Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

A timeline of the decline of the "manly man" on TV

Shaun Harrison
1 of 17 Cliff Lipson/CBS; Craig Sjodin/ABC; Edward Herrera/ABC


Kevin Dillon in How to be a Gentleman, Tim Allen in Last Man Standing and Dan Fogler in Man Up are all part of new fall shows that explore the state of (or lack of) manliness among men today. Come with us as we track 60 years of small-screen depictions of the American male.
2 of 17 CBS/Landov


Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), I Love Lucy The legendary Lucille Ball was of course the titular star of the show that basically invented the sitcom, playing a housewife who thought she should be doing more and bigger things. But while it often seemed like she was undercutting and scheming against her husband, there was never any doubt that Ricky always ruled the roost.
3 of 17 CBS/Landov


Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), The HoneymoonersAlice (Audrey Meadows) could always bring Ralph down to size, but she would deflate only his bluster and buffoonery, never his manhood. And he knew it. That's why so many episodes ended with them in an embrace and Ralph lovingly saying, "Baby, you're the greatest."
4 of 17 Screen Gems/The Kobal Collection


Jim Anderson (Robert Young), Father Knows BestBefore the half-hour was over, Jim Anderson typically would supply the nostrum to resolve the conundrum of the week. So unflappable and sage — much like his contemporary Ozzie Nelson — he was seen by some viewers as too good to be true, not all that realistic.
5 of 17 CBS /Landov


Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness), GunsmokeHe personified the archetype of the Western's strong, silent type. Strong, righteous, handy with a six-shooter, yet empathetic, the Dodge City lawman proved to be an enduring man's-man — so enduring that the old CBS show still shares the record as the longest-running drama on network television.
6 of 17 ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images


Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray), My Three SonsA single father, the aeronautics engineer's pipe-smoking serenity and strength taught his boys to be men — seemingly by osmosis. The chaos in the house was kept to a dull roar by the boy's maternal grandfather Bub, then by their grandfather's brother, Uncle Charlie (both played to crotchety perfection by William Frawley and William Demarest, respectively).
7 of 17 CBS/The Kobal Collection


Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), All in the FamilyIn what still might be the best sitcom ever, the loudmouthed and, yes, often bigoted Archie stood as the apotheosis of what many working-class men were like. In the two generations since he debuted, real-life sons have admitted he was like their father or a friend's father. And they didn't mean that in a good way.
8 of 17 ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images


Felix Unger and Oscar Madison (Tony Randall and Jack Klugman), The Odd CoupleA juxtaposition like no other from the Emmy-, Pulitzer- and Tony-winning genius Neil Simon: the slob and the fastidious one, living together and getting on each other's nerves — while being the bestest buddies in the world. In retrospect, this can be seen as a watershed show: Meld Felix and Oscar into one man, and you have a pioneering metrosexual.
9 of 17

Find out how to create a Watchlist.

Create, manage or view your Watchlist here. Add new fall shows to your Watchlist now.
10 of 17 ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images


Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley), Happy DaysMr. C. was a throwback to the '50s, like the entire show. So that meant Richie Cunningham's dad was solid and smart, raised a good kid, and could even offer a little guidance to the other teenagers — including that whippersnapper The Fonz. Too bad Fonzie didn't confer with Mr. C. about jumping the shark.
11 of 17 The Kobal Collection


Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby), The Cosby ShowThe obstetrician/patriarch marked an evolution in what men were like on TV. Obviously accomplished professionally and a consummate family man, he could often look somewhat befuddled — he didn't have all the answers. His lawyer wife sometimes talked him through a situation. Yet he ultimately could display how wise and loving he was to his rambunctious brood — who clearly loved and respected him.
12 of 17 Buena Vista TV/The Kobal Collection


Tim Taylor (Tim Allen), Home Improvement"More power," he'd growl, trying to sustain a standard for manly men who love sports and tools and working with their hands — while trying not too hard to work with their minds. The show touched a zeitgeist-y little nerve amidst the first pushback by some men to re-establish or re-define manhood.
13 of 17 Columbia Pictures/Embassy Pictures/The Kobal Collection


Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill), Married … With ChildrenYou didn't have to go beyond the opening credits to know just how beaten and bowed the Bundy paterfamilias was. To his family, he was barely more than the paycheck he took home from the women's shoe store. He was dumb and unlucky, to boot. The series somehow lasted 11 seasons — maybe because the dysfunctional family made people feel good about themselves. Still, Al, the one-time star high school fullback, was a full-on gelding. Talk about devolving!
14 of 17 NBC/The Kobal Collection


Frasier and Niles Crane (Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce), FrasierThe fey psychoanalysts/brothers were the true proto-metrosexuals. And their father seemed like some atavistic macho dinosaur compared to them; he was somewhat Bunker-ish, though in severely tamped-down way, and those acorns fell far from the tree.
15 of 17 CBS/Landov


Ray Barone (Ray Romano), Everybody Loves RaymondThe sportswriter could act like he was 40 going on 14. In his role as family man, Ray seemed more interested only in steering clear of his relatives and their conflicts and peccadilloes. He'd only act like a loyal, loving partner to wife Debra when push came to shove — so his parents and brother, who lived across the street, ran amok. Boundaries, people! Father, in this case, didn't know best.
16 of 17 Greg Gayne/Warner Bros.


Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen), Two and a Half Men Charlie as Charlie: The last decade's one throwback to when men could go through women like Wilt Chamberlain and Hugh Hefner in days of yore — playing, as if somebody didn't know, a variation of his own "winning" life. In a post-millennial TV world, he was one guy The Stilt and Hef could love.
17 of 17 Danny Feld/TNT


Joe Tranelli, Terry Elliot and Owen Thoreau Jr. (Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher), Men of a Certain AgeThis trio facing the half-century mark support one another as they grapple with aging. The focus on the miasma of midlife for men won a Peabody Award, but its recent second season was its last. Maybe the show failed to really resonate since solid scientific research indicates male menopause is a myth. How masculine can you be when the passing years allow gravity and entropy to set in? Studies show: Most men don't worry about it.