Binge Watchin' TV Review: Louie
Welcome to Binge Watchin,’ where we take a look at some of the best TV shows available on streaming or disc that have a great catalogue of seasons to jump into and get sucked into the beautiful bliss of binge watching! From crime, action, comedy, drama, animation, etc., we’ll be evaluating an assortment of shows that will hopefully serve as a gateway to your next binge experience.
Number of Seasons: 5 (61 episodes to date)
What’s the show about?
Louie follows the fictionalized life of stand-up comedian Louis C.K., a divorced father of two girls struggling to make ends meet. Living in New York City, Louie works the various clubs around his home while also dealing with life as a middle-aged man. Romance, life, death, sadness, depression, and every other aspect of modern American life come in to play. Whether it be understanding what it means to raise a daughter or buying a new apartment, Louie approaches everything with his trademark sense of humor which is tinged with just a little bit of darkness and a lot of frustration. Episodes are interjected with comedy routines performed in nightclubs and disconnected vignettes that may or not be narratively relevant.
Why should I watch it?
Before Louie hit the air, autobiographical sitcoms starring comedians ended up as generic series like Home Improvement or Everybody Loves Raymond. But, Louie is something else entirely. Unlike C.K.'s previous series, HBO's short-lived Lucky Louie, this FX series allowed the comedian to pull quintuple duty as star, writer, director, producer, and editor. Rather than accept a lucrative deal with FX, C.K. instead accepted $200,000 to cover the cost of his pilot in exchange for full creative control. Shooting with a RED camera and edting on his own laptop, C.K. has created something wholly unlike any other show on television. Fans of his comedy will find parallels in what he talks about on stage with this series but it is also a deeper look at a fictional character that sometimes veers so far from reality that you have to question whether Louis C.K. is meant for bigger things than a television show.
Comparisons are easy to make between Louis C.K. and Woody Allen: both filmmakers are jacks of all trades, use music brilliantly, and are masters of specific brands of comedy. What makes Louie so unique is that it is able to veer from absurdist comedy to heartfelt examinations of being a father, a man, and an American. C.K. devotes entire episodes to subjects as mundane as shopping at a store with a rude clerk to volunteering at his daughter's school. Others spend entire episodes on the idea of nightmares while another ventures to take Louie to the Middle East as part of a U.S.O. tour. The episodes rarely connect to one another with actors swapping roles on several occassions. Big name guest stars have shown up ranging from Award winning actors like Melissa Leo, Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin to fellow comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock. Nobody acts as if they are above the material and many embrace the show as the caliber of many feature films.
FX has such confidence in Louis C.K. as an artist that they even allowed him to take a voluntary hiatus from the show between the last few seasons. While this has stretchew the new material thin for viewers wanting to see new stories, it is a testament to the creative process. FX would rather C.K. take his time and craft quality programming rather than churn out 13 episodes of the same old jokes. There have been rumors that Louie may never return, but until we hear a formal cancellation, we will wait with bated breath for the next season premiere date. In the interim, rewatching these short seasons is just as rewarding as watching over a hundred episodes since Louis C.K. has packed every thirty minute episode with enough material that rewatching them offers new angles and punchlines you may not have heard before.
There are some amazing moments in the fourth season of the show which plays out with two long story arcs and a couple of outstanding standalone episodes, including the excellent "So Did the Fat Lady", but it is the show's second season that stands as the best. The first season was a fairly straight forward television series with slowly developing and subtle humor, but season two elevated things to another tier. From the moment Louis sees a homeless man exchanged for a slightly different homeless man (see the clip here), I knew this show was bound for more than we had bargained for. Louie elevated from a series to must see programming with the second season.
Louis C.K. is something of a chameleon. His big screen work, while limited, tends towards more mainstream fare. His web series, Horace and Pete, is a masterwork of a stage play produced on film. But, Louie may be his best work as it serves as an experimental playground for C.K. as an actor, writer, editor, director, and more. There is no single episode of Louie that you can watch without realizing how much more talented C.K. is than just being a comedian. With C.K.'s brand expanding to include the Zach Galifianakis sitcom Baskets and the upcoming new Pamela Adlon series Better Things, there is no shortage of Louis C.K. on television, but Louie is definitely what you should be watching.