Fathers Who Care Know Best

Five Shows Returning to TV That Feature Hands-On Dads
Blog Post
A teal social graphic with the text "Fathers Who Care Know Best" in white text and "Five Shows Returning to TV That Feature Hands-On Dads". On the right and bottom edges are a series of small screenshots of dads helping their kids from the tv shows Fire Country, Lopez vs Lopez, Reasonable Doubt, Grey's Anatomy, and And Just Like That.
June 13, 2024

A blog for Father’s Day from the New America Better Life Lab entertainment initiative. Check out our fact sheet for creatives on writing about working parents here and learn more about our entertainment work here: https://newamerica.org/entertainment.

This Father’s Day, we’re toasting what we hope is a growing trend: On-screen portrayals of dads who provide hands-on care and support for their kids.

Although women in the United States still spend more time and emotional energy caring for children, dads whose jobs and finances allow it are spending more time than ever with their children—and most men from all backgrounds and walks of life want to be more engaged caregivers. Most people in the United States believe that gender equity in the division of household labor should be a norm even if they’re not yet achieving it. And research shows that a fairer division of labor at home contributes to greater equity at work and in the economy.

Why are TV portrayals of caring dads so important? Because what we see in entertainment storytelling can move us closer to our ideals regarding gender, work, family, and care. Viewers say they are hungry to see more gender-equitable, aspirational, and solutions-oriented content on their screens. Television storytelling helps people whose lives are reflected on screen feel seen and helps others develop empathy and understanding that can change attitudes, behavior, and ultimately, culture and policy.

For Father’s Day and all year-round, we celebrate the TV dads and the shows and creators who give them life as competent, loving, equal caregivers. We’re elevating stories that defy the negative dad tropes and misrepresentations that TV stories commonly include: abusive dads, incompetent dads, or absent dads, as well as dads that are disproportionately white and wealthy. While some of these portrayals are core to the stories in which they appear, we want to recognize the importance of also showing dads who provide competent hands-on care and emotional support to children of all ages.

Importantly, the dads on these shows aren’t perfect, just like dads in real life—but they learn as they go and model the kinds of stories about men providing hands-on care to children and loved ones that 61 percent of streaming viewers in the U.S. (an estimated 48.6 million people) say they want to see.

Each of the five shows we’re highlighting have a new season coming up and we can’t wait to see what comes next for these TV dads!

Reasonable Doubt (Hulu), created by Raamla Mohamed

Lewis, father to Naima and Spenser

Lewis, the dad from Reasonable Doubt (Hulu) in the kitchen with his children, whose backs are to the camera.

Reasonable Doubt's Lewis Stewart (played by McKinley Freeman) is a hands-on dad to a teenage daughter and son. He takes on equal or greater caregiving responsibilities than Jax, his high-powered lawyer wife from whom he is separated. Lewis packs lunches, drives carpool, does his daughter’s hair, and tends to his kids’ health concerns. Work-family conflict and gendered expectations complicate Lewis’ and Jax’s relationship in multiple ways, creating opportunities for dramatic and suspenseful storytelling. Through it all, Lewis is there for his kids, Naima and Spenser, and co-parents amicably most of the time.

We’re excited to see what’s next for this family when Season 2 of Reasonable Doubt drops on August 22 of this summer!

Lopez vs. Lopez (NBC), created by George Lopez, Mayan Lopez, and Debby Wolfe

George, father to Mayan

Quinten, father to Chance

Top image, George Lopez from NBC's Lopez vs. Lopez, embracing his adult daughter, Mayan. Bottom image: Family Quinten (father) and Mayan (mother) with sitting on a sofa with their son, Chance, eating pizza.

Lopez vs. Lopez’s George Lopez (the character and the actor), the family patriarch, shows what growth as a parent to an adult child looks like. He learns to be less dismissive and more respectful of his own daughter, Mayan, and to value her talents, which helps mend their historically rocky relationship.

In the same household, Quinten Van Bryan (played by Matt Shively) and Mayan Lopez are a two-parent couple. Midway through Season 2, Quinten becomes a manager at an Apple store and Mayan goes to work for her father’s moving company, but does her job from home. The job changes create stress on their relationship and necessitate negotiations in managing household and child care tasks. Their young son, Chance, absorbs the stress and steps in to help his parents manage their conflicts, which they ultimately do. Throughout the season both Quinten and Mayan care for Chance, attend his school functions together, and more— using humor and comedy to illuminate real-world struggles.

We’re excited to see how these characters evolve as fathers in Season 3, which will air this fall!

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), created by Shonda Rhimes

Owen, father to Leo and Allison

Ben, father to Pru, stepfather to Tuck, and foster father to Joey

Three images from ABC's Grey's Anatomy: Top left is Link speaking in a hospital hallway to his female partner, Jo. Top right is Owen and his wife Teddy looking into the distance, with Owen's ex-wife Amelia looking on. Bottom image is Ben Warren and Miranda Bailey, a married couple, holding hands with their young daughter, Pru.

Grey’s Anatomy has long shown what engaged fatherhood looks like, both for dads and father figures. In its most recent seasons, Grey’s has made a point of showing how essential child care is for working parents. We love seeing the ways that Atticus “Link” Lincoln (played by Chris Carmack) and his partner, Jo, as well as and Owen Hunt (played by Kevin McKidd) and his wife, Teddy, are involved in their respective children’s care and responsible for child care drop-offs and pick-ups. Grey’s also shows female partners expecting equal participation from dads—which is an essential part of shifting cultural expectations.

We’d also be remiss not to mention Dr. Ben Warren (played by Jason George), who will return to Grey’s Anatomy as a series regular after his seven-year run on the now-concluded Grey’s spinoff Station 19. Ben has always been a hands-on dad to his three children and has worked hard to navigate work and family responsibilities with his surgeon-wife Dr. Miranda Bailey. Ben and Miranda’s household is also a great example of how families can be made and enlarged through adoption, marriage, and fostering.

We’re looking forward to seeing how all of these dads and their families fare in Season 21 this fall!

Fire Country (CBS), created by Tony Phelan, Joan Rater, and Max Thieriot

Jake, father figure to Genevieve

Funeral scene from CBS's Fire Country. In the foreground is father-figure, Jake, with his arm around a tween girl, Genevieve, whose mother has just passed away in an accident. Other characters surround them and stand alone or in embraces with others.

Fire Country’s Jake Crawford (played by Jordan Calloway) exemplifies a man who chooses to parent when his longtime friend and recent girlfriend, Cara, is killed in a tragic accident, orphaning her tween daughter, Genevieve. Jake wants to be involved in Genevieve’s life, and she wants him to take care of her (with the backdrop of a mystery about the identity of her biological father). Jake and Genevieve grieve over Cara’s death and, throughout, Jake tries his best to be a father to Genevieve.

The Season 2 finale includes a cliffhanger that may interfere with their plans—and we can’t wait to see what happens in Season 3 this fall!

And Just Like That (Max), created by Darren Starr, and developed by Michael Patrick King

Aidan, father to Tate, Homer, and Wyatt

And Just Like That's (Max) Aidan Shaw in an intense conversation with his girlfriend, Carrie Bradshaw. They are seated at a nicely decorated dining table with flower arrangements in Carrie's apartment.

And Just Like That’s Aidan Shaw (played by John Corbett) is on our list because of the way he prioritizes the needs of his teenage and young adult children, to the detriment of his romantic life. When Aidan and his long-ago girlfriend, Carrie Bradshaw, reconnect, viewers learn that Aidan has been the primary parent to his children while his now ex-wife has pursued her career and maintained a heavy travel schedule. When Aidan’s youngest child, an anxious teenager named Wyatt, gets into an accident as a result of his struggles with Aidan’s new and frequent trips to New York to see Carrie, Aidan makes the difficult but firm decision to put parenting first for the next several years. His devotion to his children is a central part of Aidan’s character, and as a result, of Carrie’s next chapter.

Word is that Aidan will be back for Season 3 in 2025, so we’ll be interested to see how he continues to manage long-distance parenting and romance.

most viewers, we are eager to see more men providing hands-on care and support to children and loved ones in TV and film. We also celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity of the dads profiled above. We’d love to see even more inclusion of dads from different backgrounds and communities: queer dads, disabled dads, Asian and Native American dads, and more Black and Latine dads should be part of striving for diverse and inclusive representation on screen. Economic diversity is important too.

Television helps us see what we can be. Cheers to these shows for giving us all a nudge toward equity.