So I’ve watched the first three seasons of FX’s show Louie written, directed, produced, edited and starring Louis C.K. and since the quality, structure and themes of the show seem to be recurring and consistent I feel I can review the show as a whole. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore, but after seeing a preview of this show on Jimmy Fallon and hearing great things about it on a podcast I listen to, I thought I’d give it a shot. The show looked a lot different than what you’d normally see on television and it really is.
Louis C.K. is the protagonist of this series which is loosely based on his life as a stand-up comedian in New York City. C.K. plays a version of himself and is probably largely inspired by his own experiences in the City. Louie is a 40-something divorced father of two adorable little girls, trying to figure out his career and someone to date. Most of the episodes show him doing live stand-up shows, trying to be a good father (he gets to see his girls for half the week) and trying to find a special someone.
With every episode we get to know Louie a little bit better, and the more we get insights into his mind and psychology, the darker the show seems to get. At times it’s questionable that this is even a comedy show. Some episodes are almost depressing and completely devoid of laughs. The surprising thing is that the drama in Louie always feels genuine and heartfelt. A lot of the times you can sense Woody Allen’s influence and certainly New York plays a big role in enhancing that feeling, but C.K. seems to share a lot of the same views on life, love and art.
Where Louie is different from Allen’s work is “vulgarity”. C.K. really doesn’t seem to have a problem in being gross and explicit in his language. Some times it’s quite disgusting to be frank. I am not easily annoyed by swearing or foul language, but I also don’t necessarily think that’s something you need to be funny or that being crass is hilarious in itself. I am not offended by C.K.’s colorful expressions and they can be quite funny, but it doesn’t always work. Also, I could do without most jokes about bodily fluids.
That being said, I love how unusual this show feels. Maybe it’s the rawness of how he shoots the City, maybe it’s the surreal situation he puts himself in or maybe it’s just his persona. Speaking of surreal, the master of surreal cinema, David Lynch himself makes a guest appearance on the show. That’s a lot of fun, but there are so many other great cameos: F. Murray Abraham, Bobby Cannavale, Chloë Sevigny, Susan Sarandon, and so many other fantastic and talented actors and actresses.
So far the first season is still the best, because I loved funny character’s like Louie’s analyst. I wish he came back, he was by far the funniest thing on the show. I also really like Louie’s daughters, they’re totally adorable and cute, but his youngest Jane, played by the delightful Ursula Parker is just amazing. I rarely love kids actors, but she is terrific. She’s funny, charming and incredibly talented and not just for her age, but for an actress in general. She definitely has a bright future ahead of her in show business.
My favorite thing about Louie however is how you can clearly tell that C.K. is trying to steer clear from any TV cliché as much as he can. He’s not always successful, but for the most part the show is rather unconventional and sometimes quite unpredictable. A lot of things happen, that you wouldn’t expect in a network television show. Sometimes that means a jarring tonal shift, but sometimes it’s also just compelling filmmaking. I also love that he doesn’t shy away from black & white photography and experimenting visually.
Overall Louie is a good-looking television series about a funny man with some very serious issues. Even when the show is not funny, it’s thoroughly entertaining and fascinating. The dramatic aspects are just as competently handled as the comedic ones. As much as Louie continuously finds himself in surreal/larger-than-life/exaggerated situation the show’s unflinchingly realistic message keeps it grounded in some sort of believable reality. Louis C.K. is charismatic and magnetic enough to keep you interested and coming back for one more episode.