The widower father has been a favorite character in television history. They're single dads, raising or interacting with their brood in a variety of TV shows ranging from westerns to dramas to situation comedies. Here are TV’s best widower fathers from the long history of the tube. Take heart, single dads out there, as these fathers did okay by their kids...
Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, Bonanza (NBC, 1959-73)
Thrice-widowed Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) reigns as the patriarch of the Cartwright clan in this classic western, second only to CBS-TV's Gunsmoke in TV western longevity. Ben has three sons borne from threedifferent wives: Adam (Elizabeth), Eric a.k.a. Hoss (Inger) and Little Joe (Marie). Ben and his boys live on their majestic 600,000-acre ranch known as The Ponderosa, located near Virginia City, Nevada. The story of each of Ben's three marriages was shown in flashback episodes: "Elizabeth, My Love" (5/27/61), with Geraldine Brooks as Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright; "Journey Remembered" (11/10/63), with Inga Swenson as Inger Borgstrom Cartwright; "Marie, My Love" (2/10/63), with Felicia Farr as Marie DeMarigny Cartwright. Marrying Ben Cartwright could be hazardous to your health, ladies.
Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, The Andy Griffith Show (CBS, 1960-68)
Widower and single dad Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) undergoes the trials and tribulations of parenting in this classic sitcom. Andy is sheriff of Mayberry and father to young Opie Taylor (Ronny Howard). Andy gets a big assist in the domestic department from his aunt Beatrice "Bee" Taylor (Frances Bavier) as well as a few occasional "expert" pointers from bachelor Barney Fife (Don Knotts).
Fred MacMurray as Steve Douglas, My Three Sons (ABC/CBS, 1960-72)
West Coast aerodynamics engineer and widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) raises three sons in this long-running sitcom: Mike (Tim Considine), Robbie (Don Grady) and Chip (Stanley Livingston). When Mike married and moved away, Steve adopted the boy next door, Ernie (Barry Livingston), keeping the show's title intact. Giving Steve a big boost as household help through the years were grandfather "Bub" O'Casey (William Frawley), who was eventually replaced by the cantankerous Uncle Charley O'Casey (William Demarest). But that wasn't the end of it, as Steve later married widow Barbara Harper (Beverly Garland), who had a young daughter named Dodie (Dawn Lyn). Revised title: My Four Sons, Three Grandsons and Stepdaughter.
Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, The Rifleman (ABC, 1958-63)
Widower Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) lives on a ranch outside North Fork, New Mexico, with his young son Mark (Johnny Crawford) in this popular western series. Lucas – or "Lucas Boy" to Marshal Micah Torrance (Paul Fix) – is a Union Army veteran of the Civil War whose principal means of protection is a specially-built .44 Winchester rifle. Lucas is a good Christian father and a fine citizen, despite the fact that he's forced to gun down two or three bad guys every other episode!
Brian Kelly as Porter Ricks, Flipper (NBC, 1964-67)
Widower Porter Ricks (Brian Kelly) works as the Chief Ranger at Coral Key Park in Florida, raising two young sons, Sandy (Luke Halpin) and Bud (Tommy Norden). Throw in Flipper, a dolphin played by Susie, and the Ricks household numbers four.
Charles Farrell as Vern Albright, My Little Margie (CBS/NBC, 1952-55)
Widower Vern Albright works at the New York City investment firm of Honeywell & Todd in this early TV sitcom. Vern, who fancies himself somewhat of a ladies man, has to contend with his meddlesome adult daughter Margie (Gale Storm), whose antics keep him on his toes. Compounding his troubles is Margie's dimwitted boyfriend Freddie Wilson (Don Hayden). "Well, that's my little Margie," as Farrell ended every episode.
Bill Bixby as Tom Corbett, The Courtship of Eddie's Father (ABC, 1969-72)
Based on the 1963 Glenn Ford/Ronny Howard movie of the same title, The Courtship of Eddie's Father features Bill Bixby as Tom Corbett, the editor of Tomorrow magazine, who's raising his young son Eddie (Brandon Cruz). Aiding Tom in his efforts is kindly Mrs. Livingston (Miyoshi Umeki), the Corbett's Japanese housekeeper. Eddie plays matchmaker for his father, providing the laughs in this sitcom from the Age of Aquarius.
Ken Berry as Sam Jones, Mayberry, R.F.D. (CBS, 1968-71)
A spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry, R.F.D. stars Ken Berry as widower Sam Jones, a local farmer and single dad to young Mike (Buddy Foster). Sam's gal pal is Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka), who was once engaged to county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson). Well, that could happen in a small town.
RichardLong as Howard Everett, Nanny and the Professor (ABC, 1970-71)
Widowed college professor Howard Everett (Richard Long) raises three kids in this short-lived sitcom: Hal (David Doremus), Butch (Trent Lehman) and Prudence (Kim Richards). Juliet Mills plays Phoebe Figalilly, the children's English nanny who possesses mysterious powers.
Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, The Beverly Hillbillies (CBS, 1962-71)
Ex-song-and-dance man Buddy Ebsen plays widower Jed Clampett in this wild rural sitcom, the daddy of critter-loving Elly May (Donna Douglas) and the uncle of sixth-graded educated Jethro Bodine (Max Baer Jr.). Jed hits oil on his property back east, packing up his entire hillbilly family and moving to ritzy Beverly Hills, California.
Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford, Sanford and Son (NBC, 1972-77)
Widower Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) is a Los Angeles junk dealer and the father of Lamont (Demond Wilson) in this popular sitcom developed by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin of All in the Family fame. Fred's late wife is Elizabeth, whom Fred often cites as joining when he thinks he's having "the big one" a.k.a. a heart attack. Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page), Elizabeth's very much alive sister, often squares off with widower Fred.
Noah Beery Jr. as Joseph "Rocky" Rockford, The Rockford Files (NBC, 1974-80)
Widower Joseph "Rocky" Rockford (Noah Beery Jr.) is a semiretired truck driver and the father of James Scott Rockford (James Garner), a Los Angeles private investigator. Rocky is none too happy with son Jim's chosen profession, which often places him in danger as well.
Dan Dailey as William Drinkwater, The Governor and J.J. (CBS, 1969-70)
Governor William Drinkwater (Dan Dailey) is the widowed father of spunky J.J. – that's Jennifer Jo (Julie Sommars) – in this long-forgotten sitcom. J.J. serves as the governor's official hostess in lieu of a first lady, with Sarah (Nora Marlowe) tending to housekeeping duties.
Jeffrey Lynn as Doc Allison, My Son Jeep (NBC, 1953)
Jeffrey Lynn plays widower/single dad Doc Allison to young son "Jeep" (Martin Huston) and daughter Peggy (Betty Lou Keim) in this short-lived sitcom from the Fabulous Fifties. Leona Powers appears as the Allison's housekeeper.
Hector Elizondo as Abraham "Popi" Rodriguez, Popi (CBS, 1975-76)
Widower Abraham "Popi" Rodriguez (Hector Elizondo) is a New York City handyman and the father of sons Junior (Anthony Perez) and Luis (Dennis Vasquez) in this sitcom which departed the air after only 11 episodes.
Richard S. Castellano as Joe Vitale, Joe and Sons (CBS, 1975-76)
Widower Joe Vitale (Richard S. Castellano) runs a screw press in Erie, Pennsylvania, and is the father of sons Mark (Barry Miller) and Nick (Jimmy Baio) in this blue collar sitcom which exited the airwaves after only 14 episodes.
Richard Mulligan as Dr. Harry Weston, Empty Nest (NBC, 1988-95)
Richard Mulligan plays widower pediatrician Dr. Harry Weston in this popular sitcom. Set in Miami, the doctor's two adult daughters are Carol (Dinah Manoff) and Barbara (Kristy McNichol). The show produced 170 episodes.
John Forsythe as Mike Endicott, To Rome with Love (CBS, 1969-71)
Professor Mike Endicott (John Forsythe) moves to Rome to teach at an American school in this sitcom. The widower Endicott is the father of three daughters: Alison (Joyce Menges), Penny (Susan Neher) and Pokey (Melanie Fullerton).
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner