A man sits, talking to his therapist about his stance on life and how he is tired of new experiences. His babbling lulls the therapist to sleep and the man, in disgust, realises ‘oh my God, I’m a boring asshole now.’ And with those words, Louie is back on our screens, a shabby underdog in a world that’s against him, and I’m certainly glad that he is. The show, following our hero’s life through a number of unrelated vignettes and a bit of stand-up, is unlike anything else on TV at the moment, placing it in a league of its own amongst a deluge of naff sitcoms that threaten to numb brains into soup.
In ‘Pot Luck,’ after the discussion with the therapist, Louie decides to go to a pot luck dinner with some fellow parents, and after an encounter at the wrong apartment, he suffers the party neither he nor his hosts want him to be at. Going home with the lesbian host’s surrogate mother, the two wind up having sex, finishing the night with a trip to the hospital after her waters break. ‘A La Carte’ begins with Louie needing the toilet in a supermarket, and desperately racing home to go. He is then enlisted to MC an open mic evening, and has to give some advice to a painfully unfunny stand-up. The final section sees Louie heading out to watch a French film with his friend Pamela, and she tells him that she would like an open relationship after he suggests they move in together.
With these two episodes, it is clear to see that Louie is still on form, remaining incredibly funny and eliciting a number of belly laughs in its half-hour runtime. Louis C.K. is a master of turning the embarrassing into the side-splittingly hilarious, and finely nuancing those awkward experiences we all have into painfully accurate and acutely funny sketches. We’ve all knocked on a wrong door, but winding up in the middle of New Age cult – it could only happen to Louie, and whereas a traditional sitcom would have the characters making light of the situation, he simply doesn’t. He just takes it all in, collecting misery like some sort of emotion Jawa, and you can’t help but emphasise with the man.
The two episodes presented are somewhat different in execution – the first is closer to a single story, whereas the second is a number of loosely connected sketches, and it is the latter that plays to Louie’s strengths more. That said, both episodes are very funny, with a number of excellent jokes and some scenarios that can’t help but bring a smile to your face. Louie’s world is a world slightly more absurd and yet somehow more realistic than ours, and the style of humour may not be to everyone’s tastes, but the gag ratio is so high I can’t believe anyone would fail to find something to enjoy here. It feels odd to say that the comedic highlight of an episode is a man crapping himself, but the way the show pulls it off manages to raise the bar on it – Louie is a show so good, it manages to elevate literal toilet humour.
As funny as it is, Louie is also a fairly poignant show, and the interplay between the humour and the more emotional aspects helps raise it above its comedic bedfellows. Louie is a man with flaws but he always tries, fighting against a world that wants to keep punching him in the gut. His scenes with his children offer us a view of a warmer side to him, as do his scenes with former Lucky Louie co-star Pamela Adlon, as his sort-of not-quite partner – the scene where they discuss their relationship is truly funny and well-observed peice, but the undercurrent of heart is clear as can be. The man can act as well as write, and his best portrayal is undoubtedly that of a good-hearted man making his best.
Louie is also a cut above its peers in that it has an excellent supporting cast. It employs its few regulars effectively, and has always succeeded in pulling in some star names (earlier seasons have boasted fellow comedians such as Chris Rock and Ricky Gervais in more recurring roles, and some excellent one-off turns from F. Murray Abraham and the late Robin Williams) – this series shows every sign of continuing that trend. Judy Gold stars as Marina in the first episode, the host of the pot luck who is such a horrible woman you want to slap her every time she is on screen. Internet trending bar Jimmy Fallon crops up in a brief cameo in the second, hosting the The Tonight Show that the terrible stand-up has made it onto. Little touches like that just cement the picture in your mind.
The last series faced some unjust allegations of being not as funny, focusing more on dramatic aspects than on the basic humour and having a darker tone, and it is clear that C.K. has taken this on board. Fans were clamouring for a return to the surrealist humour of past series, C.K. said he was going to write a more gag-filled season and this is what we have – based on these Louie S05E01-02, this series could already be up there with the best.
It truly is a unique beast – it manages to merge the everyday with the surreal, the dramatic and the serious with the stupidly hilarious, remaining an excellent sitcom for those who truly appreciate fine television. I can only recommend it to you, but it all honesty, if you don’t watch it, you are missing out on something special.