Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Tom Bosley

There are two types of TV dads: those who play somebody's father, and those who make you feel as if they could be — almost as if they are — yours. Tom Bosley was the latter. His Howard Cunningham, hardware-store owner and '50s dad, could be gruff and cranky — especially with his boarder Arthur Fonzarelli — but there was something inherently fatherly and comforting about his rich voice and rumpled dignity. A stage and screen veteran (who won a Tony starring in Fiorello!), he was something of a father to the cast as well, as former costars including Henry Winkler remembered him.

Bosley applied his charm, paternal and otherwise, to other TV roles as well. He played the cleric-sleuth lede in The Father Dowling Mysteries, and the first role I ever saw — or heard — him in was one I didn't know he played until well after the fact: the father in the underappreciated animated sitcom Wait 'Till Your Father Gets Home. Airing in the early '70s — it, like Happy Days, launched from Love, American Style — it was a sort of combination of a cartoon All in the Family and a proto-amily Guy. I have no idea why my parents let me watch it when I was four years old.

James Poniewozik

A version of this story previously appeared on on Oct. 19, 2010.