The 80’s

The Eighties marked a return to Single Dad TV shows' focus on the relationship between Dads and their kids in the home environment. Careers of the Single Dad took the back seat in story development.

Novel mixes of "tag-team Dads" appeared, slightly altering the definition of the Single Dad. Could you really identify someone as a "Single Dad" if they lived with another "Single Dad?"

Also, notice the downsizing of the TV Single Dad families - most of the families in the 80's shows had only one child. Quite a paring-back from the 60's troikas.

First, the Questionable Shows of the 1980s...

  • Still the Beaver

    Aired: 1986
    Still the Beaver


    Questionable Dad: Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Unclear

    KIDS: Oliver (John Snee)(9), Ward ‘Kip’ Cleaver(Kipp Marcus)(8)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced – no mention of where she is

    STAND-IN “MOM”: June Cleaver(Barbara Billingsley)

    Why It Doesn’t Count: In this series, the now-grown-up Beaver Cleaver of Leave It to Beaver fame is divorced, with theoretical custody of his two boys. The failure point on this series is that Beaver has moved back in with his mom, June (Barbara Billingsley), in his mom and dad’s old house. June, therefore, is head of household and therefore fails under The Grandpa Munster Law of "What Makes A TV Single Dad?" — "The Single Dad must be the head of the household in which his children reside". Yes, I’m being a little hard on the Beav, but rules are rules.

  • The Devlin Connection

    Aired: 1986 NBC

    Questionable Dad: Brian Devlin (Rock Hudson)

    Questionable Dad’s Job: Director of the Los Angeles Performing Arts Center

    Questionable Kid:Nick Corsello(Jack Scalia)(28)

    Why It Doesn’t Count: I really wish this one counted because it’s such a kooky concept: Brian Devlin, retired rich-guy private eye, lives in Beverly Hills in a cultured, Banacek-like lifestyle. All of a sudden, his long-lost son (Nick Corsello, played by Jack Scalia!) shows up for tips on how to be a PI like Daddy.

    The flag on the play is that the son doesn’t live in the House of Dad. So he fails under the Mindy McConnell Occupancy Rule. Sorry, Rock.

Next, the Hall of Fame Shows:

  • Me & Maxx

    Aired: 1980 NBC

    DAD: Norman Davis (Joe Santos) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Ticket Broker

    KIDS: Maxx (11) (Melissa Michaelsen)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced, around.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Barbara (Jenny Sullivan) / Business Partner

    Never saw this show, and based on what I’ve heard about it, I’m kinda glad I didn’t!

    Joe Santos (better known to us TV junkies as Lt. Dennis Becker on The Rockford Files) played Norman Davis, a creep who abandoned his wife and daughter so he could be a groovy bachelor. So, a few years go by and the ex-wife decides she needs a break from being a parent. So, the ex drops 11-year-old Maxx off at Dad’s house. Dad is none too pleased about this, because her presence was messing up his swinging lifestyle. Oh, but of course he found out he really loved his little girl, even when she’d scare off the new girlfriends. Ick! Doubly sad because it was created by James Komack, who produced The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

    Childhood precociousness was very much in evidence with Maxx. Apparently she watched a lot of TV and picked up quite an erudite vocabulary.

    This show was a mid-season replacement for B.J. & the Bear, and had about the same level of intelligent writing. It took a ratings bullet in the head at the beginning of the 1980 fall season (actually, due to the 1980 writers’ strike, the fall season started in January of 1981!) and was replaced, thankfully, by Hill Street Blues.

  • Ladies’ Man

    Aired: 1980-81 CBS

    DAD: Alan Thackeray (Lawrence Pressman) / Single Guy

    DAD’S JOB: Writer for Women’s Life magazine

    KIDS: Amy Thackeray (Natasha Ryan) (10)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Betty Brill (Karen Morrow) / Neighbor

    Toilet seats DOWN, please! This was an all-female show, with the exception of dad Alan, who worked at a women’s magazine publishing company. Lots of Daddy/Daughter interactions with Alan’s 8-year-old, Amy. A plotline that was easy to beat into an early grave, this show lasted from Halloween to Groundhog’s Day.

  • I’m a Big Girl Now

    Aired: 1980-81 ABC

    DAD: Dr. Benjamin Douglass, DDS (Danny Thomas) / Abandoned-Separated?

    DAD’S JOB: Dentist

    KIDS: Diana Cassidy (Diana Canova) (20-ish)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Ran off with Dr. Douglass’s partner

    STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know.

    This is one of those bend-the-definition-around-the-plot shows in order to qualify for the Hall of Fame.

    Here’s the detail: Dr. Douglass’s wife runs off with his partner, leaving him alone in a big house. Meanwhile, Dr. Douglass’s daughter, Diana, gets a divorce at the same time. So, in paraphrasing The Odd Couple: Can two divorced Douglasses share a house, without driving each other crazy?

    I get mail arguing about this show sometimes, claiming that Diana shouldn’t count under the Mindy McConnell Rule – that she is self-sufficient and is not living "under" her father’s rule. My ruling? It *does* count – the house is in Dr. Douglass’s name and she’s living under his roof. If you disagree, go build your own website. Sheesh.

    Of note is that the show is produced by Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, creators of Ms. Canova’s previous television outing, Soap.

  • Shannon

    Aired: 1981-82 CBS

    DAD: Jack Shannon (Kevin Dobson) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Cop

    KIDS: Johnny Shannon (Charlie Fields) (10)

    WHERE’S MOM?: "untimely death"

    STAND-IN "MOM": Paul (Al Ruscio) and Irene (Karen Kondazian) Locatelli / In-Laws

    Okay, here is a TEMPLATE for writing a Single Dad show: "Following the tragic death of his wife, single dad [name here] moves his family from [name of place] to [far away place from that original location]."

    Here’s the details from THIS show: Following the tragic death of his wife, single dad and NYPD cop Jack Shannon moves his family from New York City to San Francisco.

    The reason for moving, according to the plot, was so that little Johnny could be closer to Jack’s in-laws. Of course, Jack joins the SFPD and finds they don’t DO things the way he did "back East." Gee, from one template to another. And the show lasted from Election Day to Easter.

  • Smurfs

    Aired: 1981-92 NBC

    DAD: Papa Smurf/Single

    DAD’S JOB: Be the smurfiest

    KIDS: 9,999 Smurfs and 1 Smurfette

    WHERE’S MOM?:There IS no Mom – they’re SMURFS!

    STAND-IN "MOM": Smurfette?

    Belgian cartoonist Peyo Culiford invented these blue creatures in the late 1970’s, and licensed Smurf toys for sale in America. NBC president Fred Silverman, noticing how much his own daughter loved her Smurf doll, quickly cranked out a cartoon series.

    This show, which was the smash hit of NBC’s 1981 cartoon lineup, stayed on TV in one form or another for more than a decade and a half, including reruns on cable networks.

  • Father Murphy

    Aired: 1981-84 NBC

    DAD: Father Murphy (Merlin Olsen)/ Single

    DAD’S JOB: Drifter — Hiding out from crooks, winds up impersonating a reverend at an orphanage

    KIDS: About 15 orphans

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, probably. A few years. Unknown cause.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Mae Woodward (Katherine Cannon)

  • Silver Spoons

    Aired: 1982-86 NBC

    DAD: Edward Stratton III (Joel Higgins) / Divorced (married final season)

    DAD’S JOB: Wealthy guy who plays with toys (just happened to own a toy company, too)

    KIDS: Ricky Stratton (Ricky Schroeder) (11)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced. Mom dumped Ricky in military school. Ricky finagled a way to live with the Dad he never knew until he was 10.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Kate Summers (Erin Gray)

    This show qualifies by the skin of its teeth, as Dad married the secretary (Kate Summers) in the last season. Silver Spoons was about role reversals, mostly. Ricky was a lot more mature in attitude than Dad. The downside of Ricky was that he did not have as much fun as his old man. Ricky’s positive influence on his Dad was that he could reconcile his father with the more dour members of his family, especially Edward’s own father (played by John Houseman). Perhaps the best influence Ricky had on his Dad was in his ability to get Dad to focus on being a real parent, instead of just a selfish boy with expensive toys.

  • Star of the Family

    Aired: 1982 ABC

    DAD: Buddy Krebs (Brian Dennehy) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Fire Captain

    KIDS: Jennie Lee Krebs (Kathy Maisnik) (16)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Ran off with a bellhop

    STAND-IN "MOM": "Moose" (Judy Pioli) / Jennie’s Agent

    Think Hannah Montana, but country/pop crossover. Jennie Lee was a talented country/pop crossover singer, and though just 16 years old, she had all the signs of being a hit singer. Trouble was, Dad Buddy didn’t want his little girl out doing concerts and acting grown-up at all.

    The story framework seemed a little thin, so the writers tacked on this big pile of weirdos at Dad’s firehouse. That part of the show was like Barney Miller set in a firehouse. The show didn’t start any fires and was reduced to ashes by Christmas of 1982.

  • St. Elsewhere

    Aired: 1982-88 NBC

    DAD: Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Hospital Chief of Staff

    KIDS: Lizzie (Dana Short) (15) Tommy (Chad Allen) (9)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

    Don’t forget to mail in your note about the show saying, "in the last episode, it was revealed that Dr. Westphall wasn’t really a doctor and the whole series was just a dream of his autistic son."

  • Gun Shy

    Aired: 1983 CBS

    DAD: Russell Donovan (Barry Van Dyke) / Single Guy

    DAD’S JOB: Gambler

    KIDS: Clovis (Keith Mitchell, then Adam Rich) (10), Celia (Bridgette Anderson)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know that, either

    Six, count’em, six episodes. That’s how long this little comedy lasted. Russell Donovan won the two kids in a card game out in the Wild West town of Quake City, California, and tried to raise them as best he could in the rip-roaring little town.

    I’d go into more detail about the plot, but it was just a TV version of The Apple Dumpling Gang. Go watch that movie: Bill Bixby (hey! another Single Dad role for Mr. Eddie’s Father!) played Russell Donovan to a tee. Why tamper with perfection?

  • Inspector Gadget

    Aired: 1983-85 Nickelodeon

    DAD: Inspector Gadget (voice of Don Adams) / Single Guy / Uncle

    DAD’S JOB: Police Inspector

    KIDS: Penny (voice of Holly Berger [1983], then Cree Summer [1984-85]) (10)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know. Dad’s whereabouts a mystery, too.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Perhaps Brain, the dog (voice of Frank Welker)

    Nancy Drew, except it’s (a) a cartoon, and (b) the single uncle is a RoboCop-like semi-android.

    Another good analogy is Remington Steel, where the female character is the power behind the image. However, the Remington Steel character actually had a brain in his head, compared to the Inspector Clouseau-like Gadget.

  • Double Trouble

    Aired: 1984-85 NBC

    DAD: Art Foster (Donnelly Rhodes) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Dance Studio Owner

    KIDS: Kate Foster (Jean Sagal), Allison Foster (Liz Sagal) (17)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead

    STAND-IN "MOM": Beth McConnell (Patricia Richardson) / Dance Instructor

    The Patty Duke Show without all the special effects. Kate and Allie (you tell ME where they got the names — the eponymous CBS show appeared a month before this show first aired) were teen twin daughters of Art Foster (played by Donnelly Rhodes, whom most people remember as Dutch, Chester’s escaped ex-con pal in Soap), living in Des Moines, Iowa. The plotlines almost exactly matched Ms. Duke’s show of two decades previous, with Allison being the Cathy Lane role (quiet, studious) and Kate being the Patty role (rambunctious little bundle of Trouble Waiting to Happen). And they did the old Kate-pretends-she’s-Allie bit. Zzzzzz.

    Cool trivia on this show is that the twins were the real-life sisters of a famous TV Mom of the late 80’s and 90’s: Katie Sagal, who achieved her fame as Peg on Married With Children. Of course the other famous Mom icon in this cast is Patricia Richardson, who played Mrs. Tim Taylor on Home Improvement in the 90’s.

  • Down to Earth

    Aired: 1984-87 TBS

    DAD:Richard Preston (Stephen Johnson [1984], then Dick Sargent [1984-87]) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Realtor

    KIDS: Duane (David Kaufmann)(14), Elizabeth “Lissy” (Kyle Richards)(11) , J.J. (Randy Josselyn)(10)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Quite Dead.

    STAND-IN "MOM":Ethel MacDoogan (Carol Mansell) / Ex-flapper, now a housekeeper on Earth and an angel who’s working her way up to winged status

    Syndicated sitcom about a flapper who was run over by a trolley in 1925, then sent back to Earth 60 years later to help out a TV Single Dad family in order to earn her wings. Similar to Clarence’s job in "It’s a Wonderful Life.". J.J. Preston wished for an angel to help the family and his prayers were answered when Ethel arrived. In return, Ethel orders him to keep her true identity a secret.

    HUGE tip of the Andy Griffith Memorial Sherriff’s hat to Alert Viewer Jerrod Pietrala for the info and follow-ups on this little-known series. Many thanks for all the details, Jerrod!

  • Who’s the Boss?

    Aired: 1984-93 ABC

    DAD: Tony Micelli (Tony Danza) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Housekeeper

    KIDS: Samantha (11)

    WHERE’S MOM?: She’s DEAD! (See notes below)

    STAND-IN "MOM": Angela Bower (Judith Light)

    Update: 12/15/96: Over the past few months, I’ve been getting lots of mail about Sam’s mom being alive. Supposedly there’s some single episode where Sam’s mom turns up, talks to Tony, then Tony convinces her to leave without contacting Sam. I have never seen this episode. Many WTB fanatics have told me they’ve never seen the episode. So, I wrote the best source I could contact: Alyssa Milano(!)

    Here is her reply:

    Hi Jim;

    Tony’s wife was written into WTB as being dead….that’s was why Tony took the job in the first place…so Sam would have a women figure in her life….happy holidays.


    Case closed.

    Update: Or is it? Here’s additional info from Alert Viewer ‘Majenta’:

    Hi! I know, you said "Case closed," but I remember the episode of "WTB?" people may be thinking about. I think it’s the one where Samantha sits for an oil painting as a gift to Tony. Tony remembers that his wife was artistic, and somehow he gets the idea that while he was on the road with his baseball team, his wife might have had an affair with an artist. He has a casual talk with Samantha while they’re shooting hoops and he asks what she and Mom used to do for fun all those times when it was just the two of them. Samantha mentions things like playing Barbies, just the 2 of them or with a friend of Sam’s who liked to dress Ken in Barbie’s clothes, etc. Tony says, "Did you and Mom ever dress up and go out?" Samantha says they used to visit their neighbor Mrs. Rossini a lot, and sometimes Samantha would spend the night there. She didn’t know where Mom went, but she did know that Mom never turned up until morning. Well, that sounds dodgy, doesn’t it? He goes to Mrs. Rossini, who says Mom (Marie) had been taking an art class and sometimes it broke up pretty late, so why drag Samantha out of sleep to lug her home when Mrs R. didn’t mind keeping her for the night?

    Maybe that’s the one everybody’s thinking of. If so, I’m happy to help. Bye, and thanks for your site!

  • Gimme a Break!

    Aired: 1981-87 NBC

    DAD: Carl Kanisky (Dolph Sweet) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Police Chief

    KIDS: Katie (17), Julie (15), and Samantha (12)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Died just before series started

    STAND-IN "MOM": Nellie Ruth ("Nell") Harper (Nell Carter)

    The focus in this show is in the stand-in mom, played by Nell Carter. Nell took care of the three girls, acting as a surrogate mother for them, while sparring with Police Chief Kanisky, their dad.

    This show isn’t that much different from Hazel, if you leave out the mom.

    A flap of the Lorne Greene Memorial Leather Vest at Jo Ann Veneziano ( for the information about the girls’ ages. Thanks, Jo Ann!

  • Zorro and Son

    Aired: 1983 CBS

    DAD: Don Diego de la Vega (Henry Darrow) / Bachelor(?)

    DAD’S JOB: Gay Blade

    KIDS: Don Carlos de la Vega (Paul Regina) (teens?)

    WHERE’S MOM?: unknown

    STAND-IN "MOM": Bernardo (Bill Dana) / Housekeeper

    How could you not like a Single Dad show where the housekeeper is played by Mr. Jose Jimenez himself?

    An extremely short-lived show (3 months), this rendition of the Zorro legend was tongue-in-cheek — almost as campy as the 60’s Batman series. Zorro, now a little too old for buckling his swash, teams up with his "girl-crazy" son to right wrongs and make nice for the people of Mexican-era L.A. Wacky guest stars and cool supporting cast members populated this show — my favorite being one of the sidekicks of the evil Commandante Pico, played by John Moschitta. Moschitta made his name in the 80’s by being the "Motor Mouth" guy in the Wendy’s/Federal Express/Galoob MicroMachines commercials.

  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

    Aired: 1983-94 Syndicated

    DAD: Duncan (Alan Oppenheimer) / Single

    DAD’S JOB: Man-At-Arms for Castle Grayskull

    KIDS: Teela (Linda Gary) (20-ish)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Nearby, in disguise

    STAND-IN "MOM": Sorceress (arguable), or possibly Queen Marlena / Local Royalty

    Confession: I was smitten with Teela. Apparently, so were many other guys, because there were no Teela action figures on the shelves when this show aired.

    Here’s the scoop – – Teela was the daughter of the sorceress Teelina, and was given to Duncan by the sorceress. Duncan’s job (as Man-at-Arms) was basically to be the official bouncer of Castle Grayskull. Teela grew up to be the bodyguard of Prince Adam of Grayskull. Adam, of course, was the Clark Kent of He-Man, so he didn’t really need to HAVE a bodyguard. At least not one with a metal bodysuit.

    A tip of the Andy Griffith Memorial Sheriff’s Hat to John Doyle for the heads-up on He-Man. Thanks, John!

  • Hometown

    Aired: 1985 CBS

    DAD: Joey Nathan (Daniel Stern) / Single

    DAD’S JOB: Cook

    KIDS: Dylan Nathan (Mikey Viso) (8)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Don’t know.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know.

    This show didn’t focus on the Single Dad as the main character. Joey was one of an ensemble of characters within a larger story of kids from the 60’s who grew up and returned to their home town. You could say this show was a lot like the ABC series, thirtysomething, except that this show appeared two years before the ABC show. I guess thirtysomething is like this show, then. So, that being the case, Daniel Stern played the Peter Horton role of the easy-going "best buddy" of the main characters.

    Guess the thirty-something audience wasn’t ready to watch a show like this yet. The series cratered in the ratings and was buried in two months.

  • Wildside

    Aired: 1985 ABC

    DAD: Brodie Hollister (William Smith) / widower

    DAD’S JOB: Rancher/Crimefighter

    KIDS: Sutton Hollister (J. Eddie Peck) (teens)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead!

    STAND-IN "MOM": Cally Oaks (Meg Ryan) / Western Gal

    If you were falling out of an airplane and you had to yell out what this show was like, you’d say, "IT’S LIKE BATMAN, BUT OUT IN THE WILD WESSSSSST!!!" Brodie and Sutton were secret crime fighters, who teamed up with a bunch of locals in the county of Wildside, California to battle evil and such. Hey, and Meg Ryan was one of the locals. Cool, huh?

  • Captain Caveman

    Aired: 1986 ABC

    DAD: Captain Caveman ( voice of Mel Blanc) / apparently a bachelor

    DAD’S JOB: Crimefighting Neanderthal

    KIDS: Cavey Jr. (voice of Charlie Adler) (10-ish)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Unknown

    STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

    This series shouldn’t be confused with 1977’s Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels, an earlier venture of Captain Caveman. Completely encased inside episodes of Flintstone Kids, this series-within-a-series was not too dissimilar to the format of The Itchy & Scratchy Show on The Simpsons. If memory serves, this show was young Fred Flintstone’s favorite. Another paycheck for Mr. Blanc, in any case.

    A flap of the Fran Drescher Memorial Apron to Barry H. for the heads-up on this show. Thanks, Barry!

  • Defenders of the Earth

    Aired: 1986 Syndicated

    DAD #1: Flash Gordon / unknown

    DAD #1’S JOB: Crimefighter

    KIDS #1: Rick Gordon

    WHERE’S MOM #1?: Dead

    STAND-IN "MOM" #1: Unknown

    DAD #2: Mandrake/ unknown

    DAD #2’S JOB: Crimefighting Magician

    KIDS #2: Kshin

    WHERE’S MOM #2?: Dead – Dad’s dead too

    STAND-IN "MOM" #2: Unknown

    DAD #3: Lothar / unknown

    DAD #3’S JOB: Crimefighting Magician’s Sidekick

    KIDS #3: Lothar, Jr. (L.J.)

    WHERE’S MOM #3?: Unknown

    STAND-IN "MOM" #3: Unknown

    DAD #4: The Phantom / Unknown

    DAD #4’S JOB: Crimefighter

    KIDS #4: Jedda

    WHERE’S MOM #4?: Unknown

    STAND-IN "MOM" #4: Unknown

    This cartoon easily snags the "Most TV Single Dads in a Single Series" award. FOUR- count ‘ em – FOUR crimefighting Single Dad superheros teamed up with their kids on this short-lived syndicated series. Basically, a great way for Creators Features Syndicate to turn their comic strip characters into television stars in one swoop.

    Update: Alert Viewer Bianca fills us in with details about Rick Gordon’s mom – – "I just wanted to let you know that under your Defenders of the Earth listing, the Mom#1 info should be ‘dead’ (you have ‘unknown’). Rick Gordon’s mom died in one of the first episodes if not the first episode. Ming the Merciless killed her on the planet Mongo, I think while trying to transfer information out of her brain to find out where Flash was or to get some other type of information that she wouldn’t tell him."

    A tap on the Avery Brooks Memorial Communicator goes to Bianca the Gordon info. Thanks, Bianca!

  • Better Days

    Aired: 1986 CBS

    DAD: Harry Clooney (Dick O’Neill) / Grandfather – Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Retired

    KIDS: Brian McGuire (Raphael Sbarge)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Out in California with Dad

    STAND-IN "MOM": Possibly Miss Winners (Randee Heller) / English teacher

    A show like this is what makes writing about 80’s Single Dads shows SO difficult. Does it count if Mom and Dad are alive, but the single male parent around supports and cares for the child? My ruling? Yes!

    California surf-dude teen Harry Clooney got forced to move to Brooklyn and live with his grandfather, all because his dad lost his job and couldn’t afford to raise Harry out west. So, we wind up with East Coast/West Coast culture clash, and wacky hijinks ensue. Well, they ensued for the month of October, 1986, and then CBS decided it would rather have ratings than Harry Clooney. So, Better Days had its final day just two days before Halloween.

  • One Big Family

    Aired: 1986-87 Syndicated

    DAD: Jake Hatton (Danny Thomas) / Grandfather – Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Retired

    KIDS: Don Hatton (Anthony Starke), Marianne Hatton (Anastasia Fielding) (19), Brian Hatton (Michael DeLuise) (17), Kate Hatton (Alison McMillan) (14), Roger Hatton (Gabriel Damon) (8)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Killed, along with Dad. Accident.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Don Hatton / Eldest Son

    Oh, this is SO much like The Ed Wynn Show of the 50’s. Story: Mom and Dad get killed in a car wreck, leaving a Party of Five behind. So, Grandpa moves in to take care of the kids. The eldest son, Don, thinks he can take care of all of them, but Danny – er, Jake – takes over the parental role.

    A nice return for Danny Thomas — he only got to play a single dad for a year on Make Room for Daddy, and, under the Mike Brady Clause, that didn’t count.

  • Starman

    Aired: 1986-87 ABC

    DAD: The Starman- "Paul Forrester" (Robert Hays) / Alien Reconstituted Guy

    DAD’S JOB: Strange Visitor from Another World

    KIDS: Scott Hayden (C.B. Barnes) (14)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Mom, Jenny Hayden, is missing — the search is the story

    STAND-IN "MOM": Liz Baynes (Erin Gray), maybe — "Paul’s" photo-assignment manager.

    This is a toss-up, on-the-line question: What if Dad is an alien occupying the reconstituted body of another person, and actually was occupying the reconstituted body of another dad guy when he got your mom pregnant?

    This show and Sky King generate the most mail from series fans. I mean LOTS of mail. Details about episode-by-episode plot points and minutiae. My advice is: if you want more details about the series, do a search on Starman fan sites.

    The mail is very heartfelt about this show. Here’s a quote from "Chuck S." about how he sees the Starman & Son relationship, and the openness of that relationship in the series: One of the best examples of this in the show is a scene when Starman(Paul Forrester) is walking along the beach with Scott, and turns to his son and asks, "How am I doing — as a father?" The boy is stunned (as was I!), and that pretty well sums up the kind of father Starman is.Another scene has Scott turning to his dad and putting his arm around his dad’s shoulders, and saying, "how long do you think you would last without me to take care of you?" I can recall no other single dad role model on TV that was as powerful.Too bad all father/son relationships, or any relationship for that matter, couldn’t be the same. Each needed the other, and each enriched the other in immeasurable ways. And that’s what father-son relationships should be all about.

    The actor playing Scott Hayden, C.B. Barnes, is probably better known to movie-goers as Greg Brady in the Brady Bunch Movie and its sequel.

    A tap of the Ben Sisko Memorial Communicator pin for Todd Andrews ( for the information about Starman. Thanks, Todd!

  • Heart of the City

    Aired: 1986-87 ABC

    DAD: Detective Wes Kennedy (Robert Desiderio) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Police Detective

    KIDS: Kevin (16) (Jonathan Ward), Robin (15) (Christina Applegate)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Brutally murdered

    STAND-IN "MOM": Older brother Kevin, the "Rock" of the family.

    Wes Kennedy winds up being a single dad after his wife gets snuffed by your typical wild-eyed TV maniac killer. Of course the very neurotic daughter (played by the pre-Married With Children Christina Applegate) blames Detective Daddy for Mom’s death, and Wes has to deal with that animosity. Oh, and juggle the duties of rounding up the other TV maniac killers while dealing with his kids’ wacky hijinks. The tensions of work vs. home created bazillions of story opportunities. Unfortunately, the ratings didn’t support the continuation of this show, and, poof, it was gone after one season. Just in time for Robin Kennedy to become Kelly Bundy. See? There’s plusses and minuses in every show cancellation.

    Here’s a wacky tie-in: Robert Desiderio, who played the dad on this show, is married (in real life) to Judith Light, who is, of course, the stand-in mom on Who’s The Boss?, another TV Single Dad show. Small world, huh?

    A huge toss of the Porter Ricks Memorial Florsheims to Suzanne ( for pointing out this forgotten show.

    …and a wave of the Tony Danza Memorial Feather Duster at Ben Llewellyn for filling in the details on the Stand-In Mom. Thanks very much, Ben!

  • Kissyfur

    Aired: 1986-90 NBC

    DAD: Gus (voiced by Edmund Gilbert)/Widower

    DAD’s KIDS: Christopher "Kissyfur" (voiced by R.J. Williams, then Max Mier)/under-teen

    DAD’s JOB: Ferryboat operator and recovering circus bear

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead somehow. Imagine a horrible circus death.

    STAND-IN MOM: Miss Emmy Lou / Teacher of Bears

    In the pit of squirming, "pro-social" Saturday-morning cartoons that existed during the 80’s, none could have had a more nails-on-chalkboard name than this series. Just as Beaver Cleaver’s name was a corruption of "Theodore," so did poor Christopher’s mangling of his moniker cause the hideous nickname to be forever associated with this poor cub.

    Episodes of this series are strangely available in Wal-Mart cut-out racks on occasion. I have no idea why someone would think of this series as something to be visited upon a child more than once.

    A wave of the Papa Smurf Memorial Floppy White Hat to Joseph Doyle, who sent in piles of info on this series. Thanks, Joseph!

    Update: Just received a note concerning this review:


    I believe you missed the point of my series, it was for single parent children (mostly boys) not for critics like yourself.

    Creator of Kissyfur,

    Phil Mendez

    Fair enough. My son (who was right in the middle of the show’s demographic during the series’ run) agrees with Mr. Mendez. Of course, my son can’t sit through a single episode of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (one of *my* personal favorites Back in the Day) without making finger-down-throat gestures, so there’s many differences of opinion here at the Fortress of Smug.

  • Dads

    Dads 1986-87 NBC

    DAD #1: Rick Armstrong (Barry Bostwick)

    DAD #1’s JOB: Obituary writer for a Philadelphia newspaper

    DAD #1’s KIDS: Kelly (Skye Bassett)(13)

    DAD #2: Louie Mangiotti (Carl Weintraub)

    DAD #2’s JOB: Stonemason

    DAD #2’s KIDS: Kenny (12)(Jason Naylor), Allan (Eddie Castrodad)(16)

    WHERE’S MOM#1 AND MOM#2?: Dead. And Dead.

    STAND-IN "MOMS": none

    Through the auspices of the Museum of TV and Radio, I’ve managed to see an episode of this series.

    Dad Rick and Daughter Kelly move into widower Louie’s Philly house. Louie is a more-experienced TV Single Dad, having lost wife Louise (Louie and Louise?) several years earlier. Wacky hijinks, of course, ensue when Louie attempts to teach new TV Single Dad Rick how to be a better Single Dad.

    Theme music by Alf Clausen, who gave the world much of the incidental music of The Simpsons.

  • Lime Street

    Aired: 1985 ABC

    DAD:James Greyson Culver (Robert Wagner) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Detective / Horse Farmer

    DAD’S KIDS: Elizabeth (Samantha Smith) (13), Margaret Ann (Maia Brewton) (11)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead

    STAND-IN "MOM": Evelyn Camp (Anne Haney) / Housekeeper

    A series that had a tragic reason for leaving the air.

    First a little world history background: Samantha Smith was a young girl who lived in Maine and had a social studies assignment to write to the leader of a foreign country. Samantha picked Yuri Andropov, the leader of the Soviet Union. She asked him why he wanted to conquer the United States. Mr. Andropov read the letter, and invited young Samantha and her family over to Moscow for a meeting in the Kremlin. The story made headlines around the world and brought celebrity to little Samantha.

    Enter ABC. The network, just finishing up the success of Hart to Hart, wanted another starring vehicle for Robert Wagner. They found a new show called Lime Street, in which Wagner would play James Greyson Culver, a Virginia horse farmer who also investigated insurance fraud (like Banacek) for a British insurance company. They cast Samantha Smith as Culver’s daughter Elizabeth, and cast Maia Brewton (one of the kids from Adventures in Babysitting) as her little sister Margaret Ann. The show began filming in May of 1985.

    Tragedy struck during a mid-summer break in the filming. While returning to her home in Maine, the commuter plane carrying Samantha crashed, ending her brief life. With only a few episodes filmed, the show itself was DOA when it appeared in September, and was cancelled before Halloween.

    A wave of the Juliet Mills Memorial Feather Duster to Marni Page ( for pointing out this show. And a flap of the Juliet Mills Memorial Apron to "The Rogmeister" for the show details. Thanks, Marni! Thanks Rogmeister!

  • Amen

    Aired: 1986-91 NBC

    DAD: Deacon Ernest Frye (Sherman Hemsley) / Widower(?)

    DAD’S JOB: Preacher

    DAD’S KIDS: Thelma Frye (Anna Maria Horsford) (20’s)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead?

    STAND-IN "MOM": Sister Casietta Hetebrink (Barbara Montgomery) (1986-1990), Sister Amelia (Roz Ryan)

    I didn’t watch the show, but here’s what alert viewer knows about the series:

    "Thelma was an adult child living with her father. Most of the time she was trying to get the preacher (Clifton Davis) to fall in love with her (which eventually happened and they married) The stand in moms were the two sisters."

    A clang on the Hop Sing Memorial Dinner Triangle for for the info on "Amen" — Thanks!

  • The Cavanaughs

    Aired: 1986-88 CBS

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

    DAD #1’S JOB: Retired

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

    WHERE’S MOM #1: Dead

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

    DAD #2’S JOB: Construction Company Manager

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

    WHERE’S MOM #2: Dead

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

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

  • Buck James

    Aired: 1987

    DAD: Buck James (Dennis Weaver) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Trauma Unit Surgeon

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

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dee-vorced

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

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

  • My Two Dads

    Aired: 1987-88 NBC

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

    DAD#1’S JOB: Businessman

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

    DAD#2’S JOB: Artist

    KIDS: Nicole (Staci Keanan) (12)

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

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

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

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

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

  • Full House

    Aired: 1987-96ABC

    DAD: Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Sportscaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Empty Nest

    Aired: 1988-95 NBC

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

    DAD’S JOB: Pediatrician

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

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead.

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

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

  • The Hogan Family

    Aired: 1988-91 NBC

    DAD: Michael Hogan (Josh Taylor) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sea Hunt

    Aired: 1987-88 Syndicated

    DAD: Mike Nelson (Ron Ely) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Scuba Guy

    KIDS: Jennifer (Kimber Sissons) (18)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead!

    STAND-IN "MOM": Don’t know

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

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

  • Mr. President

    Aired: 1987-88 FOX

    DAD: Samuel Arthur Tresch (George C. Scott) / Separated

    DAD’S JOB: President of the United States

    KIDS: Cynthia (Maddie Corman) (16), Nick (Andre Gower) (12)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Left mid-series to "find herself"

    STAND-IN "MOM": Lois Gullickson (Madeline Kahn) / Sister-in-law

    Barely makes it to the list, but passes the Mike Brady Clause. Mr. President tracked the home life of the American President and his family. The wife, Meg (played by Carlin Glynn), disappeared during the run of the series, just under halfway through the entire life of the series. President Tresch hired his sister-in-law Lois (who had the hots for him) to watch his kids. The show plodded along but never really developed its audience when it was moved to the network basement of Saturday night in the second season. A shame, really – the jokes were pretty fun and full of wit.

  • Rags to Riches

    Aired: 1987-88 NBC

    DAD: Nick Foley (Joseph Bologna) / Bachelor

    DAD’S JOB: Playboy

    KIDS: Rose (16) (Kimiko Gelman), Marva (15) (Tisha Campbell), Diane (15) (Bridget Michele), Patty (13) (Blanca DeGarr), Mickey (7) (Heidi Zeigler)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, or something – they’re all orphans

    STAND-IN "MOM": John Clapper (Douglas Seale) / Butler

    Let me see if I can explain this show: Okay, picture Family Affair, only Uncle Bill has no family relation to these orphans. Plus there’s no little boy. Oh, and they live in a Jed Clampett-style mansion in Los Angeles. I think that comes pretty close. Did I mention that the show would stop frequently to have the orphans sing songs from the 60’s? And that the butler danced?

    Can you believe this show stayed on the air an entire year?

  • First Impressions

    Aired: 1988 CBS

    DAD: Frank Dutton (Brad Garrett) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Commercial Voice-Over Guy

    KIDS: Lindsay Dutton (Brandy Gold) (9)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Somewhere else

    STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Madison (Ruth Kobart) / Next-door neighbor

    And you thought those shows based on comedians’ acts started with Seinfeld

    Frank Dutton, recently divorced guy, was trying to balance being a parent with managing his own radio-commercial business. Brad Garrett, non-famous impressionist, thus got a chance to show off his mimicking skills in this short-lived show. Funny part is, they replaced this show with Raising Miranda, basically the same show!

    It’s a safe bet that most audiences don’t know Brad Garrett from this show, but do know him as Robert, Ray Romano’s brother on Everybody Loves Raymond.

  • Raising Miranda

    Aired: 1988 CBS

    DAD: Donald Marshack (James Naughton) / Divorced Guy

    DAD’S JOB: Contractor

    KIDS: Miranda (Royana Black) (15)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Wife Bonnie hit the road to "find herself"

    STAND-IN "MOM": Russell (Bryan Cranston) / Goofy Uncle

    Did you blink? This show, about a Wisconsin construction agent and his family, lasted from Election Day to New Year’s Eve, 1988. Dad had to grab the reins of his teenage daughter Miranda after his wife hit the road. Stories were by the book, and this show’s placement in the early-Saturday-night lineup on CBS ensured its quick demise.

    For the skinny on "whatever happened to that girl who played Miranda?" — check out the Royana Black interview.

    Update: James Naughton is now the deep-voiced announcer for commercials about the Cialis pill. Hey, Bob Dole was Mr. Viagra – – maybe it’s a good career move.

  • The Redd Foxx Show

    Aired 1988-91 ABC

    DAD: Al Hughes (Redd Foxx) / Divorced Guy

    DAD’S JOB: Diner Manager

    KIDS: Toni (14) (Pamela Segall)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, or something. Al adopted "street-wise kid"

    STAND-IN "MOM": Maybe Diana Olmos (Rosanna DeSoto) / Waitress

    One of these days I’m going to have to go through this site and figure out the role of the "Street-Wise Kid" in TV Single Dad shows. Maybe I’ll call it the "Chico and the Man Syndrome."

    Redd Foxx reprised his Sanford and Son schtick, only this time it was in a diner/grocery store setting. He adopted a "street-wise" kid named Toni, and reacted to people that wandered in and out of his place of business. Predictable and hackneyed, this show chugged along for 13 weeks and fell off the end of the world. Another victim of the "Saturdays at 8" Pit of Death.

  • Rin-Tin-Tin, K-9 Cop

    Aired: 1988-93 Family Channel

    DAD: Hank Katts (Jesse Collins) / Single

    DAD’S JOB: Cop

    KIDS: Stevie (Andrew Bednarski) / nephew

    WHERE’S MOM?: Maggie Davenport (Cali Timmins) died in Season I

    STAND-IN "MOM": Rin Tin Tin?

    How on earth did Rin Tin Tin survive Fort Apache and make it into modern day Anytown? Probably the same way David Carradine’s character made it into the spin-off Kung Fu series.

    Uncle Hank was a K-9 dog handler who wound up taking care of nephew Stevie after Stevie’s mom died in one episode. Of course, Stevie wound up on the business end of a lot of police busts during the run of the series.

    I’ll bet you’re wondering how come THIS show qualifies, and the ORIGINAL Rin Tin Tin DOESN’T? Well, in the original, the little boy Rusty winds up being generally adopted by the WHOLE troop stationed at Ft. Apache. Thus, there’s no one fighting to take on that singular role of TV Single Dad in that original show.

  • The Robert Guillaume Show

    Aired: 1989 ABC

    DAD: Edward Sawyer (Robert Guillaume) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Marriage Counselor (ha ha.)

    KIDS: Pamela (Kelsey Scott), William (Marc Joseph) (teenagers)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Around.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Ann Scherr (?) (Wendy Phillips) / Secretary

    Here’s your premise: Robert Guillaume is a marriage counselor who is (get ready for the huge laugh) divorced. His teenage children lived with him and really didn’t like his secretary/girlfriend, Ann. Tedious, and cancelled after just three and a half months.

  • The Tracey Ullman Show

    Aired: 1987-91 FOX

    DAD: David (?) (Dan Castellaneta) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: (?)

    KIDS: Francesca (Tracey Ullman) (playing 13)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Left. Didn’t wanna be a mommy.

    STAND-IN "MOM": William (Sam McMurray) / Dad’s Significant Other

    Okay, what if Dad’s gay, and he’s raising an almost-adolescent, braces-wearing 13-year-old with excessive energy? Oh, and your "show" is a segment on a comedy show that lasts maybe 11 minutes per episode, tops? You wind up with excellent writing, acting, and storylines that make the "Francesca" skits the funniest and most poignant parts of Tracy’s show.

    Dan Castellaneta, of course, became the voice of the best-known Dad on television today: Homer Simpson.

  • You Again

    Aired: 1986-87 NBC

    DAD: Ed Willows (Jack Klugman) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Supermarket Manager

    KIDS: Matt (20-something) (John Stamos)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Around (in one episode)

    STAND-IN "MOM": Enid Tompkins (Elizabeth Bennett)

    After he finished turning guest stars into canoes on Quincy, Jack Klugman played divorced store manager Henry Willows in a weird twist on his Odd Couple persona. Klugman this time played a conservative, quiet bachelor who suddenly had his hell-bent 17-year-old son come to live with him. His son Matt was a womanizer, and a boy who knew how to work the angles. Added into the mix, of course, was the mandatory foreign-born (in this case, British) wisecracking housekeeper, Enid.

    Henry’s ex-wife showed up in one episode, and was played by Brett Somers — Klugman’s ex-wife in real life, and also the actress who portrayed his ex-wife on The Odd Couple.

    This show was based on a BBC show called Home to Roost, and boasted a television first: the actress who portrayed the housekeeper, Enid, played the same character on the BBC in the "parent" show. This required Elizabeth Bennett to commute between Los Angeles and London to do both shows at the same time.

  • Punky Brewster

    Punky Brewster 1984-86 NBC

    DAD: Henry Warnimont / Single

    DAD’S JOB: Photographer / Building Manager

    KIDS: Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) (7)

    WHERE’S MOM: Abandoned by parents

    STAND-IN "MOM ": Betty Johnson (Susie Garrett) / neighbor and Punky’s friend Cherie’s grandmother

    Try not to get cavities: Punky was the oh-so-lovable bundle of joy that Henry found one day living with her puppy in Henry’s apartment house.

    To understand this show, viewers should ask themselves: who can turn the world on with a smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

    Am I being too cynical?

    A spin of the Andy Griffith Memorial Badge for Greg Bulmash at the "IMDB WASHed UPdate" for the lowdown on Punky. Thanks, Greg!

    …and a victory loop of the Benton Quest Private Jet for ‘Nancy’ for the scoop on the substitute "mom" — thanks, Nancy!

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation

    Aired: 1987-94 Syndicated

    DAD: Worf (Michael Dorn)

    DAD’S JOB: Security Officer, USS Enterprise

    KIDS: Alexander Rozhenko (Brian Bonsall)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Assassinated by rival Klingon House.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Worf’s step-parents, and maybe Counselor Troi

    Another "just barely qualifies" series. Worf really didn’t get to be a TV Single Dad until the third season of the show, but he was a TV Single Dad for the majority of the run of the series, so he’s In The Club. He was also one of the more reluctant TV Single Dads. In fact, there probably isn’t any other TV Single Dad who resisted the role more than Worf. My nearest guess would be the dad on Silver Spoons.

    Update: Alert Viewer Carlos points out – "Worf’s mate Ambassador K’Ehleyr (played by Suzie Plakson aka Paul Reiser’s ‘sister-in-law’ in Mad About You.), was assassinated by a rival Klingon house." Thanks, Carlos!

  • Paradise

    Aired 1988-91 CBS

    DAD: Ethan Allen Cord (Lee Horsley) / Single-Uncle

    DAD’S JOB: Quickdraw Gunfighter

    KIDS: Claire Carroll (Jenny Beck) (13), Joseph Carroll (Matthew Newmark) (11), Ben Carroll (Brian Lando) (9), George Carroll (Michael Patrick Carter) (5)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Lucy Cord Carroll, sister of Ethan, died in Episode One

    STAND-IN "MOM": Amelia Lawson (Sigrid Thornton) / Landlady-Girlfriend

    Lots and lots of classic TV Single Dad elements in this show. Ethan Cord, like Andy Griffith, has a job protecting his town (in this case, it’s the Wild-West town of Paradise, California). Like Uncle Bill in Family Affair, he’s the uncle called upon to take care of his dead sister’s kids. And like Porter Ricks in Flipper, his exploits fighting bad guys typically wind up with his kids on the business end of a revolver. And this show lasted *4* entire years — a rarity in the chop-it-off 80’s.

    A quick tip of the Bruce Wayne Memorial Cowl to Brígida González of Monterrey, N.L. México, for pointing out a missing Carroll child. Gracias, Brígida!

  • Free Spirit

    Aired: 1989-90 ABC

    DAD: Tom Harper (Franc Luz) / Divorced Guy

    DAD’S JOB: Lawyer

    KIDS: Robb (Paul Scherrer) (16), Jessie (Alyson Hannigan) (13), Gene (Edan Gross) (10)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Lives somewhere else

    STAND-IN "MOM": Winnie Goodwinn (Corinne Bohrer) / Witch-Housekeeper

    Remember how when you watched Nanny and the Professor in the 70’s and you thought it was cute how they never revealed whether or not Nanny was a witch? Well this show is just like that, except they blew the mystery in Episode One. Winnie was a witch sent by the Great Warlock to help around the house of a single dad with three kids. The stories were ever-so-treacle-filled, and the whole series collapsed in three months.

    Franc Luz was on a previous Single Dad show — Hometown — but he didn’t play a single dad on that show.

    Most viewers of 90’s television will recognize Alyson Hannigan in her role as Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s sensible buddy.

  • Hey Dude!

    Hey Dude! 1989-93 Nickelodeon

    DAD: Mr. Ben Ernst (David Brisbin) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Manager of a dude ranch in Arizona

    KIDS: Buddy (Josh Tygiel) (10)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Divorced, lives in NYC

    STAND-IN "MOM": Lucy, a ranch-hand (Debra Kalman)

    A tip of the Adam West Memorial Cowl to Katie Burell (, who came up with the info on Buddy and his mom, and his STAND-IN "MOM". Thanks, Katie!

  • Baywatch

    Baywatch 1989-90 NBC 1990-2002 (Syndicated)

    DAD: Mitch Buchannon (David Hasselhoff)

    DAD’S JOB: Lifeguard

    KIDS: Hobie (11)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Gayle Buchannon (Wendie Malick) / Divorced, lives with some rich guy

    STAND-IN "MOM": unknown

    Cobbling together information from a few episodes, Mitch is apparently divorced from Hobie’s mom, but it’s amicable. Mom somehow needed to "find herself," and that could best be accomplished by leaving Hobie with Dad. There is some episode where Mom is out with her Bruce Wayne-boyfriend, and their jet crashes, so Mitch has to save them (fortunately they crashed just in front of his stretch of beachfront, huh?)

    According to Joshua Burgin, there is another episode where Mitch’s ex-wife comes back into his life, and regrets not being around for Hobie’s teen years.

    Gayle Buchannon, played by Wendie Malick, also played Martin Tupper’s ex-wife (Judith Tupper Stone) on Dream On. Guess she must be typecast!

    If you have any more info about Baywatch, please email me about details of the show.

    A tip of the Lorne Greene Memorial Cowboy Hat to Gene Floyd ( for the info on Baywatch. Thanks, Gene!

    Also, a one-gun salute of the Chuck Connors Memorial Rifle to Joshua Burgin ( for the info on Mitch’s ex-wife. Thanks, Joshua!

  • High Mountain Rangers

    Aired: 1988 CBS

    DAD: Jesse Hawkes (Robert Conrad) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Mountain Search and Rescue Chief

    KIDS: Matt Hawkes (Christian Conrad), Cody Hawkes (Shane Conrad) (both late teens)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Separated – lives in Reno

    STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

    I try to relate these shows to other TV Single Dad shows to explain the plots. For this show, think: Flipper, in the mountains, without the porpoise.

    Robert Conrad wangled jobs for his two real-life sons in this adventure show. The stories of the Hawkes men rescuing people miles from any 7-11 only maintained interest for a few months. CBS couldn’t let a moderately unsuccessful show die, though. See Jesse Hawkes, below.

  • Jesse Hawkes

    Aired: 1989 CBS

    DAD: Jesse Hawkes (Robert Conrad) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Former Mountain Search and Rescue Chief, now a bounty hunter

    KIDS: Matt Hawkes (Christian Conrad), Cody Hawkes (Shane Conrad) (both late teens)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Separated – lives in Reno

    STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

    Ever watch the old CBS show It’s About Time? That show was set in the distant past with two astronauts living with cavemen. When the storyline ran out, the producers moved the show to present day, with the cavemen coming to the modern world.

    To a lesser extent, CBS pulled an It’s About Time-style revamping of High Mountain Rangers. The producers moved the Sierra Nevada-based show off the mountains and into downtown San Francisco, where the show became a Single Dad version of McCloud. That fabulous idea created a show that lasted exactly one month.

  • Dolphin Cove

    Aired: 1989 CBS

    DAD: Michael Larson (Frank Converse) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Dolphin Researcher

    KIDS: David (Trey Ames) (16), Katie (Karron Graves) (11)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. Tragic auto accident

    STAND-IN "MOM": Didge (Ernie Dingo) / Mandatory Aborigine

    Oh dear. Flipper-mania. Picture the story conference: "Okay, we want DOLPHINS! And AUSTRALIA! Put in some Aborigines!" So it is written, so it is done.

    Dolphin researcher Michael Larson, broken up about the Tragic Auto Accident that killed his wife, does the only thing a TV Single Dad can do to heal his grieving family: move them all to Australia and stick them in a different culture. Gee, son David HATES Australia, and daughter Katie is so brain-bent with grief, she can only talk to her dad’s dolphins. What a fun show. The Yoda-like groundskeeper, Didge, dispenses Pearls of Wisdom to Mr. Larson in every episode. I guess he’d qualify as the foreign-born domestic, even though it’s HIS country. Kinda like Mr. T and Tina.

    What kind of hack would pen this melodrama? No less than Mr. Jaws himself – Peter Benchley. Unbelievable. It was put on the barby after 13 episodes.

    Last tidbit – if you’re like me, you’re snapping your fingers trying to remember who Frank Converse is. Here’s the key – he was the co-pilot with Claude Akins on Gerald Ford’s favorite show, NBC’s Movin’ On.

  • Island Son

    Aired: 1989-90 CBS

    DAD: Dr. Daniel Kulani (Richard Chamberlain) / Widower

    DAD’S JOB: Surgeon

    KIDS: Sam (William McNamara) (15)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. Unknown how.

    STAND-IN "MOM": Nana Kulani (Betty Carvalho) / grandma

    While Dolphin Cove was dragging on, CBS tried yet another tropical TV Single Dad show. This time, nice-guy touchy-feely Dr. Dan was treating patients with Poi Overdoses and such. Big cast, lots of interactions with the other doctors. Picture Trapper John, M.D., but with pineapples. Gone by Easter of its first and only season.

  • Gideon Oliver

    Aired: 1989 ABC

    DAD: Gideon Oliver (Louis Gossett, Jr.) / Divorced

    DAD’S JOB: Anthropology Professor / Detective

    KIDS: Zina (Shari Headley) (19)

    WHERE’S MOM?: Teaches at Tuskegee

    STAND-IN "MOM": Doesn’t seem to be one

    Picture a modern-day Indiana Jones-ish guy who is more like a really adventurous Ellery Queen. Oh, and he has a daughter. And he’s big on handing out Fortune-Cookie Philosophy ("A school of learning is the departure lounge, not the baggage claim").

    I’d say more but there really wasn’t much more to this show. Well, except that most viewers would remember Shari Headley as the girl Eddie Murphy’s character falls in love with in the movie Coming to America.