TV Dad Thunderdome
How would six TV dads from classic television shows fare against each other in the Thunderdome?
Two dads enter—one dad leaves. Or both dads leave. Or no dads leave. Or everyone lives happily ever after. That’s how it works in TV Dad Thunderdome, where we pair six TV pops in fantasy grudge matches. Why? Because Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19.
Red Forman (That ‘70s Show) vs. Jim Halpert (The Office)
The Office‘s Jim Halpert, skilled in civil disobedience and pranks, is the perfect nemesis for That ‘70s Show’s Red Forman, a veteran of two wars who has no chill for “smart-alecks.” It just so happens that prickly types are Jim’s favorite target (see Dwight K. Schrute III).
Red’s battle-honed senses immediately detect Jim’s prankster vibe—and slight resemblance to Red’s “dumbass” son Eric. Equally perceptive from his work in sales, Jim recognizes Red’s temperament and Dwight-ish appearance.
Jim strikes first, offering Red an ice-cold bottle of Old Milwaukee, which he’s refilled with sour blackberry seltzer.
L to R: Red Forman (Kurtwood Smith) and Jim Halpert (John Krasinski).
Incensed by the switcheroo, Red goes directly to his signature move: “putting my foot up [Jim’s] ass.” Anticipating Red’s play, Jim apologizes and hands Red an unopened bottle of Old Milwaukee. Red, although skeptical, sits back, twists off the cap, and takes what he expects to be a long swig of refreshing domestic whizz-water ale, but instead tastes a banana-flavored Belgian beer.
Apoplectic, Red tackles Jim. The two men are face-to-face, lying on top of each other. Red grabs Jim by the collar, dripping sweat onto the paper salesman’s smug face. Seizing the moment, Jim kisses Red on the lips.
Undone by his homophobic ‘70s-dad sensibilities, Red’s brain erupts in a flourish of aneurysms, and he drops dead on Jim’s chest. Jim pushes away the corpse, dusts himself off, smiles at the camera, and goes down to the Formans’ basement to hang out.
Winner: “Beta” males.
Fred Sanford (Sanford and Son) vs. Archie Bunker (All in the Family)
Since his neighbor George Jefferson moved to a deeeeee-luxe apartment in the sky, Archie Bunker hasn’t had a rival. But when Fred Sanford moves next door, intending to run an auto repair shop out of his garage, the cranky, inveterate racists are destined to tangle.
Archie, upset that the noise from the garage is interrupting his TV time, storms outside to complain. Fred sees him coming. In perfect unison, the two men shout bigoted remarks. The statements collide, forming a hideous orange miasma that spews a chillingly hateful word salad. The sight of bigotry incarnate chills Archie and Fred to the tender centers concealed by their own intolerance and bluster.
L to R: Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor).
Fred and Archie realize that they must team up against this entity. Without a word, they channel their prejudice, ignorance, and grievances into a shower of flowers.
The Marmalade Miasma is allergic. It shakes and swells, growing until it’s ready to explode. Archie and Fred hug, fearing the end of the world—but the Miasma deflates with all the power of centenarian flatulence.
Overjoyed to be alive, Archie invites Fred into his home, where they kick Edith off the piano bench so they can sit down and perform “Ebony and Ivory.”
Walter White (Breaking Bad) vs. Sheriff Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)
Late 20th-Century Albuquerque, New Mexico is a long way from 1960s Mayberry, North Carolina—and that’s just how meth magician Walter White wants it. Nobody will find him here.
But Walt didn’t account for Mayberry’s busybody citizenry or dedicated Sheriff Andy Taylor, who’s noticed some tomfoolery since Walt showed up.
Deputy Barney Fife is exponentially more annoying than usual. Aunt Bee is desperate to sell the pies she bakes all night. And Andy’s son Opie is suddenly foul-mouthed and keeping the Tooth Fairy very busy.
Andy confronts Barney. It seems that Barney’s girl Thelma Lou heard from Gomer Pyle, who heard from Otis Campbell, that a newcomer is making delicious blue rock candy right near Andy’s favorite fishin’ hole.
The sheriff grabs his pole and heads off, whistling, to investigate. He finds Walt without much trouble. At first, the men get along famously, Walt mirroring Andy’s affability. Then Andy starts asking questions.
L to R: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith).
Walt isn’t worried. He knows that meth won’t be illegal in the US until 1970. But he knows how the drug can ruin a town, and Andy surely will protect Mayberry. Walt’s only move is to get Andy hooked. He offers the sheriff a sample.
Andy contemplates the candy in his palm, then pops it into his mouth. The flavor is amazing: a sweetly tart blue raspberry. Andy doesn’t notice the bitter chemical finish because he acutely feels closer than ever to his Lord. He beckons Walter to join him in the lake to be baptized.
Although he’s a man of science, Walt complies, wading out to join Andy, whose demeanor changes in a flash. He grabs Walt by the head, plunging his thumbs into Walt’s eyes and pushing the pusher underwater. Walt, gravely wounded, struggles uselessly against Andy’s seemingly superhuman strength.
Walt stops flailing. Andy looks skyward and shouts, “I have taken the sacramental candy and glimpsed my future. I hereby renounce the role of sheriff so that I may be . . . the Candyman!”