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The worst of the worst, from Don Draper to Archie

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Don Draper (Mad Men) Why is Don Draper (Jon Hamm) currently TV’s most detestable dad? Let us count the ways. He drinks too much, he smokes too much and spends too much time at the office. He slept with daughter Sally’s grade-school teacher. He forgets to pick up the kids from ex-wife Betty (January Jones) at pre-designated times. He fobs the kids off on his new trophy wife Megan (Jessica Pare) without blinking an eye. And perhaps most unforgivably, Don seems oblivious to the fact he even has three kids and uncaring that they’re growing up fast without him. In a recent sixth-season episode, when the entire country was mourning the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, he took his son Bobby to a daytime screening of Planet of the Apes, which they watched over and over. And yet Don was perturbed when the kid later professed his love for new stepfather, Henry. Grow up, Don.

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Walter White (Breaking Bad) High-school-chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin Walt White (Bryan Cranston) is a likable guy, but one lousy father. Walt initially turned to drug-dealing in order to provide for his family, but that was when he believed he was dying from terminal lung cancer. Among other wretched acts, Walt has gotten his underaged son Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) drunk on tequila while building a more substantive fatherly bond with his drug-making partner (and former student) Jesse (Aaron Paul). Nastier still, when Walt Jr. launched a cancer-charity website, his old man used it to launder drug money! Gee, thanks, dad.

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Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was a family man, but his real loyalty was to his mobster clan. With rare exception, Tony left the parenting duties to his long-suffering wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and usually just showed up to smack his son Anthony Jr. (Robert Iler) upside the head or growl at daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler). And for anyone attempting to argue that Tony was really a loving dad, keep in mind that he had one of his daughter’s boyfriends whacked.

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Frank Costanza (Seinfeld) The Constanza family patriarch was alternately belligerent or bellicose and was probably the last person who should ever be raising kids. Among other self-centered accomplishments, Frank created his own holiday–“Festivus”–and developed the “mansiere,” a bra for men. And you wondered why his son George (Jason Alexander) was hopelessly neurotic? When George Steinbrenner phoned Frank to tell him (wrongly) that George was dead, Frank immediately responded with a tirade about the Yankee owner trading away his favourite player. Serenity now, indeed.

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Archie Bunker (All in the Family) The TV world was a different place during the original run of All in the Family (1971 to 1979). Acting veteran Carroll O’Connor scored the role of working-class bigot Archie and tore up the small screen with a seemingly never-ending string of offensive racial epithets, none of which would get by network censors today. Archie was also a father, of course, and hugely intolerant of daughter Gloria’s (Sally Struthers) new husband Mike (Rob Reiner), in part because he was hippie-like but more so because he was of Polish descent. Archie toned down slightly once Gloria and Mike had a son, but he remained the unrepentant redneck, and a terrible father.

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