as a talented psychiatrist who works in the CPEP, but has a well-earned reputation as a first-class, commitment-phobic womanizer, both inside the hospital and out. Dr. Derrick Hatcher (Mr. White) balances the struggles of single parenthood with working daily miracles in the emergency suite -- all while simultaneously leading med students through the ropes of Rivervue's "boot camp." And, psychiatric intern Heather Miles (Ms. Carter), while learning from the best, contributes her talents and special insights to the treatment of patients in CPEP.

In addition to Mr. Berg, executive producers for "Wonderland" are Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tony Krantz, along with co-executive producer/director John D. Coles. Peter McIntosh is the line producer. The program is produced by Hostage Productions, Inc. in association with Imagine Television.


Titus Premiered March 20, 2000 - Cancelled May, 2002

Courtesy of FOX TELEVISIONChristopher Titus, Stacy Keach

FOX

DAD: Ken Titus (Stacy Keach) / Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Loafing

KIDS: Christopher Titus (Christopher Titus) (20-something)

WHERE'S MOM?: "shacked up in the wacko basket" per Dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Much more than a souped-up Sanford & Son. Christopher Titus is a guy who lives with his dad and runs a hot-rod shop in this half-hour sitcom. Here's what Fox had to say about it:

Inspired by the real life of comedian Christopher Titus, TITUS is a half-hour comedy chronicling the heartbreakingly hilarious world of his dysfunctional family. And coming from a dysfunctional family means that nothing rattles him. Once you've driven your drunk father to your mom's parole hearing...what else is there?

Titus (Christopher Titus) owns a custom car shop, Titus High Performance, and builds hot rods. His hard-drinking, hard-living father Ken was married five times which means Christopher was raised in five broken homes. His mother, Ken's first wife, was a manic-depressive schizophrenic, which means Christopher was raised by five broken personalities. She now resides in a mental care facility -- or as Ken so eloquently puts it, she's "shacked up in the wacko basket."

Ken Titus (Stacy Keach) is a noble, loving father, a caring human being who only thinks of others – when he's sober. However, most of the time he's the "anti-dad" -- the most negative human being on the planet. Wherever there is hope, he will kill it; where self-esteem rears its shiny little head, he will be there to kick it in the testicles. Titus notes, "My father's always been mean-spirited and evil. It's been a lot of fun. Except when his mean-spirited evilness is directed at you."

Erin (Cynthia Watros) is Titus' smart, energetic and beautiful girlfriend. They knew each other as teens, but they went to a segregated high school -- she was in the incredibly "hot-looking babes" group and he was in the "outcast-pimply-guys-who-hadn't-discovered-deodorant-yet" group. Now she is the love of his life, and his first relationship that didn't involve the justice system.

Also working at Titus' car shop is his younger brother Dave (Zack Ward) -- from another mother...and another father -- and his best friend Tommy (David Shatraw), the only member of the group who was raised in a loving, stable household, which makes him the black sheep of the Titus team.

Created and executive produced by Christopher Titus, Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny, TITUS is produced by 20th Century Fox Television

Update: Despite adequate ratings and critical acclaim, Fox cancelled the series. Rumor was that Fox execs had an uneasy, acidic relationship with Christopher Titus, and so the suits pulled the plug on the show. Sorry, Titus family!


Gilmore Girls 2000 - 2005

Courtesy The WBScott Patterson

The WB

DAD: Uncle Luke Danes (Scott Patterson) / Single Guy

DAD'S JOB: Running a diner

KID: Jess Mariano (Milo Ventimiglia) / 17

WHERE'S MOM?: Far away - mom sent him to live with Uncle Luke.

STAND-IN "MOM": Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) / Uncle Luke's girlfriend.

At last, a TV Single Dad show that conquers the Mike Brady Clause.

As faithful readers of this site know, the Mike Brady Clause states that "The TV Single Dad must be single for the majority of the run of the series." Luke qualifies, as he became guardian of his nephew in Episode 26. As we've had 52 episodes of the series at the end of November, 2002 - - he's in!

Just as in the 80's show Who's the Boss?, this series features a TV Single Dad and a TV Single Mom (one of the aforementioned "Girls" in the show's title).


Resurrection Blvd. 2000 - 2002

Courtesy Showtime Networks

Showtime

DAD: Roberto Santiago (Tony Plana) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Auto Mechanic

KIDS: Miguel (Mauricio Mendoza), Carlos (Michael DeLorenzo), Alex (Nicholas Gonzales), Yolanda (Ruth Livier), Victoria (Marisol Nichols)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, recently.

STAND-IN "MOM": Bibi (Elizabeth Peña) / Sister-in-Law.

It's Rocky in spirit - - but it's a whole new take. This was a latino show that wasn't on PBS and wasn't composed of a bunch of stereotypes of illegal immigrants and dope dealers with tricked-out cars.

Auto mechanic and papá soltero Roberto has his hands full - he's got 6 six kids between adolescence and full adulthood, and one of them has all the makings of a sports superstar. Young Carlos is an up-and-coming boxer who could be the next Oscar de la Hoya, IF he and his dad play their cards right. The show focuses on the dreams of parents for their children, the painful choices made between friends and fame, and the importance of family to make it through the worst in life.

This show was going to try and do for Showtime's ratings what The Sopranos did for HBO - - and, in the process, make it clear that latino-based shows were a rich, untapped source of great storylines. It didn't make The Sopranos-level of popularity, but it was a key part of Showtime's original programming during the 00's.


Madigan Men 2000

Courtesy ABC Television

ABC

DAD: Benjamin Madigan (Gabriel Byrne) / Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Architect

KIDS: Luke (John Hensley) (16)

WHERE'S MOM?: Left

STAND-IN "MOM": Seamus Madigan (Roy Dotrice) / live-in Grandpa.

Wow. The toolkit for building TV Single Dad-ish shows is well-used in this new venture. Here's an architect (thank you Mike Brady) who is as inept in dating as his son is proficient (thank you Martin Tupper). They even gave him the name Benjamin, a nod to Ben Cartwright, The Gregory Hines Show, and Deep Space Nine!

Here's ABC's spin on the show:

International film star Gabriel Byrne ("End of Days," "The Usual Suspects") comes to television in a new comedy from Golden Globe Award-winning writer Cindy Chupack ("Sex and the City"), which examines the lives of three generations of men making their way through the dating world. Byrne stars as Benjamin Madigan, a handsome, successful and charismatic architect in New York City. He is single, adorable and available and should be making out like a bandit with the ladies. But Benjamin is recently divorced, and after 20 years of being a dutiful husband and provider, he just hasn't got a clue about dating. He is a member of a rare breed of men - the sexy man completely oblivious to his own sexiness. While his co-workers shove him into the dating world, he is full of the most rudimentary questions, like how soon to call a woman after she gives you her number. For the answers to these and many other questions, Ben can turn to his 16-year-old son, Luke (John Hensley), for whom juggling a series of girlfriends couldn't come more naturally. In addition, Ben's recently widowed father, Seamus (Roy Dotrice, TV's "Beauty and the Beast"), has just moved in. Seamus is ornery and speaks his mind, and with Luke's help, they might just be able to teach Benjamin a thing or two about dating and women in the 21st century.

Update December 18, 2000: The Powers That Be at ABC have decided not to renew the men Madigan. Faulty ratings are once again to blame. I guess the road rose up to meet them. Bye, Madigans!


The Geena Davis Show 2000

Courtesy ABC Television

ABC

DAD: Max Ryan (Peter Horton) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Political Writer

KIDS: Carter (John Francis Daley)(13), Eliza (Makenzie Vega)(6)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Gladys (Esther Scott) / live-in caregiver

Oh dear.

First, I could see arguments coming about this show, and whether or not it qualifies as a true TV Single Dad show. The title actress, in the role of Teddie Cochran, is the girlfriend of Peter Horton's character. They are NOT married, although Geena does seem to spend a lot of time at his house. Is he truly a TV Single Dad if she's there?

After the premiere, all I can say is: don't worry about arguing - the show is doomed. The characters are as thin and watery as lettuce soup, the jokes are garbled, trite, and telegraphed. The daughter has treacle-filled lines that would gag Buffy from Family Affair, and a speech impediment used for comic effect that's an embarrassment to the writers. Catch the show quick or you'll never see it again.

Update Oct. 11, 2000: After receiving about two dozen emails from Alert Viewers hammering this show, I contacted ABC/Touchstone Television to find out the network's reaction. A spokesperson said they've received "no negative comments at all, none whatsoever." Fascinating, since the abc.com message board wass filling up with PAGES of negatives. Get out your crayons and color it gone, soon.

Here's ABC's spin on Geena's show:

Academy Award--winning actress GEENA DAVIS stars in "The Geena Davis Show," a fresh, new romantic comedy about Teddie Cochran (Ms. Davis), a glamorous career woman, who finally meets Max Ryan (PETER HORTON), the man of her dreams. There is only one catch: he already comes with an instant family - Eliza (MAKENZIE VEGA), an emotional six-year-old, Carter (JOHN FRANCIS DALEY), an unpredictable 13-year-old - and a house in the suburbs. Teddie soon realizes that being a mom is not as easy as she thought, and that keeping a relationship sexy with two kids around really isn't as easy as she hoped. Back in the city, Teddie's loyal group of single girlfriends are dubious of her momdom, especially acerbic Hillary (MIMI ROGERS), a serial divorcee who views Teddie's new lifestyle choice as an act of sheer madness. As Teddie's modern juggling act begins, she finds she needs her distinct brand of sarcastic humor and a lot more patience than she ever thought she'd have in order to help her balance it all.


Gideon's Crossing 2000

Courtesy ABC TelevisionAndre Braugher

ABC

DAD: Dr. Ben Gideon (Andre Braugher) / Unknown

DAD'S JOB: M.D.

KIDS: Charlie(Brian Wiltshire), Eli (Jascha Washington), Rose (Meagan Gregory)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Uh-oh: didn't ABC just DO this show the previous year, and wasn't it called Wonderland? This show is stacked like a checklist of What's Needed in a Hospital Show: You've got the "unorthodox doctor" main character, the wacky comedic sidekick chief resident, the bright-eyed intern ready for disillusionment, and oh yes, the overworked doctor (played last year by Ted Levine, this year by Eric Dane) whose marriage is crumbling.

There are more than enough noble stereotypes to go around. I wanted more info about the details of single fatherhood on this show but the series caved in November.

After watching the first couple episodes, I figured out the problem - too much script for one hour. The banter is at a Howard Hawks level, exhausting the viewer and swimming in formulaic stories. It's also filmed in the thirtysomething school of power-failure lighting. Do real hospitals work without lightbulbs?

Here's how ABC wanted you to think of the characters:

Ben Gideon (Braugher) is the voice of reason, empathy and wisdom in a world of medical chaos, bureaucracy and hypocrisy. He is a doctor we should all be so lucky to have. Highly skilled, on the cutting edge of technology and experimental medicine but possessing the gentlest and most inspirational of bedside manners, he is Disease's mortal enemy.

Ben Gideon, it seems, could will his patients to wellness. He is compassionate, of course, but equally relentless and demanding - of himself, of his students and of his patients.

He will not give up in his quest for cures. His students love him, want to be him, but they also fear him just a little. He challenges his patients to examine their lives and to make changes if those lives don't have meaning. Ben Gideon treats the whole person, not just the illness.

Here's a factoid to ponder: in the history of African-American TV Single Dads, 25% are named "Gideon," and 37.5% are named "Benjamin" - what's THAT about?

Update: ABC pulled the plug on this gabfest. So long, Dr. Gideon.


As Told By Ginger 2000 - 2002

Courtesy Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon

DAD: Mr. Richton / Unknown marital status

DAD'S JOB: Being Fabulously Wealthy

KIDS: Ian (12)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Ginger's mom, Lois

This is probably the first animated series where the characters change clothes every once in a while. The title character is the daughter of a single mom - - her friend Ian has a single dad. I smell an upcoming episode.

Here's Nickelodeon's take on Ian and his dad:

Ian Richton has a short attention span and a penchant for European styling products. Always coifed yet hard to engage, Ian's privileged upbringing makes him difficult to impress. Raised by his single and devilishly handsome father, Ian was taught at a young age to smile at the ladies -- but is probably not the sharpest pencil in the box. What he does understand he understands fully, like the unstoppable power of musk-scented cologne. Ian is a natural athelete.

A blast on the Jed Clampett Memorial Shotgun to salute Meghan G. for the tip on Ian. Thanks, Meggie!


The Fighting Fitzgeralds 2000

Courtesy NBC Television

NBC

DAD: Pop Fitzgerald / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Retired Fireman

KIDS: Jim(Justin Louis)(20's), Terry(Chris Moyihan)(20's), Patrick(Jon Patrick Walker)(20's)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Sophie(Connie Britton)/daughter-in-law

Pity Brian Dennehy: he's had two TV Single Dad shows shot out from under him (Big Shamus/Little Shamus, Star of the Family), one of which closed down after only two episodes.

TV Single Dad Show Number Three seemed to be able to survive more than a couple of weeks. In this series, Mr. D. played Mr. Fitzgerald of the eponymous series. He was a retired fireman/curmudgeon, pretty much returning to an all-male remake of Empty Nest. With all these live-in adult kids, there was hope for a comedic Bonanza, but don't count on it.

Update: As predicted, the Fitzgerald family met with disaster. NBC ousted this series, chalking it up to poor ratings. Oh, and clearing out a space for The Weakest Link. Buh-bye, Fitzgeralds!


Raising Dad 2001 - 2002

Courtesy The WB

The WB

DAD: Matt? or Mark? (Bob Saget) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: English teacher

KIDS: Sarah (Kat Dennings) (15), and Emily (Brie Larson)(12?)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Live-in Dad, Sam (Jerry Adler)

Welcome back to the formula we've seen in so many returning-TV-Dad actors' careers: the clueless TV Single Dad, trying to corral his teenage daughters. Didn't work for The Tom Arnold Show, The Tony Danza Show, or Greg Evigan's Home Rules, but maybe THIS will be the winner series. But starting at -9:30- on a FRIDAY? With a new REBA MCINTYRE series as a lead-in? Good luck, Bob. This show had "cancel me NOW" in every TV listing.

Odd random fact: eldest daughter Kat Dennings shares the exact date of birth as Bob Saget's other TV daughters - Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of Full House fame.

Here's how the WB was spinning the show (if only they'd settled on a name for Bob's character):

The ultimate Friday night dad, Bob Saget, makes his triumphant return to television in the new family friendly comedy from Jonathan Katz (DR. KATZ, PROFESSIONAL THERAPIST). In the tradition of GILMORE GIRLS, RAISING DAD presents a modern family with warmth and humor.

Saget plays Matt, a widower, doing his best to raise two precocious young daughters - Sarah and Emily - with a little help from his live-in dad, Sam. With adolescence rearing its ugly head, the last thing 15-year-old Sarah needs is her father looking over her shoulder 24/7. Unfortunately, as the English teacher at Sarah's high school, Mark is doing just that... and it's taking its toll on their relationship. Meanwhile, as he struggles to do his job without ruining Sarah's social life, Mark is completely unaware that he has his own secret admirer within the school's faculty. Between family melodrama and the traumas of teenhood, there is little sanity in sight for Mark or Sarah.

From creator Jonathan Katz and Paramount Television Production.

UPDATE 14 May 2002: Sorry, folks - - the WB buried this series out back after a single season. Odd, as the ratings did seem to support it continuing. That's show biz.


Smallville 2001-2007

Photo © 2003 The WB Television NetworkMichael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor,
John Glover as Lionel Luthor

The WB

DAD: Lionel Luthor (John Glover) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Evil Rich Guy

KIDS: Lex (18)(Michael Rosenbaum)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Nobody

Lionel really works hard at being Television's Worst Dad. He *means* well (if "well" means "getting his own way"), but using his son as a cudgel to find out Clark Kent's Big Secret is over-the-top. But that's the beauty of this Superman prequel series. Evil is FUN.


One on One 2001

Photo © 2003 UPNKyla Pratt as Breanna Washington,
Flex Alexander as Flex Washington

UPN

DAD: Flex Washington (Flex Alexander) / Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Sportscaster

KIDS: Breanna (15)(Kyla Pratt)

WHERE'S MOM?: Took job in another country

STAND-IN "MOM": Flex's parents, or possibly Duane/Flex's Buddy (Kelly Perine)

UPN, licking its wounds from the last TV Single Dad go-round (Greg Evigan's Home Rules) bravely tried with this Moesha-replacing sitcom. Eunetta Boone, who created The Hughleys and was a story editor on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the producer.

I saw the pilot, and it's pretty much formulaic, with trendy pop-culture references that'll definitely seem dated if the show lasted long enough for reruns. The writing needed to improve, because this was a tried-and-true format (daddy-daughter relationship) that's been around since the Ur-series of TV Single Dads, My Little Margie.


The Ponderosa Premiered Sept. 9, 2001 - Cancelled May, 2002

Courtesy PAX TV

PAX

DAD: Ben Cartwright / Widower x 3 (Daniel Hugh Kelly)

DAD'S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Adam (Matt Carmody)(21), Hoss (Drew Powell)(18), Little Joe (Jared Daperis)(12), Carlos (adopted, previously-unknown son)(Fernando Carrillo).

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, Dead, and Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Hop Sing(Gareth Yuen)/Chef

A TV Single Dad benchmark series returns. Picking up the storyline before the original NBC series, The Ponderosa emulates the template of the new Star Trek series, Enterprise, filling in the prequel info on a line of new stories.

The volume of e-mail I received about this show was astounding. Legions of Bonanza fans had been asking for details on the series, and wrote in with various conjectures as to the plotlines.

TrekToday.com reported that actor Casey Biggs was signed for the role of Ben, based on a stock photo from the Pax TV website. That casting info, though, was premature.

None other than Daniel Hugh Kelly (he of the almost-TV Single Dad show I Married Dora and co-star - with the legendary Brian Keith - of Hardcastle & McCormick) landed the role of the very archetype of western TV Single Dads: Ben Cartwright. Other than a remake of "My Three Sons," I couldn't imagine a more-difficult TV Single Dad role for an actor to re-create.

This show tackled PILES of unanswered questions, such as "How did Ben hook up with Hop Sing?" and "Why would you name a kid 'Hoss?'" With squads of VCR-wielding fans of the original series watching closely, the writers needed a detailed story bible handy.

Biggest question: would the series work? It had a chance: the head writer/producer was Beth Sullivan, who managed to come up with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

After watching the premiere episode, the series did appear to show promise of having legs. The production values were at least equal to the quality of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and the cast did live up to their original NBC counterparts. Unlike most series, I thought it a safe bet that The Ponderosa would last more than a single season.

Boy, was I wrong.

Despite the massive investment in filming a series halfway around the world, the show never cleared 97th place in the Neilsens. Doom ensued.

Here's PAX TV's happy spin on the series:

It's been more than 40 years since we first met the Cartwright Family in Bonanza. Since then, the relationship between America's families and the Cartwright clan has become one of the most enduring in entertainment history. PAX TV's all-new weekly series, The Ponderosa, picks up the story of the Cartwrights in 1849, and follows the family through the early years when they first settled on a small piece of scrub land in the wilds of the Nevada Territory. United by blood as they fight to make a life for themselves are 35 year old widower Ben and his young sons, 21 year old Adam, 17 year old Hoss, and 12 year old Little Joe. The Ponderosa is the prequel that lets us share the experiences that made the Cartwrights the best-loved heroes of the American West.

UPDATE: Click here for a special report on details of The Ponderosa...

UPDATE 16 May 2002: Set fire to the map, boys - - The Ponderosa was dropped by PAX. So long for now, Cartwrights!


The Education of Max Bickford 2001 - 2002

Courtesy CBS

CBS

DAD: Max Bickford (Richard Dreyfuss) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: College Professor

KIDS: 18-year-old daughter, 13-year-old son

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

CBS bets the farm every year with a big star in a try-really-hard series. Remember Bette?

Wow, this show was doomed from the get-go. Yep, it was a Mr. Holland's Opus knock-off, but with a history professor instead of a music teacher. The closest-fitting adjectives seem to be ponderous and predictable. This ain't no comedy - it looked weepier than Once and Again and as obvious as a child's missed-homework excuse. Not even Venus Flytrap as Max's professor buddy could save this textbook lesson in Bad TV.

Here's the spin from CBS:

In his first starring role in series television, and marking one of the biggest triumphs of the new season, Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl, Mr. Holland's Opus) stars as Max Bickford, a college professor facing a turning point in his life after being passed over for what he feels is a long-overdue promotion.
Taking a much-needed inventory of his life, Max looks around and sees that he has been working forever, and for what? A widower surrounded by women at an all-female institution, struggling to parent a headstrong 18-year-old daughter and an overly wise 13-year-old son, with a best friend named Steve who has just returned from sabbatical as the newly transgendered Erica, Max realizes that he's an old-fashioned man in a modern world and that something has to change. But he'll be damned if it's him.

UPDATE 15 May 2002: As predicted, CBS flunked Max. It's over, baby. So long, Bickfords!


Citizen Baines 2001

Courtesy CBS

CBS

DAD: Senator Baines (James Cromwell) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Has-Been Senator

KIDS: Ellen(Embeth Davidtz), Reeva(Jane Adams), Dori(Jacinda Barrett)(all 20-somethings)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Neato - Stretch Cunningham invents the warp drive, runs for the Senate, loses the re-election, and winds up a TV Single Dad!

I'm one of the few people who's actually seen this show. It was in the Doomed Zone of Saturday-evening primetime and now it's dead and buried.

CBS claimed:

From megaproducer John Wells, who changed the one-hour series forever with ER and The West Wing, comes a dramatic new series about a prominent senator who has just lost his campaign for a fourth term. Knowing no other world than politics, he must return to his Seattle home and family to start living the next chapter in his now uncertain life.

CITIZEN BAINES focuses on his attempts to reconnect with the life he left behind when he headed to Capitol Hill, and with the three adult daughters whom he loves dearly but doesn't yet know that well--the thriving attorney who just might be the heir to the Baines political legacy, the busy mother who resents her sisters' lives as her marriage hits rocky ground, the youngest struggling to come out from her father's shadow and carve out a life--and name--of her own. They are as uncertain and apprehensive as he is about what his return will mean for all of them.

With their father back home to stay, the disparate group is a family again. But there's so much more that this family needs to be.

Update 1 November 2001: Variety notes it's official: CBS's Citizen Baines has been sent packing. In a face-saving twist for the network producers John Wells and Lydia Woodward fell on their swords and "asked" the network to cancel the series. The producers claimed, "it doesn't make sense to continue with a product that doesn't have a financial upside." So long, Senator!


Danny 2001

Courtesy CBS

CBS

DAD: Danny (Daniel Stern) / Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Manager of a local community center

KIDS: Henry(15)(Jon Foster), Sally(14)(Julia McIlvaine)

WHERE'S MOM?: Somewhere nearby

STAND-IN "MOM": Grandpa (Robert Prosky)

Formerly called American Wreck, the show was re-titled with a less disasterous-sounding name. To no avail, however. Danny went down in ratings flames after only three aired episodes, the first casualty of the 2001 CBS season.

Richard Dreyfuss was the "grown-up narrator voice" of Stand By Me. Daniel Stern was the "grown-up narrator voice" of Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years. And they both star in TV Single Dad shows the same year?

From the CBS press blurb:

The familiar star of such smash movies as Home Alone and City Slickers, who was last seen--well, last heard--on television as the voice of grown-up Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years, writer-actor-director Daniel Stern makes his television comedy debut as the star of AMERICAN WRECK.

Stern plays Danny, a recently separated father of two trying to make sense of his changing life. And with a new dating life, his two fast-growing teenagers and a job running the local community center, the changes are flying. By the way, did we mention that he's turning 40, and is a bit wigged out by the transition into real adulthood?

Stern, who created the show, serves as an executive producer, along with veteran comedy producer Howard Morris (Home Improvement).

Oh dear. After watching the first two episodes, this show appeared to be in serious trouble. Episode Two, for example, dealt with the comedic aspects of Danny's 15-year-old son's drinking. Danny recommended to his son that he "open a beer" at a party to "fit in." The plot probably sounded better on paper than it played out on screen.

A saving grace in this show was Julia McIlvaine, playing daughter Sally with subtle teen aggravation. She was already a veteran of a near-TV Single Dad show earlier in the decade, on Normal, Ohio

Single Dad Trivia: Robert Prosky played the live-action version of famous animated TV Single Dad Inspector Fenwick in 1999's feature, Dudley Do-Right.


Family Affair (2002)

Courtesy and © The WB

WB

DAD: Uncle Bill Davis (Gary Cole) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Architect/Playboy

KIDS: Buffy (Sasha Pieterse)(6), Jody (Jimmy 'Jax' Pinchak)(6), and Sigourney "Sissy" Davis (Caitlin Wachs)(13)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. So's Dad (Uncle Bill's brother)

STAND-IN "MOM": Mr. French (Tim Curry) / Ethnographic-stereotype English Butler

As an impartial observer of the pop-cultural ethos, I don't usually tell you, the Alert Viewer, to do things. I'm telling you: watch this show. It's *funny*.

It's really easy to mis-rennovate an iconic program. Producers Sid and Marty Krofft (!!) did it *right.* French is BACK with a vengeance, baby. Somebody should pin a medal on the casting director for tracking down Tim Curry for the Sebastian Cabot suit. And Gary Cole proves that Uncle Bill is the perfect blend of Mike Brady and Office Space's Bill Lumbergh. Sasha Pieterse's Buffy has a bubbling dark edge; highlighting a heretofore unseen, Dr. Bruce Banner-styled "you-wouldn't-like-me-when-I'm-angry" vibe. Even Sissy manages to come off as cool. Amazing.

This show had such an incredible chance of being a hit - - if only the WB could have moved it out of the Death Strip that was Thursday at 8pm ET.

Update: First casting casualty of the '02 season: Jimmy 'Jax' Pinchak subs for Luke Benward in the Jody role. Apparently Luke was insufficiently cute. Sorry, Luke - that's show biz!


Everwood 2002 - 2006

Courtesy and © The WB/Chris Large

WB

DAD: Dr. Andrew Brown(Treat Williams) / Recent Widower

DAD'S JOB: World-Reknowned Brain Surgeon. Really.

KIDS: Ephram (Gregory Smith)(15), Delia (Vivien Cardone)(9)

WHERE'S MOM?: Ghost of Mom (Brenda Strong), talks to Dad. (Think Providence).

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Okay, I stand corrected.

As faithful readers of this site know, I'm a firm believer that TV Single Dad Formula #1 never works. This show seems determined to be a success despite the track record of previous series of this ilk.

This time, famous brain-surgeon Dad's decided on moving the family to Everwood, Colorado, because Mom said she visited there once and it was "just like heaven." So, that's a good enough reason for this series's premise.

The briefest explanation of this show would be: picture Northern Exposure, except Joel has kids and wants to live there.

The standard Angry Exchange of TV Single Dad Formula #1 goes like something like this in the pilot:

Angry Son: "I hate this stupid place! I hate you!"

Dad: "Oh yeah? Is that the best you've got?"

Angry Son: "I wish you died instead of Mom!"

Dad: "Well, so do I!"

[Silence. A.S. storms off, riding bike down the snowy road.]

Click here to view the actual Angry Exchange.

This show broke the Curse of Following 7th Heaven™ and ran for years. Go figure.


Bram & Alice 2002

Courtesy and © CBS TelevisionAlfred Molina, Traylor Howard

CBS

DAD: Bram Shepherd (Alfred Molina) / Single Guy

DAD'S JOB: Pulitzer Prize-winning Author

KIDS: Alice O'Connor (Traylor Howard)/ 20-something aspiring writer

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Shaky on whether or not Dad is truly not just a mentor. We must talk about this.

Oh, and CBS really doesn't return phone calls about this series, so I have no clue on the production. Since it's a Sunday-night TV Single Dad show on CBS, expect peril. Remember The Education of Max Bickford?

Here's the CBS spin from the press release:

BRAM AND ALICE is a comedy about the shaky relationship between an incorrigible scoundrel of a novelist and his devoted fan, who suddenly learn they are father and daughter. Bram Shepherd (Alfred Molina) is a renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has coasted on his reputation for years, but is still required reading on campuses throughout the country. Alice O'Connor (Traylor Howard) is an idealistic young woman on the verge of abandoning her dream of becoming a writer and returning to Vermont when she learns that her idol, Shepherd, is her father. Their first meeting is a disaster: Bram inadvertently confesses he never wanted a child and barely remembers he ever fathered one. Alice perceives Bram as a fast-talking, hard-drinking woman-chaser, all of which he is. Nonetheless, they decide to forge a relationship and Alice agrees to move into Bram's New York apartment. Also in their world are Paul Newman (Roger Bart), a level-headed assistant who tries to keep Bram on an even keel; Michael (Michael Rispoli), a former Catholic priest who serves cocktails along with wry advice in the bar on the ground floor of Bram's apartment building; and Katie (Katie Finneran), an eccentric, self-centered neighbor with a mysterious Japanese boyfriend. Now that a new page has been turned, Bram and Alice will have to make some adjustments in order to write the next chapter in their very different lives, or, at least, to get along as father and daughter and roommates.

Update November 11, 2002: Bram is toast. And I didn't even get a chance to see an episode of it!Ta-ta, Shepherd family!

Update: Gold Level Alert Viewer Varakorn gives us the lowdown on a sample episode -

"So just a few days back, I saw an ep of the show whose plot can be summed up in one line. Bram saying to Paul (the guy Alice lives with) that Paul's supposed to work for the guy who beat him in a poker game. Anyhow, fast forward to the end, and we have Bram giving Alice to said person to take her to a jazz concert. We then have this brief conversation between Bram and Paul where Paul says something like "You pimped *your daughter* to buy me my freedom. It's the nicest thing you've ever done for me." Then about 30 secs after she left, Alice storms back in, saying (to the effect of) the guy was a total idiot (typical sitcom fare, eh?). Hope this clears things up"

A wave of the Fran Drescher Memorial Feather Duster to Varakorn for the episode blurb. Thanks again, Varakorn!


Veritas: The Quest 2003

Courtesy and © ABC Television

ABC

DAD: Solomon Zond (Alex Carter) / Widower (unless his wife turns up during Sweeps)

DAD'S JOB: Archeologist

KIDS: Nikko (Ryan Merriman)(17)

WHERE'S MOM?: Vanished Mysteriously in an ancient tomb. Seriously.

STAND-IN "MOM": Juliet Droil (Cobie Smulders) / Hottie Tutor & Mentor

Saw the pilot, and it boils down to this: picture Jonny Quest, only there's no Hadji or Bandit, Race Bannon is the guy from The Mummy, and Jonny's got a hottie tutor (an early Cobie Smulders role from the later How I Met Your Mother). Lots of guns, bad guys in German cars, secret hideouts, and bunsen burners. Equal parts Erich von Däniken, L. Ron Hubbard, and Lewis Carroll, this series didn't survive as long as the Young Indiana Jones Adventures lasted.

Do yourself a favor and skip the first episode - it's a yawner. But *do* watch the "Skulls" episode with the always-pleasant guest star Liz Vassey (formerly Captain Liberty of The Tick).

Who would name their kid after the head Flying Monkey from The Wizard of Oz?

Here's ABC's spin:

What if you watched your mother mysteriously vanish in an ancient tomb? What if you discovered that your father was not who he seemed to be? What if the worst day of your life began your life's greatest adventure?

Meet Nikko Zond, a hyper-intelligent but rebellious teenager still mourning the death of his renowned archeologist mother and a virtual stranger to his workaholic father, Solomon. On the day Nikko gets kicked out of the latest in a long line of boarding schools, he discovers his father's career as a university professor is just a cover. Solomon is really head of the Veritas Foundation, whose agenda is to seek the truth behind the mysteries of history and civilization.

Teaming up for the first time with his father, Nikko finds his parents' spirit of adventure clearly runs in his blood, as he inadvertently gets entangled in his dad's dangerous adventures. Soon, and against his father's better judgment, Nikko enters the high tech, classified world of Veritas and begins the adventure of his lifetime - a journey that will lead to the unlocking of universal mysteries and, hopefully, will bring him and his emotionally estranged father back together.

The Veritas team includes: The highly intelligent and mysterious Vincent Siminou, Solomon's closest confidant and protector; Calvin Banks, a high strung but brilliant by-the-books archaeologist; and Maggie, a cool and sophisticated computer scientist. And charged with the difficult task of trying to keep Nikko out of trouble is Juliet Droil, a beautiful and brilliant former student of his father's who will be Nikko's tutor and friend.

From an excavation site of the pre-Roman civilization of Ancient Gaul to the North Pole, there is no place to which the Veritas Foundation will not venture in their mission for the truth. But a secret nefarious organization, seeking to destroy the Foundation's research, will never be far behind.

The series stars Ryan Merriman as Nikko Zond, Alex Carter as Solomon Zond, Eric Balfour as Calvin Banks, Cynthia Martells as Maggie, Cobie Smulders as Juliet Droil with Arnold Vosloo as Vincent Siminou.

"Veritas: The Quest" was created by Patrick Massett and John Zinman ("Tomb Raider") who will serve as writers and executive producers. It also marks the first television series executive-produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (TV's critically-acclaimed "Annie" and "Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows"). The series is produced by Touchstone Television in association with Storyline Entertainment and Massett/Zinman Productions, and is shot in Montreal and Toronto, Canada.


Regular Joe

Courtesy and © ABC TelevisionJudd Hirsch, Daniel Stern, John Francis Daley,
Alana/Kelalani McAuliffe, Kelly Karbacz

ABC

DAD: Joe Herman (Daniel Stern) / Recent Widower

DAD'S JOB: Hardware Store Owner

KIDS: Grant (John Francis Daley)(17), Joanie (Jackie Tohn)(19)

WHERE'S MOM?: Freshly dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Baxter Herman (Judd Hirsch) / Grandpa

Hit me again.

Daniel Stern crashed and burned two years before in Danny, a TV Single Dad show that cratered in four weeks on CBS. So next, he repeated this accomplishment on ABC?

John Francis Daley seems also destined to be a short-lived TV Single Dad Show icon - - this is the second time he's played the son of a TV Single Dad (first time being his brief role on The Geena Davis Show).

ABC put it this way:

Daniel Stern and Judd Hirsch return to network television comedy in the new family series "Regular Joe" on the ABC Television Network.

In the series, Daniel Stern stars as recent widower Joe Herman who lives with his teenage son, Grant, his daughter, Joanie, and Joanie's infant daughter, Zoe. Now playing the role of both parents, Joe has his hands full as he helps Grant (John Francis Daley) navigate the treacherous waters of high school and Joanie (Jackie Tohn) - a sardonic college freshman - face the trials and triumphs of single motherhood. Complicating his life further are his well-meaning but intrusive father, Baxter (Judd Hirsch), and Sitvar (Brian George), the high-strung employee at his hardware store.

"Regular Joe" stars Daniel Stern as Joe Herman, Judd Hirsch as Baxter, John Francis Daley as Grant Herman, Jackie Tohn as Joanie Herman and Brian George as Sitvar.

"Regular Joe" is created by David Litt. The series' executive producers are David Litt, Nina Wass and Gene Stein. Produced by Touchstone Television, the half-hour sitcom is taped before a studio audience at the CBS Radford Center in Studio City, California.


Las Vegas 2003 - 2005

NBC

Dad: Mr. McCoy (unknown) /widower

DAD'S JOB: Construction Company Owner

KIDS: Danny McCoy (Josh Duhamel) / 20-something

WHERE'S MOM?: dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Don't know

Imagine a casino story filmed CSI-style. That's Las Vegas.

I was told that James Caan was originally going to be a TV Single Dad to Molly Sims in this series, but then they added Cheryl Ladd as Caan's wife, so that moved Josh Duhamel's dad up to the qualifying round.

It's still not clear if Danny lives with his dad.


Two and a Half Men 2003 -

Photo © 2003 CBSCharlie Sheen, Angus T. Jones, Jon Cryer

CBS

Dad: Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) / Separated

DAD'S JOB: Chiropractor

KIDS: Jake Harper (Angus T. Jones) (10)

WHERE'S MOM?: Judith Harper (Marin Hinkle) - nearby

STAND-IN "MOM": Uncle Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) or Grandma Evelyn (Blythe Danner in pilot, then Holland Taylor)

Kinda like ABC's old Brother's Keeper. Strait-laced John Cryer and his 10-year-old son Jake move into swinging-cool Malibu bachelor pad of Uncle Charlie. Lots of Odd Couple-styled interactions. *Extremely* well-written pilot script, plus a location in the middle of CBS's Monday night powerhouse lineup seems to insure success, but who knows?

A tip of the Bruce Wayne Memorial Cowl to Alert Viewer Anne for the update on who's playing Grandma Evelyn. Thanks, Anne!


It's All Relative 2003

Photo © 2003 ABC/DisneyMaggie Lawson, John Benjamin Hickey, Chris Sieber

ABC

Dad #1: Philip (John Benjamin Hickey) / Single (at least in 2003 Massachusetts)

DAD'S JOB: gallery owner

Dad #2: Simon (Christopher Siebert) / Single (at least in 2003 Massachusetts)

DAD'S JOB: gourmet chef

KIDS: Liz (Maggie Lawson) / 20-something

WHERE'S MOM?: unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": The other life-partner, depending on which Dad you're talking about

Picture Dharma and Greg, only they're not married, Dharma lives with her parents in Boston, and her parents happen to be two gay men. And Greg's parents are Irish Catholics. Wacky cultural clashes ensue. Not exactly My Two Dads, is it?

This show illustrates a recent phenomenon of television writing: the most ridiculous stereotypes of any group can be portrayed in a sitcom, as long as the stereotypes are promoted by a character of that same group. In this show, the gay couple *has to be* involved with food and interior decorating, wearing laughable "disguise hetero" lumberjack outfits, and waving hands when illustrating a point. So much for "television progress." Oh, and my prediction on this show? Gone by Christmas.

Update: I was being optimistic - - it was gone by Thanksgiving.

Alert Viewers will note the return of Christopher Sieber to the TV Single Dad arena -- he was Mary-Kate and Ashley's dad on Two of a Kind.


All About the Andersons 2003

Photo © 2003 The WB Television NetworkJohn Amos as Joe,
Damani Roberts as Tuga,
Anthony Anderson as Anthony

WB

Dad: Anthony Anderson / divorced?

DAD'S JOB: Actor

KIDS: Tuga Anderson (Damani Roberts) (8)

WHERE'S MOM?: Left

STAND-IN "MOM": (John Amos) / Grandpa

Basic plot is that TV Single Dad Anthony Anderson is unemployed, and moves in with his parents to help raise his son. Unless he's paying rent or something, this show could be knocked out of contention by the Grandpa Munster Mortgage Act.

Update: The show lasted only six episodes, so I didn't get a chance to catch up on the living arrangements with the grandparents. If anyone saw another episode of this series, please let me know.


Run of the House 2003

Photo © 2003 The WB Television NetworkSasha Barrese as Sally,
Kyle Howard as Chris,
Joseph Lawrence as Kurt,
Margo Harshman as Brooke

WB

Dad: Unknown (Joseph Lawrence) / Older Brother

DAD'S JOB: unknown

KIDS: several teenagers (Margo Harshman, Kyle Howard, Sasha Barrese)

WHERE'S MOM?: Moved away with Dad for health reasons

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Party of Five, only without the dead parents. Blossom veteran Joseph (note the Rick Schroeder-y change from Joey) Lawrence has to be the head of the household for a bunch of teens who really don't want to be bossed around. Whoa. The WB tried this as a cartoon back in 1999 (Mission Hill) and wound up with the lowest ratings in the history of network televsion. Catch it quick, yes?

Update: As easily predicted, the show disappeared after a mere four episodes. Bye!


Romeo! 2003

Nickelodeon

Dad: Master P (Master P) / widowed

DAD'S JOB: Record Producer

KIDS: Romeo (Lil' Romeo) / Pre-teen

WHERE'S MOM?: dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Nanny (Victoria Jackson)

Allrighty -- picture The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, only Harriet is out of the picture, Ricky is a hip-hop artist, and Ozzie's name is "Master P." Victoria Jackson gets to be the domestic in this sitcom. Pretty much another by-the-numbers, forgettable Nickelodeon live-action show.

Update: Gold Level Alert Viewer Varakorn drops off additional info on this series -

"The father and son are played by a real life father and son (so I'm told). BTW, the show premiered this past Sept. 13, and expect it to get a decent run, if only because it airs on Nick."

A tap on the Porter Ricks Memorial Scuba Mask to Gold Level Alert Viewer Varakorn. Many thanks, Varakorn!


The Venture Bros. 2003 -

Courtesy Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network

DAD #1: Dr. Rusty Venture (James Urbaniak) / Widower

DAD #1'S JOB: Scientist

KIDS OF DAD #1: Hank (Christopher McCulloch), Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas)(teens -- although...)

WHERE'S MOM #1?: they "don't have a mom" (pilot ep) or she's crazy, or they're clones without a bio-mom

STAND-IN "MOM #1": Brock Sampson (Patrick Warburton) / Bodyguard

DAD #2: Dr. Byron Orpheus (Steve Ratazzi) / Divorced

DAD #2'S JOB: Necromancer

KIDS OF DAD #2: Triana (Lisa Hammer)(teen)

WHERE'S MOM #2?: Wife ran off with a younger necromancer

STAND-IN "MOM #2": None identified

Right down to the Robot-Eye-on-Stilts in the opening credits, this is a spot-on parody of Jonny Quest.

Patrick Warburton (of the live-action The Tick fame) gets the plum assignment of voicing the Race Bannon character.

In Season 2, we learn that Hank and Dean are clones, and have had as many as sixteen previous "renditions" - - all have whom met horrifying deaths from either enemies of Doc Venture, or just unfortunate household accidents involving booby-traps or hoverbike mishaps

Here's a rundown from Alert Viewer Cassidy Peterson, who gets the tag on spotting this series:

Father is Dr. Rusty Venture, sons Hank & Dean. Their mother has only been mentioned once, and explanation was prevented by the "convenient distraction" ploy, in this case Dr. Venture's date leaning on her car horn outside. He did, however, seem hesitant to respond, although he was prepared to speak before being interrupted and leaving. (episode where mother is mentioned: Mid-Life Chrysalis)

Side characters include Dr. Orpheus, who is renting extra space from Dr. Venture. Orpheus is another single dad! His daughter is the gothic Triana. Mother has not been mentioned as of yet. (Orpheus & Treana are introduced in episode: Eeney, Meeny... Magic!)

How many seasons will it last? Keep watching...


Complete Savages 2004

Courtesy ABC Television

ABC

DAD: Nick Savage (Keith Carradine) / Unknown Marital Status

DAD'S JOB: Unknown

KIDS: Sam (Andrew Eiden), Jack (Shaun Sipos), Chris (Erik von Detten), Kyle (Evan Ellingson), T.J.(Jason Dolley), Jimmy(Vincent Ventresca)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": 20 fired housekeepers

The rumors were true: Mel Gibson's first production after The Passion of the Christ was a show about a TV Single Dad.

ABC explains:

Meet the Savage brothers. They smell. They're slobs. And they love it that way. Executive producer Mel Gibson's real life experiences of raising a brood of boys provide the basis for a take-no-prisoners comedy.

Raised by their single dad, the Savage boys have had a succession of housekeepers - over 20 at last count - to pick up after them. Well, today that comes to an end. Dad Nick wants his boys to learn the skills women don't seem to take so much joy in anymore - you know, cooking, cleaning, laundry. Somehow this dad is going to turn his loutish boys into independent men, the kind any girl could take home to her mother. This is going to be some battle because Nick, just like his sons, is still a boy at heart.

Producers Mike Scully and Julie Thacker Scully, writers for "The Simpsons," add their own family experience into the mix for a funny, honest take on raising kids. It reminds us that children come with their own personalities and problems, and that none of them comes with instructions.


Desperate Housewives 2004

Desperate Housewives

ABC

DAD: (Unknown) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Unknown

KIDS: Unknown

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. But narrating.

STAND-IN "MOM": Probably all the other mommies in the neighborhood.

Not clear how many kids are in this weird soap opera. Mom's dead, and tells Twilight Zone stories about her surviving family and all her neighbors.

ABC sez:

Looking down on her friends and family isn't a way of life for Mary Alice Scott. It's a way of death. One day, in her perfect house, in the loveliest of suburbs, Mary Alice ended it all. Now she's taking us into the lives of her family, friends and neighbors, commenting from her elevated POV. Her husband's acting suspicious, the neighbors are talking, and her girlfriends are wondering why one of their own would do something so rash… and so messy. From her unique vantage point, Mary Alice sees more now than she ever did alive and she's planning to share all the delicious secrets that hide behind every neighbor's closed door in this seemingly perfect American suburb. The writer of Melrose Place and General Hospital (Executive Producer Charles Pratt Jr.) has helped create a primetime soap with a truly contemporary take on happily ever after.


Kevin Hill 2004

Kevin Hill

UPN

DAD: Kevin Hill (Taye Diggs) / single

DAD'S JOB: Hotshot Entertainment Lawyer

KIDS: six-month old daughter of cousin

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": George (Patrick Breen) / Gay Nanny

UPN lifted this idea from Fox's 1999 series, Holding The Baby, which in turn was lifted from Granada TV's (UK) series Holding The Baby. Neither previous series was a commercial success. And neither was this go-round.

UPN spills it this way:

KEVIN HILL stars Taye Diggs as a 28-year-old, self-made, hotshot entertainment lawyer in New York City with the ultimate bachelor life--a high-power job, plenty of pretty ladies and enough money to buy whatever he wants. Through all of his exploits, he is joined by his buddy, the charming and witty Dame (Jon Seda). But, Kevin's whole life turns upside down when he's left to raise the six-month-old daughter of his cousin, who unexpectedly passed away. After figuring out how to deal with bottles, diapers and his new no-nonsense, gay nanny George (Patrick Breen), Kevin quits his workaholic law firm for a flex-time, boutique law office, Grey & Associates, owned and staffed completely by women. Kevin must adjust his attitude when dealing with his new co-workers, who include Jessie Grey (Michael Michele), a professional single mom and boss; Nicolette Raye (Christina Hendricks), the office's most underestimated legal weapon; and Veronica Carter (Kate Levering), a whip-smart diva, who previously had a one-night stand with Kevin. Despite continuing temptation from his party buddies, Kevin is determined to walk the line between the women at his job, the women that he chases, and the baby girl in the crib.

Too many characters. Too many women. And as it turned out, not too many episodes.


Veronica Mars 2004-2005

Veronica Mars

UPN

DAD: Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni)/ unknown marital status

DAD'S JOB: Private Investigator

KIDS: Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell)(17)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, possibly.

STAND-IN "MOM": unknown

Calling a character "Nancy Drew" wouldn't be hip now, would it? Consider "Veronica Mars" - - *that* is a cool name.

Here's trivia for Galaxy Quest fans: two actors on TV Single Dad shows on UPN this year are alums from that movie. Patrick Breen, the nanny on Kevin Hill played Quell (the alien who worshipped Alan Rickman's pseudo-Vulcan character). Enrico Colantoni played the alien leader Malthasar. Will Missi Pyle make the hat trick?

How UPN wanted us to think about the show:

VERONICA MARS is set in the wealthy, seaside community of Neptune, where the rich and powerful make the rules, own the town and the high school, and desperately try to keep their dirty little secrets just that…secret. Unfortunately for them, there's Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) a smart, fearless 17-year-old, apprentice private investigator dedicated to solving the town's toughest mysteries. During the day, Veronica must still negotiate high school like any average teenage girl. Along with fellow outcast, sophomore Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III), she bravely maneuvers her classes, wary of former in-crowd friends, like ex-boyfriend Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn) and his best friend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), and edgy outsiders, like Weevil (Francis Capra) and his P.C.H. Bike Club boys. At night, Veronica looks after her former-Sheriff father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) and helps with his struggling, new private investigator business. By sneaking through back alleys and scoping out no-tell motels with a telescopic-lens camera and her math book, Veronica attempts to uncover the California beach town's darkest secrets, including who killed her best friend and Duncan's sister, Lilly, and created a scandal that cost her father his job, his home and wife. Pushed to the edge of this multicultural, venomous little Peyton Place, Veronica Mars relentlessly continues to search for evidence that will clear her father's name and get her back into the "in-crowd," but what she finds may tear the town of Neptune apart at the seams.

I guess "The Hardy Boys" will be renamed "The Brothers Shizzle."


Arrested Development 2004-2006

FOX

Photo © 2004 Imagine Entertainment

DAD: Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman)/Widower

DAD'S JOB: Acting President of The Bluth Company

KIDS: George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera)(15)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Possibly Tobias Fünke (David Cross), Uncle

FOX is really, really good at canceling quality shows, and this was one of them.

Michael Bluth paid little attention to his son, even failing to notice major details of his son's life. Young George Michael had fallen in love with his own first-cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat) a girl unwisely quartered in the same bedroom with George Michael. Why yes, the comedy was quite "edgy."


Lost 2004 -

Photo © 2005 ABC/DisneyHarrold Perrineau,
Malcolm David Kelley

ABC

DAD: Michael(Harrold Perrineau)/Divorced

DAD'S JOB: Survivor

KIDS: Walt (Malcolm David Kelley)(9)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Possibly Vincent (Walt's golden retriever), Sun (Yoon-jin Kim), Jin-Soo (Daniel Dae Kim), or Locke (Terry O'Quinn)

A great example of a TV Single Dad who wasn't apparent from the network ads: Dad Michael is stuck on the Isla de la Muerta with his son Walt and 40 other survivors of a plane crash.

Alert Viewer Danielle takes up the story:

I've checked the rules, and I think Michael Dawson (played by Harold Perrineau Jr.) on ABC's LOST qualifies as a TV Single Dad. He's been in sole custody of his son Walt (played by Malcom David Kelley) since the first episode of the show. Walt's mom died (shown in a flashback episode), but she and Michael were divorced long before that happened; Walt's stepfather gave him over to Michael. He's the active parental figure, sort of the sole provider, definitely the real father, and it doesn't look likely that he's going to be getting married any time soon (they're stuck on an island. I don't think they brought a priest).

The only place I see some room for doubt is in the head of the household-- Michael's the head of the family unit, but the 'household' is about 40 people stuck on a deserted island in the Pacific. Michael isn't the main provider for either himself or Walt, but considering the circumstances, I think he dodges the Grandpa Munster Mortgage Act...


Bleach 2006

© 2005 Tokyo TV/Cartoon NetworkCast of Cartoon Network's
"Bleach"

Cartoon Network

DAD: Isshin Kurosaki (voiced by Patrick Seitz) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Runs a medical clinic

KIDS: Ichigo Kurosaki (voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch)(15)

WHERE'S MOM?:Masaki Kurosaki - Dead, killed in a dojo.

STAND-IN "MOM": Rukia Kuchiki (voiced by Michelle Ruff) - "soul catcher"

I worry about opening the floodgates on anime, because some of the storylines border on soap opera plots (forbidden under The Rules) but this one gets allowed because it's Cartoon Network and they do choose sophisticated dramas sometimes.

Easiest way to understand the plot is to combine The Sixth Sense with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, plus a little bit of Dead Like Me.

Ichigo Kurosaki is a typical teenage boy who also just happens to "see dead people." One day, he meets a "shinigami," or "soul catcher" named Rukia Kuchiki. She captures evil spirits and puts them back in whatever underworld place they came from. In fighting evil spirits, she winds up giving all her demon-fighting abilities to Ichiago. Of course, she turns into a Japanese schoolgirl to guide Ichigo on the proper ways of ghostbusting. Wacky anime hijinks ensue, fer sure.


iCarly 2007 -

© NickelodeonMiranda Cosgrove

Nickelodeon

DAD: Spencer Shay (Jerry Trainor) / Single - - Older brother

DAD'S JOB: Legal guardian

KIDS: Carly (Miranda Cosgrove) (14)

WHERE'S MOM?:Dead? Carly and Spencer's dad is stationed on a submarine.

STAND-IN "MOM": unknown

This show is going to seem quite dated in a decade or less. Carly is the host of an Internet webcast called "iCarly" and is subsequently internet-famous.

Typical of older-brother-raising-younger-sister shows (see Hank in the 1960s), Carly is the cool and responsible member of the family, compared with out-of-control, unprepared older brother Spencer.

Miranda Cosgrove was a natural casting choice for the child-prodigy personality of Carly, having already displayed her acting chops as the stereotypical prodigy foil of Jack Black in the film School of Rock.


Hannah Montana 2006 -

© 2006 DisneyMiley and Billy Ray Cyrus

Disney Channel

DAD: Robbie (Billy Ray Cyrus) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Miley's Manager

KIDS: Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) / 14, Jackson (Jason Earles) /10

WHERE'S MOM?: Susan Stewart (Brooke Shields) / Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

I waited for *years* for someone to mention this show. NOBODY ever mentioned it. I mean, I've been in radio stations all over the country and nobody mentioned it.

This show is the inverse of the 1968 Bobby Sherman show Sunshine where this time, it's the daughter who's the star of the family. The show also uses TV Single Dad Plot #1 (See The Rules), as Dad has moved poor Miley and Jackson out from Tennessee to the wilds of Malibu. Horrors.

Brooke Shields was added as a recurring character, playing Miley and Jackson's dead mom. She appears in dreams and fantasy episodes, somewhat akin to Melina Kanakaredes' mom in Providence.


Shark 2006 - 2007

© 2006 CBSJames Woods as Sebastian Stark

CBS

DAD: Sebastian Stark (James Woods) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Cutthroat Defense Attorney turned L.A. Prosecutor

KIDS: Julie Stark (Danielle Panabaker) / 16

WHERE'S MOM?: Divorced - - moved to New York City

STAND-IN "MOM": The housekeeper (unknown)

The Tiffany Network ended a one-year hiatus on new TV Single Dad shows with this James Woods-driven crime drama. The pilot episode was directed by Spike Lee, no less!

Heartless shyster Sebastian Stark gets a come-uppence when one of his clients winds up committing murder thanks to Stark's work getting him off for a previous arrest. Stark joins the city's high-profile crime division, and sets out to right his previous wrongs.

Expect the Daddy/Daughter relationship to have a few hostage situations with pretty Julie Stark at the business end of a big knife.


Twenty Good Years 2006

© 2006 NBCJeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow

NBC

DAD #1: John Mason (John Lithgow) / Single

DAD #1'S JOB: Unknown

KID #1: Stella Mason (Heather Burns) / twenties?

WHERE'S MOM #1?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM #1": unknown

DAD #2: Jeffrey Pyne (Jeffrey Tambor) / Single

DAD #2'S JOB: Unknown

KID #2: Hugh Pyne (Jake Sandvig) / 19

WHERE'S MOM #2?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM #2": unknown

The Odd Couple meets Two and a Half Men.

John Lithgow's free-spirit character tries to get his stodgy childhood friend (Jeffrey Tambor's character) to live a little, as they've only got "20 years left" of fun-seeking to enjoy.

There hasn't been a true double TV Single Dad show on television since Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Most people remember that Captain Sisko was a Single Dad, but forget that the Ferengi Rom was also a Single Dad for the majority of the run of the series.) Unfortunately, it didn't play as well as Two and a Half Men did on CBS. Gone after just 3 episodes.


Ugly Betty 2006 -

© 2006 ABC/ERIC LIEBOWITZAlan Dale as Corporate Mogul Bradford Meade

ABC

DAD #1: Bradford Meade (Alan Dale) / Divorced

DAD #1'S JOB: Publishing Mogul

KIDS #1: Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius) / twenties?

WHERE'S MOM #1?: unknown

STAND-IN "MOM #1": Betty "the Ugly" (America Ferrera) / secretary

DAD #2: Ignacio Suarez (Tony Plana) / Widowed

DAD #2'S JOB: Unknown

KIDS #2: Betty (America Ferrera), Hilda

WHERE'S MOM #2?: Unknown - dead

STAND-IN "MOM #2": Unknown

Need more details about the marital situation on Dad, but apparently the son relies on Dad for finances and a job and a home, so he's definitely a dependent.

Dad hires plain-jane Betty (America Ferrera) to keep an eye on son Daniel's doings. Hilarity ensues, or something. Based on a really popular South American dramedy.

A welcome return for second-time TV Single Dad Tony Plana - - we last saw him doing the single dad bit on Showtimes Resurrection Blvd.


Vanished 2006

© 2006 Fox Broadcasting Co./Peter Iovino/FOXJohn Allen Nelson and Joanne Kelly

FOX

DAD: Jeffrey Collins (John Allen Nelson) / Separated

DAD'S JOB: U.S. Senator

KIDS: Max Collins (John Patrick Amedori)/ teens? - - Marcy Collins (Margarita Levieva) / teens?

WHERE'S MOM?: Sara Collins (Joanne Kelly) / Kidnapped

STAND-IN "MOM": unknown

I think writers come up with shows like this just to stretch the envelope on TV Single Dad definitions.

Mom gets kidnapped in the opening episode, and so Senator Dad is raising the kids alone. This show qualified as much as Veronica Mars does, so I'm counting it as a true TV Single Dad show.

A little six-week series that came and went with nary a blip on the Neilsen meters.


Gossip Girl 2008 -

© 2006 Fox Broadcasting Co./Peter Iovino/FOXCast of "Gossip Girl" Courtesy CBS Productions

DAD #1: Howie "The Captain" Archibald (San Robards) / Divorced

DAD #1'S JOB: Rich Guy

KIDS #1: Nate (Chace Crawford)/ teens?

WHERE'S MOM #1?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM #1": Unknown

DAD #2: Rufus Collins (Matthew Settle) / Divorced

DAD #2'S JOB: Art Gallery Owner / Former Rocker

KIDS #2: Max Collins (Penn Badgley)/ teens?

WHERE'S MOM #2?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM #2": unknown

Teen soapers without at least one TV Single Dad? Not possible! This mid-season replacement started as a filler for the strike-depleted CW network in the early spring of 2008, and managed to find legs in the midst of a very down season.

Thanks to Alert Viewer "Meggggg" for the tip on the show!


Castle 2009 -

Nathan Fillion

ABC

DAD: Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) / Divorced Guy

DAD'S JOB: Mystery Writer

KIDS: Alexis Castle (Molly C. Quinn) / 14-ish

WHERE'S MOM?: Meredith - divorced

STAND-IN "MOM": Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan) / Grandmother

Yep, here's someone I won't get to interview

Nathan Fillion gets to be a combination Joan Wilder / Ellery Queen's dad-type detective writer who is prone to adventures. Unlike Jessica Fletcher, though, he's probably capable of climbing fire escapes and dodging bullets. The 14-year-old daughter is probably in the script to act as a hostage every third episode.

And the PR Department said (and please understand the names for the characters were different in the pilot):Cross a mystery novelist with a rock star and you would get Nick Castle. He's got Jagger's swagger and James Bond's way with the ladies. Although the handsome writer seems to have everything - fame, fans, and females - he's grown weary of it all. In fact, he's just killed off the legendary character who's sold millions of books for him. But when a real-world copycat murderer starts staging murder scenes from Nick's novels and NYPD Detective Beckett asks him for help, Nick feels the old blood pumping in his veins again. Is it the thrill of the chase - or the fact that Beckett is a strikingly beautiful woman? When Nick's freewheeler detective style clashes with Beckett's conservative approach, the sparks certainly fly - leading to both danger and a hint of romance. Keeping him grounded are his washed-up Broadway diva mother and his quick-witted teenage daughter; his poker playing buddies James Patterson, Sue Grafton, and Stephen King; and his long-suffering ex-wife Gina, who also happens to be his editor. From producer Armyan Bernstein (Spy Game, The Guardian, Children of Men) comes a comedic crime procedural centered around smooth yet self-effacing literary phenomenon Nick Castle. If it was a book, you wouldn't be able to put it down.


Glee 2009 -

DAD: Burt Hummell / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Mechanic

KIDS: Kurt Hummell / 16-ish

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Dad's possible girlfriend

Don't have all the details for this show yet. I'm compiling the data, so it should have a complete writeup shortly!