Shaken or Stirred – The Preferred Drinks of Television’s Favorite Fathers
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Shaken or Stirred: TV's Favorite Fathers' Drinks

June 1, 2023
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TV sitcom fathers have played an integral role in shaping the landscape of television over the years. These characters have entertained and resonated with audiences through their comedic timing, relatable struggles, and heartfelt moments. Sitcom dads have portrayed a wide range of personalities, from the bumbling and lovable to the wise and authoritative. But in all cases they have, through both the writers and through the talents of the actors who portray them, reflected the best of what society needs in them.

Sitcom fathers often find themselves in humorous predicaments, serving as a source of laughter for viewers. A wise man once said to me that “Comedy, quite simply put, is the subversion of expectation.” So, whether it's their failed attempts at fixing household appliances or their comical misunderstandings, these dads bring light-heartedness to the screen in a way that reminds us of all the trash jokes our fathers told that made us laugh anyway, or all the times we ‘held the light’ while they struggled to repair something around the house.

However, sitcom fathers are not just about laughs. They also tackle real-life challenges and offer valuable life lessons. They navigate the complexities of parenthood, balancing work and family, and imparting wisdom to their children, while handling the stresses of being that family pillar in unique ways.

It stands to reason then, that great TV dads reflect average fathers in other ways, such as enjoying a stiff drink and a moment of quiet at the end of a long day. Often parents on sitcoms don’t overtly drink, because sobriety is a form of discipline that they try to pass to their children… But any parent knows they hide a vice or two from their kids. 

Of all the father figures that have graced the screen, a few stand out for unexpected wisdom, strangely expressed compassion, and a unique style that stays with you long after their shows have gone off air. Let’s take a moment and see how some of the most popular examples unwind at the end of the day.

Phil Dunphy / Ty Burrell – Modern Family

Phil is in many ways the direct opposite of his spouse, Claire. He is goofy, while she is no nonsense. He is whimsical and warm, while she maintains the discipline of the household. In most ways, this duality is reflected in their children, with Luke, the youngest son, being a direct reflection of the unbroken wonder Phil sees in the world. Ty Burrell plays this role masterfully, being the partner in crime his son needs while also maintaining the emotional ground wire of the family that the group requires. 

At the end of the day, Phil is a man of opportunity. Mojitos with his daughter Haley, wine with his wife Claire, whiskey with his gruff father-in-law Jay. He drinks when called for in moments of bonding with his family to experience their realities and form an empathetic link. But on his own… Gin. 

As it happens, Ty Burrell is a former bouncer and a current bar owner. During an interview several seasons into the show, Burrell slyly inferred that Phil reflects his better self… Who prefers gin. A classy but sensible drink for a Character with a capital C.

Danny Tanner / Bob Saget – Full House

Bob Saget broke free of the ‘aw shucks’ cookie cutter mold his early career painted him into during his later work. A noticeable example of this was his appearance in the Dave Chappelle classic ‘Half Baked’ about a group of stoners trying to get their friend released on bail. Chappelle meets a woman who disapproves of the use of marijuana for personal reasons, and Chappelle attends a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to try and go sober. Bob Saget appears as himself and delivers a… memorable line.

Danny Tanner, on the other hand, is a character from his early work, and is considered the most influential of his career. Tanner is the father of three girls, widowed after his wife is in a fatal car accident. Aiding him in raising his children is his sister, Wendy Tanner (Darlene Vogel), his best friend, Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier), and his brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos). From the cast it's easy to see where the series gets its name. 

Danny isn’t the cool guy, that’s taken by Jesse. He isn’t the funny guy, that’s Joey. Danny is the dependable one. The goof with the bad Dad Jokes and the tired wisdoms learned in the moment. Stripped of the partner most sitcoms provide, Danny is forced to rely on loved ones and his daughters to teach him the ways of being a good father. And he rises to the occasion with dignity and nerdy grace.

Danny Tanner is a beer man. Nothing complicated, no microbrews or IPAs. At the end of a long day, Danny sits down with a Corona or a Yuengling and puts a game on the television to watch as he unwinds. What game? Doesn’t matter. As a fictional wise man once said, “You come to the end of a long day, you sit back, you open a beer, you watch a sporting event; that's what men do.”

Philip Banks / James Avery – Fresh Prince of Bel Air

One of the running gags of this Will Smith-centered sitcom was the fact that Uncle Phil would routinely throw Will’s best friend Jazz out of the front door… Literally. Suffice to say discipline was the most noticeable trait of Judge Banks, both in regard to his own children, and as applied to his nephew Will. Seen as an unrelenting hard ass as well as a stern activist for equality and civil rights, Judge Banks commonly wore a scowl and was a frightening figure in his own home. 

Despite this, Judge Banks delivered one of the most iconic performances in recent memory. When Will, defeated and rejected over his father’s continued abandonment and abdication of responsibility says “Why don’t he want me, man?” to which Philip holds his nephew in a rare hug. Later, when Will leaves for college, he expresses his love for his new familial bonds by telling Philip that he loves them all, and hopes being away doesn’t lessen their connection. Philip responds “You are my son, Will. End of story. Your butt had better be near a phone every Sunday.”

I’m not crying, you’re crying. 

Uncle Phil was a good man, a good father, and a firm reminder of what it means to be an active participant in the legal and democratic process. At the same time, his hard work certainly paid off, earning him a fine Bel Air home, plush situations for his children, and even a butler. Uncle Phil is a white wine sort of fellow.

This may seem a little light handed, sure. But for a man that respected discipline and a clear heart and mind, white wine was the perfect apéritif for the Judge while considering his latest art acquisition or dulling the pain of his daughter’s latest shopping spree. 

In the end, every man is an island, but that doesn’t mean he is alone. Being the head of a household filled with chaos or living in a cabin in the woods with a goofy but loyal dog, fathers of all types take their little decompression time seriously. Given this, what does your decompression drink say about you?

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