“I hate to see what the future will be if you don’t make this happen.”
Any other show would have treated this as Louie’s long-deserved and fully welcomed ‘big break’. That would have been a massive mistake as it would have thrown Louie himself very far out of character. Instead the number one recurring theme we see in ‘Late Show Pt. 2′ is Louie’s complete resistance to this gig.
The opening scene deals with his reluctance when he meets up with ex-wife Janet to discuss the offer. Louie sits across from her at a local diner practically begging her to be ‘the bad guy’ and say he can’t do it. All he wants is a reason for it to be okay to not want to do it. But that’s Louie’s problem is that no one is going to think it’s acceptable for him to not want to do it. God forbid that anyone doesn’t take the chance to ‘move up’ in this life even if it’s not something suited for that particular individual. If he doesn’t do it all then it will be chalked up as some wasted opportunity that he’ll never be able to reach the heights of again. But if he goes through with it and fails even though the job they want him for is in no way a good fit for him, (remember Jerry Seinfeld is the man they really want and they would never presume to change him as much as they want to change Louie) then he’s still made a horrible mistake. The creation of this conflict is what so successfully propels this story into needing the full three-act structure of a three-part episode. It’s smart to split up the offer, the conflict, and then presumably next week we’ll find out if it was all even worth it or not.
It’s the ultimate in damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenarios to give Louie no way to really win. So instead of this opportunity being played as a career triumph it’s being presented as this dismaying occurrence in Louie’s life–something he never asked for and it’s going to affect him deeply no matter what he chooses. It’s all the more difficult for Louie to navigate when you see just how happy he is with the way his life is already going. Sure, Janet doesn’t see what he does as worthwhile at this stage in his life, but Louie’s in a comfortable groove where he can play shows and still be a part of his daughters’ lives. That can be mistaken for a sort of complacency, however to me it looks more like Louie knows what he really wants right now. He also knows deep down that this Late Show experiment is not going to work out.
Much of this episode was based around Louie’s talk-show host grooming sessions which featured an interesting cameo from David Lynch. I wasn’t entirely sold on the nature of these scenes until the moment where Lynch’s character goes in front of the camera to eerily approximate the correct gestures and facial expressions that will be necessary for the job which Louie can’t quite get the hang of. The complete void of personality that Louie is being encouraged to replicate is frustrating and it’s during these sessions that he finally gets the chance to speak out against a talk-show host mandate (wearing a suit) that he refuses to accommodate the network by going through with. It’s giving us a chance to hear Louie say in his own words how uncomfortable he is with all of this, but it isn’t enough for anyone to stop the process of preparing him as Lynch’s character merely refers Louie to the next stage of the process. I love the irony involved in the fact that if a host doesn’t do well on a show it’s perceived as being their own fault when in actuality it’s usually the network stripping everything people initially recognized and liked about the host before they were given the show that’s the real culprit behind why so many wannabe hosts crash and burn in the ratings.
Jay Leno, in a surprisingly self-effacing appearance, tries to warn Louie against going through with it. He claims that what Louie has now, his ‘hipness’, is something that will be lost the moment he goes on stage five nights a week. I can’t say I disagree with the man and even though it could be construed as an attempt to keep Louie out of the competition, as Chris Rock claims in his own appearance in this episode, I think that Louie will regret not taking Leno’s advice. Especially when the episode closes out on the announcement that Rock himself is now apparently in the running for the hosting gig thanks to Louie telling him about the job being open. Acts like this one are truly the reason why the term “late-night wars” applies in the talk show biz.
Louie’s in the studio system now and there isn’t much he can do to get out until he stands on the Late Show stage and bombs his first shows with an actual audience. But Louie likes to go to unexpected places sometimes and it would be a great commentary on the nature of this particular part of show business if he just went through the motions without being anything like the guy that people knew already and he was a huge hit. If everything the studio told him to change about himself actually made him more successful, but at the cost of his own identity and the things Louie truly cares most about:the thrill of stand-up comedy and his daughters. It’s hard to say which would be the better ending for this story but knowing the nature of Louie and how they like to buck continuity when they feel it’s appropriate it’s entirely possible that Louie could easily succeed or fail and then next week we never hear another word about the Late Show.
Do you want him to fail or succeed when he gets in front of a true test audience?
Would you rather this whole storyline remain self-contained and not affect the rest of the series?
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