The Best Dads on Television This Year Are A Complicated Lot

The Best Dads on Television This Year Are A Complicated Lot

I watched the latest episode of Louie last night, and it made me think about how many television shows this year are grappling with the father-daughter relationship. Don's relationship with Sally is the emotional heart of Mad Men, The Blacklist has dangled the "dad question" throughout, and Sheriff and Maggie are a fascinating center to Resurrection, to name a few.

Louis C.K. as LouieImage: FX

Thinking about that particular part of the representation of fathers in the TV of this season made me think about who I would name the best fathers on the small screen right now. It's Father's Day, after all.

Truthfully, fatherhood hasn't fared too well in the era of the anti-hero. Don Draper may have had an amazing scene full of connection with Sally at the diner this spring, but overall he's a deplorable excuse for a dad, and the very reason his parenting is so interesting is because we get to explore the tension of bad fatherhood bumping up against the few moments of good that we hunger for. But that doesn't add up to a Father Knows Best kind of character to celebrate. Does Don even know his youngest son's name? I could ask the same question of President Fitz Grant in Scandal. Or Peter Florrick, the Not-So-Great Husband in The Good Wife.

In fact, if I were looking for bad dads, I could have my pick by scouring the best shows of the year. William Macy brilliantly portrays an outrageously horrible father in Shameless, Orange Is the New Black's most father-to-be, Bennett, is trying to rise to the occasion, but there's one major problem in his role in that guard/inmate relationships are rape. The Lannisters may always pay their debts, but no Father of the Year awards are headed their way. 

But in honor of Father's Day, I want to celebrate good dads, so I assessed the landscape a little deeper. While very few great dads jumped out at me I did find some good, albeit complicated, examples. Maybe that's the message in the media right now. Fatherhood is complicated and evolving, and we still have a lot to figure out while also celebrating the good at play. 

Here are some portrayals that interest me, some of the better dads on television from the shows I've been watching, because I think they have a lot to tell us about how fathers are viewed right now.

Louis C.K, Louie

This season has shown Louie to be pretty horrible in most aspects of his life. He's been wretched to women (and to himself in actualizing a real relationship), he's a selfish friend and he barely shows up for his own career. The best of Louie is represented by his scenes with his daughters. This season we've seen him agonizingly rushing across the city to help his daughters during a storm, rescuing one who was alone in a subway station, and intercepting his other daughter when she began experimenting with drugs. Even more poignantly, he thinks hard about how to understand them, when to advocate for them and how to do right by the complex young women they are becoming. 

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