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.
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.
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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