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Peter Gallagher

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The season’s over for FOX’s The O.C., but PEOPLE couldn’t let show patriarch Peter Gallagher, 48, take his summer break without a final exam. The actor, who’s been called too dashing to play a dad (“I’ve heard that at the beginning of any job I’ve ever had”), gave us a peek behind the famous Sandy Cohen eyebrows and proved how father really does know best.

So, do you watch The O.C. with your kids?
Yeah, when I’m not commuting. If we’re all in the same place. It’s nice to be doing a show that your kids (Jamey, 13, and Kathryn, 11) want to watch.

But then does Dad have to explain some of the more sensitive issues?
No, we’ve been talking about all these things already. And they live in New York City, so there’s really nothing on this show that they haven’t already been exposed to. (But) families and kids are provided an opportunity to talk about stuff that might be hard to bring up out of the blue. “Oh, by the way, about teen pregnancy …” “Tell me more.”

You have a ready-made tool that’s kind of hip, and Dad’s on TV.
It cuts both ways. I’m sure (the kids) get the kind of attention that they might not (normally) get, but we have not focused that much on my career with the kids. But it’s nice that it’s a show that they can get excited about.

They’re not the only ones. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school had an O.C. Awareness Week, including a prom, and awarded a Sandy Cohen Fellowship.
Some student came up with it because they love the show, and they came up with this idea to help support one of their top student’s work in a public defender’s office. Which is the least sexy place a law student would want to find themselves in …

Are you a fan of another FOX show, The Swan?
I’m not a big fan of plastic surgery. It’s not me. Look, there’s no avoiding the grim reaper and there’s no chance to stay young, so just give it up and enjoy what you got.

How about the Nick & Jessica Variety Hour? That’s more like family fare.
There’s something deceptively clever about both those guys. I think it’s very interesting that Jessica Simpson, rather than try to show her range and all the things she can do, just went right down to the heart of what people’s preconceptions may be. That seems to be working.

So what will you do in your off-time? Golf?
My son goes with me. I don’t push it. He’s an ice hockey goalie and lacrosse player, my daughter sings and dances. I don’t push it.

What’d you think of Phil Mickelson’s win at the Masters?
(It) was one of the most delightful surprises in human victories of the year. When he said to his little girl, “Daddy won – can you believe it?” it was so ingenuous and real and spoken by someone who had sort of accepted the fact that it might not happen. It just gives us all reason to believe in that little bit of whatever magic we may have in us. It’s never too late.