This Sunday, fathers across the country will be celebrated for being the gruff, stern and lovable individuals most families know them to be. Popular culture is no stranger to these figures either, as new television and movies releases this week, like “Goliath” and “Incredibles 2,” each include their own bumbling-yet-likable versions of America’s dad. Unfortunately, the recent history of famous TV dads is just as rife with disgraced actors as it is industry stalwarts. And no, we’re not simply talking about the past drug use or controversial political opinions, but past transgressions come to light in the #MeToo and Time’s up era. Some, like Jeffrey Tambor, have only recently been made public. Others, like Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby, have long been grist in the rumor mill.
Famous TV dads who’ve fallen from grace
Between 2010 and 2015, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. wrote, produced, directed and starred in five seasons of the critically acclaimed FX series “Louie,” in which he played a fictionalized version of himself. In the show, the recently divorced father of two daughters struggles to navigate his mid-adult life while working as a stand-up in New York City.
In 2015, “Louie” went on an “extended hiatus” while C.K. took time off. However, it quickly became permanent in November 2017, when the New York Times published an expose of sexual misconduct allegations against the comic that had been rumored for years. C.K. subsequently admitted the stories were “true,” prompting FX to sever all ties with him.
Before a Pennsylvania jury convicted him on three counts of sexual assault in April against Andrea Constand, one of dozens of women he allegedly sexually assaulted, Bill Cosby was of America’s most famous TV dads. Twice, in fact, for the popular stand-up played Cliff Huxtable in “The Cosby Show” and Hilton Lucas in “Cosby” with only a few years to spare in between their runs.
Considering the sheer amount of allegations made against Cosby, including some dating back as early as the mid ‘60s, many credited the comedian’s popular TV father figures with helping him maintain his status. Or as comic Hannibal Buress later dubbed it in a 2014 routine that went viral, Cosby’s “Teflon image.” Said image didn’t last long after Buress’ bit made waves online, however, as it led to a media firestorm that ultimately resulted in his recent conviction.
On “Transparent,” Jeffrey Tambor played Maura Pfefferman, a character formerly known as Mort who comes out as transgender to her adult children. Meanwhile, on “Arrested Development,” the actor plays George Bluth Sr., the troubled patriarch of a bumbling family whose collective idiocy makes for great awkward comedy. With these roles, Tambor quickly became a leading paternal and one of the most beloved famous TV dads in popular culture.
Between his being fired from “Transparent” over sexual misconduct allegations and his admitting to verbally harassing “Arrested Development” co-star Jessica Walter, however, Tambor’s status diminished just as quickly. The latter was made exponentially worse following a New York Times interview in May, during which he and his male cast members tried to explain away Walter’s tearful remembrance of the pair’s onset spat.
All of this sounds terrible, of course, because it is. Yet while rumors of C.K. and Cosby’s abhorrent behavior persisted for years before these men were finally brought to public (and judicial) scrutiny, “7th Heaven” actor Stephen Collins’ revelations in 2014 were shocking enough to throw most people for a loop. Why? Because everyone knew him as that show’s Rev. Eric Camden, the most caring famous TV dad ever produced.
In October 2014, two years after Collins’ divorce from Faye Grant, the source of the couple’s consternation was revealed. The actor had had “sexually inappropriate” relations with underage girls at various points throughout their marriage. He later confessed to these affairs and their impropriety, but insisted he was not a pedophile. Collins hasn’t acted in anything since.