‘Louie’ pushes boundaries, pulls laughs
TV Review | 4.5 out of 5 stars
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 07:09
Louis C.K. is a true auteur of television. A renowned, Emmy Award-winning comedian, Louis C.K. serves as writer, director, actor and executive producer for his acclaimed FX series, “Louie.”
“Louie” essentially feels like half hour glimpses of the world through the eyes of Louie, the main character, played by C.K. This often painfully realistic approach gives the viewer a look into life as Louie experiences it. The show is so compellingly written that even mundane tasks, such as Louie making small talk or watching his daughters, can be hilarious.
This humor is often accomplished through small, surreal moments that are sprinkled perfectly throughout each episode. Frequently, these moments exaggerate a common experience.
In the season three premiere, for example, Louie is confused by an absurdly convoluted set of contradictory “No Parking” signs, an incident that creates humor out of a basic, but relatable situation.
Other times these surreal occurrences are used as a vehicle for social commentary, such as when Louie and another woman watch emotionlessly as a reality show contestant is brutally murdered on television and then forget about it just minutes later.
These moments, along with “Louie’s” constant disregard for television convention, make the show enjoyable and even thrilling to watch because all episodes have the potential to go anywhere at any time.The show regularly puts Louie in side-splittingly awkward situations that are reminiscent of the comic heights of HBO’s “Curb your Enthusiasm” and frequently incorporates clever lines that, while funny, also are strikingly human.
For instance, in one episode, a former one-night stand calls Louie to tell him that she either gave or got crabs from him. She ends the conversation by saying, “F--k you, or, I’m sorry! I don’t know which.” It’s hard not to simultaneously laugh and feel a surge of painful empathy.
What makes “Louie” so daring is its ability to, at times, abandon funny in favor of a rare dramatic depth. In this way, “Louie” trusts in the intelligence and attention span of its audience in a way that popular, rapid-fire joke machines like “30 Rock” do not. Every now and then, “Louie” lets itself be a quiet meditation on complex subjects like war, religion or raising children. These segments aren’t filled with jokes, but they are intriguing and compel viewers to keep watching, despite the fact that they deviate from the show’s usual comedic content.
This season of “Louie” has been elevated even more by phenomenal guest stars. Both Parker Posey and Melissa Leo have appeared on the show and delivered Emmy-worthy performances. Posey’s performance as Louie’s date is arguably a comment on the “quirky-weird girls” that so frequently show up in modern romantic comedies. Those movies tend to romanticize extreme eccentricities, but “Louie” fires back at those portrayals by presenting Posey as what one of those characters would be like in the real world. Her performance is more manic-depressive than cute or quirky.
Most episodes of “Louie” are built around vignettes that focus on a single truth Louie wants to get across. This makes the show more like a set of high-end short stories rather than a standard television program.
It’s also part of what makes the show thrilling, because each vignette can have a different tone and feel, and it’s not always easy to know where or even when the vignette will end. This keeps the show from feeling scattered or random. The overarching unity applied by Louie’s urbane worldview gives these smaller stories – whether they concern Louie’s self-hatred, his search for post-divorce love or his difficulties raising his daughters – the potential to deliver profound moments of truth.
Louis C.K. is easily one of the hardest working men in television today, but he hasn’t overextended himself by taking on too many of his show’s major duties. Instead, he has given his program the kind of singular vision that allows viewers to escape into his world for funny and poignant tales from his life.