Dagwood Bumstead. The very name should connote the image of a bumbling father. Just getting out of house without running headlong into the mailman would be considered a high point in the week for Daddy Bumstead. In his wake have been a veritable corny-copia of bumbling dads on TV. (Yes, “Blondie” did move from the big screen to the little screen with its absolutely perfect Dagwood intact.) Few may live up to the pure perfection of Dagwood, but these bumbling TV dads manage to come awfully close.
Phil Dunphy: Modern Family
Let’s jump ahead a long way from Dagwood Bumstead as played by Arthur Lake on the TV version of “Blondie.” We can traverse the decades of in between Dagwood and Phil Dunphy and we will find that cornucopia of bumbling dads. But let’s be honest. Most of you won’t really understand what I’m talking about if I focus like a laser on some forgotten bumbling dad from the 1950s. But if I say the name Phil Dunphy and I reference the show “Modern Family” then you will know exactly what a bumbling dad on TV is. Phil tries hard and he is more successful than most. But he can get to that success by taking a circuitous route through mistakes and failures to communicate. He’s fun, is Mr. Dunphy and lord knows he’s funny. But his subtle bumbling extends beyond tripping over that loose step on the stairs that was a running joke in the first show’s first season.
Stu Erwin: The Stu Erwin Show
I might also add played by Stu Erwin. Stu Erwin the actor was playing bumbling dads and husbands on the big screen before the small screen even became a viable player in the game. Erwin made the move to TV very early in the game and as a result became something of a prototype for the bumbling dad. By 1950 Erwin was already making the kind of name for himself as a bumbling father that it would take Lucille Ball another year to make for herself as the annoying wife. What sets the character of Stu Erwin apart from other bumbling dads is the authority he had in his life away from the household. Stu Erwin may have been a full-scale nincompoop at home, but away from the family domicile he was a Principal at a high school. How many high school principals do you know who are bumbling fools? Personally, I used to work for one.
Tim Taylor: Home Improvement
Tim Taylor also had a bit of authority away from home, but only a bit. Let’s face it, the man was no high school principal, even of the type whom I used to work under. He hosted a show that informed viewers how to do everything that needed to be done around the house. Of course, he bumbled his way through his job, too, setting up a nice counterpart to many other bumbling dads who did actually manage to get the job done away from home. Tim Taylor tried his best as a father and often failed but more often managed to stumble his way toward success. But Tim Taylor also stumbled his way toward success on his TV show. Crazy, really. How often does that happen in real life, anyway?
Herman Munster: The Munsters
What can you say about a guy who is a Frankenstein creature with a werewolf for a son? Well, he was no Gomez Addams, that’s for sure. Gomez may have looked like a lunatic and many would argue he most certainly was a loon, but he was just as surely no bumbling dad. No so Herman Munster. Like most bumbling dads, Herman Munster desperately tried to be a good dad. He put in the hours, if you know what I mean. The equipment to process what it took to be sterling dad–like Gomez, for instance–just wasn’t there. Blame whoever put his particular Frankenstein’s creature together for that, I suppose. In a way, you can blame the Mad Scientist in charge of Herman Munster more than Herman himself. All in all, I guess you would really have to say that Herman did gangbusters as a bumbling dad all things considered.