In my Giller award-winning previous post, I went on various tangents and stumbled upon one that drew the consternation of the Twitter-verse and blogosphere. I lamented the unoriginal thought about the lack of basic competence amongst the TV dad. I talked about Carl Winslow of Family Matters fame being the last solid dad. I got some blowback, as others talked about other dads, which came from dramas and dramedies. So I went on a quest, I knew that they must be out there. A good half hour sitcom dad. Ty Burrell does not count. He sucks. I recently went on vacation, and amongst the whirlwind of activity (the ballad of Eddie Gilbert, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish inside a ball of wax) I visited my deadbeat brother. Rather than actually interact, my brother loaded up my computer with some content he thought I would like. This is always a gamble. I also think watching TV on computer is cheating. I don’t think Arrested Development should be nominated for Emmy’s. It’s a webisode. A big budget one, but its not TV, it’s a web show. Respect the box.
I have been late to most of the trendy TV parties of our day. I am way behind on my Girls, ignorant of True Detective and the various thrones and the games being played there of. Almost defiantly so. As I hear, “Hey Raph, watch ____, you’d like it” I think, would I? Do you know me? Is it only because you like it and want your choice validated? These are the same people who want me to get a cell phone. Is it because you are not sure if you made the right choice and it eases your mind to know that somebody else did what you did. Are you that sheepish? Or do you just want to text me or take dick pics? So I am just slowly catching up now to some of the industry standards. Anyhow my brother uploaded several episodes of Louie. In essence, it is the modern day Seinfeld, with Louie playing himself – a NYC comedian kind of ambling through life. Of course there are the classic Louie bits. Forgive me as I am new to this – the stand up bits themselves are all obviously strong. Louie vs. the young pretty heckler where he berates an attractive young lady and then hits on her in front of his comic buddies is a monster of a scene.
But what struck me is Louie’s purposefully making sure that he is a great dad. I believe this to be a thumb to the nose of the sitcom standard. Woven in amongst dating and stand up sets is our hero’s struggle raising daughters and sort of succeeding. Not in a specific show or bit, but the milieu of the show there is Louie’s balance of love and burden towards the kids. There is the belief on TV and in society in general that children must be universally loved. Fawned and celebrated. If you have ever taken public transit you know that children can be an awful burden to some. The parents unprepared for the youngsters, as the youngsters have a new audience to do their wacky shit, is uncomfortable for others to watch. I usually blame the child as the parent is doing their best and the love is there. For example, we are going on the bus to the dentist’s, because your teeth have be cleaned, so they don’t hurt, so you can eat and maybe grow up, and kiss somebody and they won’t get grossed out, so you can kiss them again and maybe find love and eventually happiness. But the burden is great and can often crush both parents and kids alike.
Louie is not showboating about his fatherhood. It’s what contributes to the fibre of his being. But his love is not layered in braggadocio. He doesn’t have buttons of his girls on his person, or start every sentence with “as a parent…”. It is part of the show in the way in which raising the kids simply has to be done. We have to slog through this because we have to. Louie’s facials are great when he has to deal with these types of parents who do present their kids as actual trophies. Louie has a calming presence. Let’s just calm down everybody, this is hard. This can be awful but let’s all get through it. It does help that he has some sort of success and wealth but rich parents can be awful as well so it’s all in stride. He sort of rubs this in the audience faces, as Louie has set up a world that he can’t get out of, and in that he can’t get out of parenting his kids as of a device for the show. He has had dates run into helicopters; he drinks tiny cups of water and such but he’ll always be a parent.
The burden/love paradox or paradigm or duopoly…or what have you… is most apparent in a scene in which Louie is a chaperone for his daughter’s field trip. The bus driver is just that – a bus driver – who needs to be told where to go and Louie sort of knows and the bus driver sort of knows but it doesn’t work out and bus driver bails. These are not his kids. He may love his own, but the bus driver does not have anything invested in these randoms to evoke the love burden balance. So Louie gets limos for all the kids to take them home.
Now I have a hard drive full of the high brow TV that this blog has come to celebrate and or deride. Perhaps I will too find some excellent televised Parenting from the casts of Homeland, Justified, and various British shows. Not that I am looking for that exclusively. Maybe my hunt will also find a terrible mother. Perhaps a dad’s wit and charm shines over his wife boobery….maybe on the I.T Crowd, which I have also not seen.
Raphael Saray is writer/improviser based in Northern Manitoba. He makes out with girls.