To call Louie the best comedy on television is mostly unfair. Sure, it may not have as many laughs-per-minute as perennial favorites Community or Parks and Recreation, or even newcomers Happy Endings or New Girl. But the honesty and unorthodox techniques behind Louie C.K.’s storytelling brings with it genuine, awkward, unexpected laughter unlike anything on TV, while covering typical C.K. themes like morality, mortality, relationships, and fatherhood.
In many ways, C.K. crams a lot of the typical hour-long drama tropes into the 22-minute comedy format. But, again, to categorize Louie as any one type of show just doesn’t work. Sometimes he conjures up characters for single episode purposes only to never hear from them again. Sometimes his episodes are set up as two different short films sharing common themes. Sometimes an episode will just be one or two very, very long scenes. Sometimes he’ll build a stand-alone story that gradually works towards a single punchline.
In this age of television – where a series can be canceled after a single episode and the general viewing public gravitate towards non-confrontational, safe sitcoms with mass-appeal – the fact that FX allows C.K. to do whatever the hell he damn pleases is a miracle. And us, as TV fans, should be forever grateful for this.
As high-brow and thought-provoking as C.K.’s comedy can be, he makes it clear that he’s not above a good dick joke, and he proves this as the third season opens up with Louie doing a stand-up bit about how he’s getting so old that he needs reading glasses in order to masturbate. In a way, it’s Louie keeping everyone on their toes. New viewers may be joining this season after hearing endless amounts of critical acclaim, only to be greeted by a three-minute bit on jerking off. Brilliant.
The rest of the episode plays out with two storylines involving Louie’s inability do what is expected of him. First, he meets the girl he’s been seeing for months at a diner, and through a series of telling facial expressions, accidentally breaks up with her. April (who we’ve never seen before and will probably never see again) spends most of the very long scene talking to Louie without ever getting a straight answer back — just mostly a series of mumbles, stutters, and looks. It’s really a great showcase of C.K.’s acting.
After the break up, Louie finds that his car as been (rather absurdly) destroyed by a construction crew, which leads him to wandering into a motorcycle shop. The employee there affirms that it’s not safe to drive one, showing Louie an endless number of scars from the falls he’s taken over the years, but Louie sees the brighter side of owning a bike (cheap, good on gas, easy parking) and buys one on the spot.
Louie rides his new hog around the city accompanied by a old-timey French song in a scene that is so beautifully Louie. The show is never afraid to take you out of the typical comedy format, and C.K. has shown that he’s a gifted filmmaker throughout the series’ run, but he’s able to bring the comedy and absurdity back in an instant when the scene culminates in Louie wiping out.
After leaving the hospital with just a few minor injuries, Louie limps back to his apartment and not long after April shows up wanting to get her laptop back. Seeing Louie is in pain, she stays to help him out, but as she’s leaving, Louie feels vulnerable and tells her to stay.
Louie doesn’t want any part of a future with this woman, but with this quasi-mid-life crisis he’s going through, he’d rather feel comfortable than actually try (and perhaps fail) to find happiness somewhere. April knows this and reams him out: “Do you realize you might be wasting four years of both of our lives because you can’t just say ‘bye,’ because, in this second, it feels weird? Just be a man in this one moment.” And even after all that, Louie can’t muster up the courage to say anything more. She leaves, and he seems as relieved as ever.
I’ve seen the first five episodes of the season, and while this season premiere was an enjoyable re-entry into the Louie universe (if we can call it that), it was probably my least favorite of the bunch, which is less of a knock on this episode and more just extremely high praise for the beginning part of Season 3.
- Great confusion over the parking signs stacked on top of each other, which included “2 hour parking 6 am – 5 am Mon-Fri,” “Parking of vehicles only authorized,” “Parking permitted anytime after midnight,” and a green circle with a line through it.
- “It’s always before midnight and it’s always after midnight.”
- Louie waiving down a cab, the cab pulling up too far, Louie painfully limping towards it, and the cab driving away impatiently got the biggest laugh out of me.
- “Ass-necked idiot!” – Louie’s Ex
- Crazy old lady in the hospital screaming in pain: “What about Obama?” (which is a nice callback from last season when Louie was trying to make his claim to his accountant to buy a home he couldn’t afford.)
- “Why aren’t rich old guys getting new dicks?”