The Top 10 Good Men on TV

You are aware that there is an invention called television—and on this invention they show shows, right? Well, sometimes those shows feature good men.

We had some trouble compiling this list. It’s not that good men are hard to find in TV—we thought of plenty—it’s that goodness on the small screen is usually a caricature. Good cop versus bad cop. Lovable geek versus douchebag jock.

We found ourselves asking, is this character really good, or do we just not know enough about him? Do we omit characters from AMC’s wonderfully nuanced Mad Men, for example, just because they’re more complicated (or say “what?” way too often)? Then we thought, hey, we’re evaluating the relative virtue of  fictional characters—let’s not overthink this thing.

In the end we tried to choose men we relate to and respect, however caricatured they might be at times. We also chose men who struggle toward goodness—and succeed most of the time. Oh, and we limited ourselves to characters who are currently on air (sadly, MacGyver wasn’t in the running).

Love our list? Hate our list? Don’t be shy—let us know. But whatever you do, don’t sit too close to the screen. That’s definitely bad.

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Burt Hummel, Glee

Fox Tue 8 p.m. EST

At first glance, blue-collar car mechanic Burt Hummel seems like just a backdrop character against his flamboyantly gay progeny, Kurt. But it’s his fumbling, unerring support of his son that gives this musical-heavy show some serious tear-jerking moments.

Played by Mike O’Malley (from Yes, Dear), Burt struggles to understand his son, and often fails. While Kurt secretly memorizes the dance moves to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” in his bedroom, Burt wants nothing more than to teach his boy how to throw a football. But when Kurt finally comes out to his dad, Burt answers with a pragmatic “I’ve known since you were three. All you wanted for your birthday was a pair of sensible heels. I guess I’m not totally in love with the idea, but, if that’s who you are, there’s nothing I can do about it. And I love you just as much, OK?”

For the real reason Burt Hummel makes our list, and to see why O’Malley snagged an Emmy award for his performance, watch this video.

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Henry Francis, Mad Men

AMC Sun 10 p.m. EST

It must be hard for a character like Henry Francis to fight against the current of drinking, smoking sex magnets like Don Draper and Roger Sterling.

But Francis, played by Christopher Stanley, holds his own. Director of Public Relations and Research for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Francis is the second husband to Don’s ex-wife, Betty. Castigated by many fans as a “homewrecker” with an ulterior motive for marrying the notorious ice queen, Francis is one of the least developed characters on the show. He often comes off a little flat, a little do-goody, as though he’s mouthing the right words only because he has to. But we think that Francis has shown a near preternatural patience and levelheadedness in an otherwise catty, self-centered household.

Consider his pursuit of Betty. Though he was clearly interested in her while she was married, he showed care in his courtship. He made it clear that he wouldn’t make the first move, saying, “You had to come to me.” Then let’s look at their marriage. The guy is not Don Draper—and isn’t that the point? He doesn’t cheat, smoke, drink himself sick, disappear without notice, or threaten to abuse Betty. (Instead, he mows the lawn, something we couldn’t see Don doing willingly.) Plus, he seems to be bafflingly smitten with Betty.

Even when he is angry—like when he “accidentally” crushes some of Don’s things in their garage—he handles the situation with grace, offering to bring the boxes to Don’s place. This doesn’t mean the guy lacks a backbone. When Betty’s temper leads her to slap her daughter, Francis intervenes and talks to her evenly. He’s not afraid to challenge Betty (crazy as she is) when it’s in the interest of their family, which makes him an unlikely source of guidance and stability in a crumbling home.

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About Lu Fong

Lu Fong was a staff writer and blog editor for the Good Men Project in its formative years. As the requisite woman on staff, her hobbies included cleaning, cooking, knitting, fainting, and childbearing. Follow her on Twitter @lufong.

Comments

  1. I JUST discussed this with my boys’ class the other day and discovered that most of the male characters they watch on television happen to be animated ones who lack integrity. However, they assured me there are GOOD MEN on TV who are human, but they are watching an entirely different stream of programming than the ones mentioned here, and I suspect so are an enormous number of other people. The boys let me know loud and clear that George Lopez is a good man, and then they went on to rattle off a list of good cops and forensic investigators of color who are on television. Just sayin’. I do believe in my boys. :0)

  2. Al Bundy is the best TV dad of all time and it’s abhorrent that he didn’t make this list.

    He sells shoes and makes no money, but what little money he does make is taken by his wife. He has two kids who don’t respect him, yet he constantly comes to the rescue when his throws the boyfriends of his slutty daughter into the wall and out of the house. And he takes his boy on father-son bonding trips to the nudie bar.

    Al was also a promising high school football standout, but instead of striving for fame and athletic pursuits he settled down with his wife. And although he is constantly tempted by hot models at the shoe store, never once in all those years did he actually cheat on Peggy.

    Now give me a “Woooooaaaaahhhhhhhh Bundy!”

    • We love Al Bundy! But this is for characters currently on air. He’s there in spirit through Modern family though!

      • Damn technicalities! ;-)

        Unfortunately the male characters from my other favorite show (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) are morally deplorable and thus would not qualify. But it is hilarious.

  3. Tom Matlack says:

    Okay guys…with you all the way on this with one exception. Henry Francis. Have you been watching the show? He seems like a pretty bitter dude to me, treating Betty and my boy Don pretty horribly. Maybe its because I am so fascinated by how they portray Don’s search for meaning, his attempt to deal with being a divorced dad, and juggle work, love, and booze (okay, yes I plead guilty) that makes me dislike Henry Francis intensely. I’ll ask you one question: Did Betty look better with Don or with Henry Francis? I will grant you that Don’s latest move, dumping one of my favorite new characters on the show for his secretary, is a moral setback. But that’s what makes the show great: our hope that Don will figure out a way to be good (and that we too will find a way to be good) despite all the setbacks and desperation.

    • Don has been a horrible husband (infidelity), father (absenteeism), soldier (desertion), and business partner (dirty dealings to prevent exposure). Compared to Don, almost any other husband is superior–and Henry is a revelation.

  4. I really enjoy Chuck on Chuck. And the supporting cast of men on that show, from Awesome to Casey to the guys who work at the Buy More. Each is flawed, each tries to do the right thing in their own, sometimes misguided, ways.

  5. I’d like Bill Adama of Battlestar Galactica added to this list.

  6. Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) of Law and Order: SVU. Good father, defender of the weak.

    • I don’t entirely agree with this. Though Detective Stabler can be a great guy, he has just as many flaws. He’s an angry cop and too conflicted to be put on this list, in my opinion. Besides, if you didn’t notice (or read) law enforcement was avoided on here. Stabler is a perfect reason why. Good cop, not the greatest guy.

  7. nevermind…..everytime I post here the whole thing gets lost just before I hit PostComment. so foget it here

  8. I CAN’T POST! IT ALL ZIPS AWAY!

  9. Amie Carr says:

    Great list! Love the Modern Family guys! Henry Francis does deserve to be on this list! I like watching Don and his struggles but there are so many other great characters on Mad Men. Henry is a good guy and I love the actor. Can’t wait to see what next season brings.

  10. Mark Ellis says:

    Don’t forget Eddie Trunk, Don Jamison, and Jim Florentine on the VH1 Classic program, “That Metal Show.” Guests so far include Rob Halford from Judas Priest and Michael Anthony from Van Halen. They opened the new season with a genuine tribute to the recently passed rocker Ronnie James Dio.

    These guys just sit around an talk metal, mostly classic metal. The show is a big hit, and this season was expanded from a half hour to an hour.

    • I believe this list was characters, though. Those guys are great (and absolutely hilarious), but they’re real people on TV. Not characters that everyone is made to look up to. I feel there’s a difference.

  11. I don’t understaaaaand the fascination with neil patrick harris! he wasn’t on the list, but got what amounted to an honourable mention – his character is an unabashed sexist pig!

  12. Okay, I just stumbled upon The Good Men Project so I should probably withhold judgement on its mission statement until I’ve read more. That being said, it seems to me the ultimate TV example of someone “trying to be a good man” is Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under. If you’ve seen the show, you know how well his tries work out.

    • Cooper Fleishman says:

      Totally with you, and I’m a huge Krause fan (Sports Night, SFU, etc.). We’ll have to do a follow-up piece with shows that aren’t running.

  13. To this list, I’d add: Patrick Jane (“The Mentalist”), Dr. Owen Hunt (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Terry Bellefleur (“True Blood”), Chuck Bartowski (“Chuck”), LeRoy Gibbs (“NCIS”) and Marshall Mann (“In Plain Sight”). All good men.

    • Patrick Jane (“The Mentalist”)
      I love that show but while he is smart he has a bit too much of a disregard for authority. And his attitude sometimes borders on arrogance.

      LeRoy Gibbs (“NCIS”)
      Again I like the show a lot but for all the good there is in Agent Gibbs I’m not sure he’s that great of a man if for no other reason than his head slapping and how selective he is of it. You could make a viral video with clips of him slapping DiNozzo and McGee (to the beat of “Where’s Your Head At?” by Basement Jaxx or “Smack My Bitch Up” by Prodigy) but you can count on one hand the slaps he given to Abby, Ziva, and Kate over the years.

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