From day one I’ve been a huge fan of FX and how they handle their original programming choices. Since the premiere episode of The Shield and onward the network has proven that they like nothing more than to take well-worn genres and allow innovative creators to twist and warp these concepts in order to bring something new to the table. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes it doesn’t even work right away as was the case with Louie. Sure, the first season is funny and with Louis C.K.’s stand-up chops guiding the series along it was better than much of the comedy outside of basic cable over in major network land (a sometimes scary place fraught with laugh-tracks and sweeps stunts).
Suddenly season two came along and the game changed entirely. The comedy had become as sharp in its narrative segments as it was in the stand-up routines—sometimes even better. Louie fans could tell you that there probably wasn’t a single show on television last year that made them laugh more, but they’d also likely tell you that what elevated the second season to greater heights was Louis C.K.’s innovation in taking the phrase ‘laugh til it hurts’ and transforming it into ‘laugh because it hurts’.
He’s not the first to use television to explore the realms of the painfully awkward parts of life in order to mine comic gold, but he’s not merely some ginger version of Larry David either. That show always expected its audience to laugh then shake its head dismissively as the misanthropic lead ultimately escaped many of the squirm-inducing situations he found himself in. Louie doesn’t want to just glimpse the uncomfortable, it wants to linger in it and come up with moments that are so real that they have their own value in being experienced—this can be far more satisfying than a cheap laugh here or a sight gag there.
With the third season premiere, “Something is Wrong”, we find that Louis C.K. is still interested in exploring the minor struggles which for his character are often nearly insurmountable. There’s an excellent segment involving Louie’s sweet new ride and a frustrating parking situation that can easily represent how Louie’s inability to act, or to speak out ends with crushing results. It’s one of the funniest bits in an episode that isn’t very concerned with laugh out loud moments when Louie and another guy stare at the most intentionally misleading collection of parking signs ever to try to figure out if they’re in the right or not for parking there. Personally, I’ve stood and stared at one of those signs that seemingly claimed you could only park one hour out of the day every other Thursday, but the great thing about this latest obstacle for Louie is how it shows his inability to win.
The fact that the fictional Louie seems to be having a higher level of success in the show mimicking the success of the real life Louis seems like it can add a great level to the sorts of things Louie finds himself getting wrapped up in this season. The man spent nearly eight thousand dollars on a symbol of manhood in order to try to fix his own when it’s been recently wounded, and following a very brief triumphant ride through the city he finds himself eating the pavement—again there’s his reward for taking a risk. Here’s a character that keeps having things fall apart no matter the level of effort he puts in, and almost especially when he decides to take a risk or two. And yet no matter what he goes through he walks away, though always a little more battered and bruised for the effort spent.
It’s just like the guy at motorcycle shop said to Louie after showing off a range of ‘are you a freaking idiot for wanting to buy one of these things?’ scars and injuries. Louie too is a character who personifies the statement, “I have a permanent limp but I keep walking.” Wandering in and out of one situation after another that, while not usually spectacular, speak a truth about the nature of life’s tedium and uncomfortable moments. There’s not much more you could really want from the series but that.
- Are you feeling lucky now that Louie is back?
- What were your favorite scene/scenes from the episode or the series that are so painfully funny?
- Does that theme song not demand to be sung and possibly even danced along with?
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