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Trending that caught Doug's eye... TV dads

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We were thinking about declaring this space a Rob Ford-Free Zone, but the problem is we just can't get enough of Toronto's embattled mayor.

What caught our eye this week, amid all the chaos surrounding the world's most infamous mayor, was an exclusive face-to-face chat he had with CNN anchor and chief innovation correspondent Bill Weir.

Ford's red-faced bluster, buffoonery and bullying were on full display. For instance, he says a bleeped-out word, then mutters "sorry I shouldn't have sworn in front of the kids" -- but there was a moment near the end of the interview that got us thinking.

It came when Weir said: "One more question, and this is the one that really gets it for me: I know a lot of people who would party their brains out, but they're parents. I'm sure you're insulating your children from what's going on now?"

Without even a hint of irony, Ford blurts: "Absolutely! I'm the best father around!"

Really, Rob? Best father around?

In light of Ford's inflated view of his parenting skills, let's take a look at some of the best dads we know. We'd put our own dad on this list but, to avoid even a hint of bias, we'll limit it to our favourite TV Dads of all time:

5) The dad: Ward Cleaver

The show: Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963)

The actor: Hugh Beaumont

Why he's tops: He was ranked No. 28 on TV Guide's list of The 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time, which is a crime to anyone who grew up in the 1960s. As patriarch of the Cleaver clan -- June, Wally "and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver" -- Ward was the archetypal soft-spoken head of the idealized suburban family of the mid-20th century. He was the anti-Rob Ford. According to one fan site: "If there is ever a Super Bowl competition for television fathers, Ward Cleaver should be the coach... He wasn't the smartest father, nor the best-looking, nor the wisest -- certainly not the funniest -- but he was the most understanding man who ever accepted the daunting mantle of video fatherhood." In one episode, The Beaver asks why his brother, Wally, "gets a goofy look on his face when he talks to girls." Explains Ward: "Well, you know, Beaver, it's a kind of a fever -- and, uh, one that you'll be catching one of these days."

Number of times he smoked crack: 0

4) The dad: Mike Brady

The show: The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)

The actor: Robert Reed

Why he's tops: OK, what happened was one day, Mike, the father of three sons -- Greg, Peter and Bobby -- married Carol, the mother of three daughters -- Marcia, Jan and Cindy -- and, sing with us: "That's the way we all became the Brady Bunch, the Brady Bunch!" A generation watched this handsome, well-dressed, well-coiffed, architect transform from a clean-cut widower to a groovy dad with an afro and a penchant for mod prints. Rated No. 14 by TV Guide, he dispensed pearls of wisdom every episode, preaching that reason, not violence, was the way to deal with strife. In reality, he had a tiny taste of Rob Ford in him, reportedly storming off the set to sulk in his dressing room when scripts didn't meet his standards. Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!

Number of times he blacked out in a drunken stupor: 0

3) The dad: Steve Douglas

The show: My Three Sons (1960-1972)

The actor: Fred MacMurray

Why he's tops: This sweet and wholesome show kept us glued to our TV sets for 12 years as it chronicled the trials and tribulations of a widowed aeronautical engineer trying to raise -- you guessed it -- three sons. In a typical episode, when he wasn't fending off advances from beautiful women who wanted to marry him, Steve was dispensing fatherly wisdom between puffs of his pipe. Any problem his boys got into could typically be solved by a warm glass of milk and an oatmeal cookie. He was ranked as the No. 7 best dad by TV Guide. Praises the website Artofmanliness.com: "Raising well-adjusted and successful family men definitely makes you a great dad."

Number of times he bowled over a female city councillor: 0

2) The dad: Sheriff Andy Taylor

The show: The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

The actor: Andy Griffith

Why he's tops: They don't make fictional sleepy communities like Mayberry anymore and they sure don't make TV dads like Sheriff Andy Taylor. Along with being a single father to his son Opie -- who grows up to be famous film producer Ron Howard -- Andy has to keep the peace in Mayberry and keep a wary eye on his bumbling but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife, and his spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee. In the turbulence that was the 1960s, the "sheriff without a gun" was an oasis of calm, a man with an uncommon amount of common sense. In every episode, he'd teach his son, and the rest of us, about the importance of doing the right thing. Gushes the website Toptenz.net: "Even now, watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show makes you feel like you're part of a world that makes a lot more sense ... His understated humour and realistic kindness make him the best TV dad of all time."

Number of times he was caught lying about drug use: 0

1) The dad: Dr. Cliff Huxtable

The show: The Cosby Show (1984-1992)

The actor: Bill Cosby

Why he's tops: According to Time.com, Women's Day, TV Guide, Ranker.com and a 2011 Harris poll, Dr. Huxtable is the funny and hip father most of us wish we had while growing up. An obstetrician working out of a home office, Cliff still had time to raise five children, using his wisecracking sense of humour to teach them valuable life lessons about love, success, failure, the value of a dollar and personal responsibility. Aided by his sultry lawyer wife, Clair, he also taught viewers the importance of wearing sweaters so bright they could be seen from outer space. He was the kind of dad who taught his dyslexic son, Theo, not to use his learning disorder as an excuse. And he performed a bathroom funeral for a goldfish. What's not to love?

Number of times he made lewd sexual references to his wife: 0

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 D2

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