From 2010 by Paul Petersen
There was a time and not long ago when the presence of a father living in the home and busting his butt to support his family was as American as…well…apple pie. A sixty-year assault on what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father has produced a tattered society in danger of swallowing its tail.
Fathers are now portrayed on television and movies as fools to be watched carefully, and far too many media males are celebrated metro-sexual who have no interest in children, biologically speaking. Men are seen as beasts, uncaring, insensitive brutes who crave beer and mindless physical sports like football and boxing, soccer, and bowling. They are also not seen as partners in a family unit. It’s enough to make us question why God even bothered with Adam.
There’s just one little problem with the social engineers and commentators, just one. They’re wrong.
I once complained to Donna Reed about the young men in positions of power at the networks. “It’s not that they’re young men,” she said to me. “They’re the wrong young men.”
And so it seems to be true across the male spectrum. The wrong people are telling you what to think for all the wrong reasons, when if you’d just close your eyes and think about the importance of fathers, you, too, would see the value of that creature called “Dad.”
Among those things of which I am most proud is the single episode of The Donna Reed Show called “My Dad.” It is tops among my performance life in television. This single episode is consistently voted in the Top 100 single episodes in television history. That’s why it’s in The Television Hall of Fame. It struck a chord in America when it was first broadcast on October 25th, 1962, and you’d have to be made of stone not to be touched by its straight-forward unapologetic sincerity to this very day.
“My Dad” was not a spontaneous act of creation captured on film. The song was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, arranged by Stu Phillips, recorded and re-recorded for its presentation on a carefully written family show. It was seamlessly lip-synced for a variety of camera angles over a two-hour period with an hour out for lunch. Scores of people behind the lens made it happen, and they all knew what they were doing, from Donna Reed and Shelley Fabares to the property master and cinematographer.
Spencer Tracy had a viewpoint he shared with Sidney Poitier that says it all when it comes to acting. “Don’t let anybody catch you at it.”
“My Dad” was then and is now greater than the sum of its parts. This Father’s Day classic continues to capture people’s hearts and moves them to share its impact. I hope the lyrics reach deep into your soul. Take the time to watch the “My Dad” episode on YouTube. Write to me. I collect these tales. Happy Father’s Day, every day.
Paul Petersen in 2020, Ten Years Later