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Should it last beyond a second season, Louie will make my list of all-time favorite comedies. I’d call it after these initial 13 episodes, but that’s preferential treatment. Louis C.K. has made me laugh embarrassingly hard since I first saw him on late-night shows in the mid '90s, not realizing he also wrote for some of them. His stand-up performances are perfect executions of unapologetic discomfort involving the human body, religion, race, and food. Loads funnier than his previous show (HBO’s chuckle-inducing Lucky Louie), FX’s Louie is must-watch TV for anyone unafraid of a few fucking four-letter words.
Louis C.K. is as unabashed as they come, even calling an HBO special Shameless. That doesn’t mean he performs asinine stunts in public. The man understands that in a world that houses billions of people, the problems he faces are not exclusively his own. Like a child with anger issues, he earnestly holds many of life’s quirks beneath a filthy microscope, questioning everything and enjoying little. Regardless of how “real” any of it is, his off-kilter point of view is always convincing.
Written, directed, edited, produced, and performed by the man himself, Louie shares very few similarities with other TV comedies. Most episodes are split into two stories, interspersed with stand-up footage shot inside of small comedy clubs. Stand-up footage, really? Yes, and worry not. The ghost of Seinfeld is entirely absent; Louis C.K.’s brusque approach is on the opposite pole of observational humor. He’s more interested in whether the word “faggot” is as offensive to gay people as it is to non-gay people.
Partly inspired by reality, Louie indeed has its main character as a divorced comedian with two daughters. Unlike reality, Louie has a brother, Robbie (Robert Kelly), who pops by to bring Louie down about his divorce and to badger their newly-lesbianized mother (Mary Louise Wilson) as to why she never told him “I love you.” Out of context, that may sound weak, but Kelly and Wilson excel in making this the funniest, most cringe-worthy minutes of the season. Louie dates, or attempts to date, a handful of women, usually ending in disaster (one manages to escape his non-amorous advances by helicopter), though he manages to hit it off with an incredibly rude heckler. These are just the normal storylines.
Luckily, there is much focus on surreal, unrealistic situations as well. The ever-giggling Ricky Gervais plays over-the-top asshole Dr. Ben, an old friend of Louie’s who performs a check-up rife with disgusted sarcasm and mild hatred. It’s a character that would fall flat with anyone but Gervais speaking the words. Stephen Root plays a sympathetic dentist who soothes Louie’s fears with anesthetics that send him into a dream world where he hangs out with Osama Bin Laden. He continuously fucks up in a small role as a cop in a Matthew Broderick movie, another scene I could watch repeatedly without stopping.
Louie spends time with a couple of over-bearing fans who back-handedly demand his attention, ending the night with a sensitive cop looking to try a little tenderness. He gets punked by a teenage bully, while on a date, and it’s disturbingly priceless. Watching him reluctantly getting stoned with a spaced-out neighbor is completely unpredictable. And hearing his father’s explanation of sex will leave your ears burning.
There are more guest stars, which is good, since Louie is the only central character. Aside from those already mentioned, comedians Nick DiPaolo, Todd Barry, Hannibal Buress, Godfrey, Eddie Brill, Rick Crom, and Jim Norton show up as heightened versions of themselves. David Patrick Kelly is Louie’s therapist in a couple episodes. Pamela Adlon plays a love interest, a welcomed reunion of the Lucky Louie couple. Josh Hamilton plays the stoned neighbor. Bobby Cannavale and Tom Noonan show up as well.
Louie is exemplary of what comedy should be, because episodes can’t be summed up like they can with generic sitcoms. Envelopes are gloriously pushed over the edge, turning stomachs with laughter and disgust. The episodes are meant to be experienced, not explained in a review. Make this purchase and watch the new season on FX.
This Blu-ray/DVD set is leaner than Louis C.K.’s belly, but there is no wasted space. The aspect ratio really brings every wince and grimace to life; even the lower-quality stand-up footage looks great. Since most of the show is just dialogue, I have minimal criticisms of the sound mix. On to the extras.
Louis graces 11 episodes with commentaries of varying depth. So involved in the show’s creation, he speaks lovingly of the filming process, now finally able to do everything his way. He expounds upon story inspirations, and speaks highly of every single co-star he appears with. And, of course, there’s much self-deprecation. Despite some lulls, these are as entertaining as a single-person commentary can be.
For the 33-minute “Deleted and Extended Scenes,” Louis C.K. offers introductions to a handful of bits that were cut short, but which are just as funny as everything that aired. Notables include a woman who bumps into Louie’s daughter and makes a big deal about apologizing, Rick Shapiro spouting off a batshit monologue at a dinner table, and an old man getting busy with a gloryhole. Also included is the full version of the hilarious Vagina Cover commercial that is shown in the background of one episode. And last but not least, Louis C.K. talks about the creative process in “Fox Movie Channel Presents Writer’s Draft.” It’s less than five minutes long, but still amusing.
I’m changing my story, having written the opening paragraph before rewatching all of the episodes. Excuse my naiveté. If Firefly can be a favorite of mine after a single season, Louie deserves a spot somewhere near it, dropping a deuce on everything below. Every single episode provoked more of my laughter than any other show’s entire current season. Suck it, every other show.
Length: 360 min.
Rated: Not rated
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: 6/21/11
Starring: Louis C.K.
Directed by: Louis C.K.
Produced by: David Becky, M. Blair Breard, Louis C.K., Jonathan Stern
Written by: Louis C.K.
Visit the Louie Official Website