Have you watched Louie? I’ve seen the first two seasons thanks to the magic of Netflix, but nobody else I know has. I hear it discussed as a critical darling and the numbers say it’s doing well. I must be hanging out with the wrong people, because Louie is one of the more fascinating shows on television. It’s the brainchild of comedian Louis C.K and it I don’t think anything show more perfectly captures the vision of its creator than Louie.
It’s hard to describe what Louie is about, because it can really be about anything. No “rules” of sitcoms are followed. C.K stars as basically a fictional version of himself, and just lives out various situations. The aforementioned rules are broken because rarely is there a true pay off or ending storyline. In one episode Louie ends up with his 14-year-old niece without warning. The show chronicles his attempts to communicate with the strange girl and possibly get her to open up about her mother. He doesn’t. The episode ends with Louie and her having an awkward, at best, relationship. And the next episode is about something completely different.
It’s these kinds of situations that are what make the show so watchable. Some episodes make me laugh out loud practically the whole time. Other are quite serious and I never even think about smiling. But that’s the idea. CK isn’t trying to make something that always makes you laugh, or tugs at the normal heartstrings ala something like E.R. It’s….life. Even better than Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie captures that life is both hilarious, depressing, scary, and just about anything else one could possibly think of.
This is not to say that Louie isn’t funny. Far from it. The humor that is there is consistently good because of just the sheer absurdity of some of the situations Louie finds himself in. Going on a date after watching a man be decapitated. Trying to shop for feminine products. Taking his daughters to visit their very very old aunt in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania. It’s things that COULD happen to anybody, but that they all happen rapid fire to a clever guy like Louis keeps the show interesting.
Interspersed throughout the “story” proper are small clips of CK doing stand up comedy at various places. Sometimes these relate to the story somehow, other times not. My favorite ones end with the camera following Louie off the stage then picking up the show from there. Is it staged? Of course, there’s no reality show elements to this show. But it adds to the degree of authenticity that permeates Louie.
The best parts of the show are the unexpected dramatic moments. CK and Dane Cook (Cook is famously accused of having stolen some of CK’s jokes, though whether that’s true or not is up for debate) have a scene in which they discuss the controversy surrounding them two of them….and though I’m sure this was scripted, I also fully believe that each man was given free reign to say whatever they wanted. It’s one of those conversations that almost always happens behind closed doors away from the public eye, but here it is on television. And both guys come off as more likable for it. An entire episode devoted to how a young Louie was scarred by Christianity? Sure! Not funny, but fascinating.
The only thing I feel holding the show back is that it is most definitely not for everybody. Issues such as suicide, sex, crime, how to raise your kids, divorce, and alcoholism are touched on in very direct fashion. It’s a unpretentious style that I appreciate, but I can understand why it would turn some people off. There is, almost literally, NOTHING sacred in Louie’s world. It’s true of his stand up and true to this show.
So, I think obviously at this point, I’m a fan. I encourage everybody to at least give Louie a try. It feels more legitimate than any reality show. Most stuff doesn’t work out or come to that “resolve the A, B, and C story” model of television, and that’s refreshing. CK took less money from FX for the show purely so they would give him complete creative control of what to put on it. To say he took advantage of that is an understatement.