This Father’s Day, A Salute to Louis C.K., The Best Dad on Television

I’ve been watching screeners of Louie‘s absolutely terrific third season over the past few days—y’all have a real treat coming in your direction at the end of the month—and it got me thinking. Television often revels in the father as a clueless or disconnected figure, whether it’s the cheerful bigotry of Peter Griffin on Family Guy or the raft of shows that treat the very prospect of men raising children as if it’s inherently comedic. In this environment, Louis C.K. has to be the best father on television. That doesn’t mean he’s the most competent father in pop culture, or the best provider—among his bits are his discomfort over the fact that he doesn’t own a home. But his mix of honesty, tenderness, and attempt to pass something like wisdom and honesty along to his daughters, on television and off, make him remarkable. Here are five of the best reasons to hold up Louis C.K. as a role model on Father’s Day.

1. He thinks hard about how to teach his kids about prejudice, America, and the virtue of living life to its fullest: In “Country Drive,” Louie takes his daughters to see an aged female relative—who turns out to be a virulent racist. The lessons he gives in the episodes about how to love your country, respect even your most difficult relatives, and take responsibility for your privilege should be a textbook for all parents who want to raise their kids with awareness of American racism.

2. He’s willing to bury his bitterness about his divorce for his children’s sake: Watching Louie bite his lip as his youngest daughter explained in the first episode of the last season of Louie that she likes her mother’s—Louie’s ex-wife—house better than Louie’s was an exemplar of staying civil, if not together, for the kids. The show is a constant reminder that children have the power to wound as well as to delight. Being a good parent means working through the pain.

3. He’ll protect his daughter’s duckling on a USO trip through Afghanistan: In “Duckling,” one of the best episodes of television of 2011, Louie got saddled with his daughter’s elementary school class ducklings the night before a USO trip—and touched down in a war zone to find he had a baby duck on board. Rather than trying to pass off the responsibility on someone else, Louie nurtured it through Afghanistan. That’s devotion to the family pet, and your child’s happiness.

4. He’ll reconcile with Dane Cook to get his fictional daughters concert tickets: In “Oh Louie / Tickets,” Louie sat down to work out his character’s (and real life) beef with frat comedian Dane Cook to get his daughter concert tickets. Given Cook’s general wretchedness, and the widespread assumption that he stole jokes from C.K., that’s a pretty awesome sacrifice to make for your kids.

5. He’s teaching his daughters that his love for them isn’t linked to their looks: When I interviewed C.K. at the Television Critics Association press tour in January, he told me that he tries never to tell his daughters that he loves them because they’re pretty. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t tell them that they look nice, but he’s trying not to make his love for them feel conditioned on their appearance. It’s an awesome example of thoughtful, feminist parenting.