The world is full of immoral people who commit terrible acts against nature and their fellow man, usually due to some archaic belief rather than as a result of rational thinking. I know these things. (I read a book.) But when I ask someone if they watch FX’s Louie, and they say, “No,” these are the people I want to diligently punch into a tear-filled submission. I can’t do anything about mass murderers in Norway, but I can punch strangers until their eyes bleed for not taking a half-hour out of their shitty weeks to watch one of the best shows on TV right now.
Season 2 of Louie follows the first season in terms of split-episode formats and the lack of a threaded storyline, but the content of the episodes has gone through an evolution of some kind. There are fewer jokey jokes outside of the interstitial stand-up material, and many have higher stakes that range from subtly depressing to violently surreal. Also, even if the plot doesn’t necessarily revolve around it, Louie always seems to be hitting on women. Even an anti-masturbation activist with whom he has no chance. Even a homely school-mom for whom romantic chemistry seems illogical. If there are limits to his pliable libido, we don’t witness them. Oh yeah, even Joan Rivers.
“Blueberries,” the segment that includes Delores (Marla Dizzla), that homely woman, is shorter than most, and incredibly unfunny at face value, as the escalating discomfort makes it simultaneously awful and amazing to watch. Louis C.K.’s commentary mentions the awkwardness growing organically as they filmed, and it works on every somber, un-sexual level. It’s Todd Solondz in capsule-form.
The unpredictable range of episodic structures and themes, peppered with emotional ebbs and flows, is part of Louie’s strengths. An episode that spends half its time on an oddly endearing father-and-daughter country drive (complete with a performance re-enactment of The Who’s “Who Are You,”) shifts to cultural differences between the young and urban and the elderly and uncautiously racist. An unnecessary re-acquainting with an old comic friend, Eddie (Doug Stanhope), strips a night of drunken behavior down to the despair of what drives nights of drunken behavior. A harried night of panic involving his pregnant sister teaches Louie a major lesson about the boundless care that neighbors can provide in times of crisis, and it all revolves around the most juvenile of punchlines.
The late-season “Duckling” comes nearest to reaching sublimity, doubling the episode’s length to follow Louie along on a short stint of U.S.O. shows in Afghanistan. Though it focuses on normal situations for this series, like Louie telling jokes and hitting on women who would never sleep with him, the episode is less urgent and full of breathing room, and the “war and peace” subject matter, though ending quite absurdly, contains many moments of understated beauty. Cameos from Army Ranger/country singer Keni Thomas and Louie’s testicles, as discussed in the opening, are bookends of sincerity holding together one man’s nervousness about being far outside of his natural element.
The most notable segment of the season, which might have reached notoriety if not for the matter-of-fact approach taken, is the sit-down between Louie (spiritually as Louis C.K.) and comedian Dane Cook. Cook, years earlier accused by stand-up listeners of stealing some of C.K.’s jokes, plays a version of himself who tries extracting a formal apology from Louie in return for a pair of concert tickets Louie wants to give his daughter. There is a transcendent gravitas to the scene that rarely makes its way into fictional TV. Though neither man claims any ill will toward the other in real life, their onscreen conversation is depicted exactly how I would have envisioned it. Mature, level-headed, slightly uncomfortable, and without raised voices, but articulating each point of view with situational accuracy.
It’s a true shame that the commentaries available on the DVD don’t include “Duckling” or the Dane Cook episode. Louis C.K.’s commentaries are interesting because he’s speaking alone, so most of the stories aren’t hindered by comedic riffs or stories of other projects. Even though he doesn’t remember most of the other actors’ names, he speaks fondly of everyone involved and explains each plot’s genesis, which usually has something to do with him being on tour, or involves Todd Barry’s insistence on telling nasty stories about people’s mothers.
Unfortunately, these five commentaries for the first five episodes are the only extras this disc set has to offer. Considering the rewatchability of each episode, it’s still worth your hard-earned dollar bills, and it gives you a good reason to show your friends the scene on the subway when a homeless man starts bathing himself to violin music. Because you really needed a reason to do that.
Length: 314 min.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: 6/19/12
Starring: Louis C.K., Hadley Delany, Ursula Parker, Pamela Adlon, Todd Barry
Directed by:Louis C.K.
Written by: Louis C.K.