If there are two things that this blog likes — and there are more than two things, many more, because we’re all human and we all have a diverse array of likes and dislikes, but for the sake of this post we’re going to focus on two things in particular — this blog likes Louis C.K. and this blog likes David Lynch. (I mean, obviously. Lots and lots of people like Louis C.K. and David Lynch. This blog also likes ice cream, because this blog makes the DARING LIFE CHOICES.)
The transcendent “Louie” returns tonight. Are you excited? I bet you’re excited. The series is not really a sitcom; instead, it’s an amorphous genre-hopping experiment with comedic elements. But because it stars Louis CK, generally and aptly considered to be the best stand-up comic working today, people consider it a comedy. Which is fine. It’s a funny show! It’s just not always a straight-up sitcom so if you tune in waiting for a sitcom you will be disappointed.
The show was terrific in its first season, though it really reached another level during the second season. There was something so terrifically cohesive about the second season, as if Louis CK had figured out what worked and what didn’t and was really able to shape each distinct episode into a particular story (or stories), and the entire thing was just perfect from beginning to end.
So you should watch it tonight, obviously. (Even if you were already planning on watching it, just take the reminder, okay?) It premieres on FX at 10:30 p.m. I want to warn you that the new Charlie Sheen sitcom will be disgorged in the 10 to 10:30 p.m. timeslot, so be very careful that you don’t turn on FX too early, lest you encounter unexpected and incurable doses of Charlie Sheen’s “acting” and “humor.”
This is an advertisement for the show “Louie.” Do you like the show “Louie”? Because I am a big fan of the show “Louie.” This ad shows us basically nothing, it’s just a reminder that the show exists and is acclaimed and also stars Louis C.K., but it’s nice to be reminded that the show is coming back soon. Also, it references the beginning of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do because that sequence was terrific.
We’ll take anything “Louie”-related we can get, is the point. “Louie” returns on June 28.
Everybody wants the ‘Louis C.K. deal.’ What they don’t realize is there is no Louis C.K. deal. There’s nothing on paper that says they don’t bother me. Everything on paper says they can make me do everything they want, says I serve at their pleasure and they get approval over everything. But they’re not going to exercise it as long as things are going well. I earn this with every episode. If I stop being funny, they’re going to come calling.
That’s Louis C.K. talking about his FX deal, which is the envy of many creative people working in television. He gets money (not much), no notes, no network script approval and the freedom to do what he wants.
The Times ran a story about FX’s niche as the basic cable network of choice for young men. The network emerged as a reputable home for dramas with “The Shield” and, to a lesser but buzzier extent, “Nip/Tuck.” There have been hits and misses since that point (R.I.P. “Terriers”), though right now they have two flagship dramas in “Sons of Anarchy” and “Justified.”
But nowadays, the network seems to be known largely for its comedies: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which has been on since 2005, had a creative resurgence last year; “The League” is the best out-and-out comedy the network airs; “Archer,” an animated spy spoof, has a small but loyal following; “Wilfred,” starring Elijah Wood as a depressed man who sees a talking dog; and “Louie,” the Louis C.K. show that varies in tone and genre from week to week.
There is one blip steadily approaching: Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom, “Anger Management,” which debuts this summer. And when I say “blip,” I mean the FX brand had some cachet for a while there, but soon it will be the home a hacky sitcom star known for being an unreliable, unstable actor with a history of violence directed at women. Oh, and he’s starring in an adaptation of a bad Adam Sandler movie. That’s one way to alter public perception of the FX brand.
In our latest installment of Good News/Bad News: FX has announced that “Louie” will premiere on Tuesday, June 28, at 10:30 p.m. (It will follow “Wilfred,” the show starring Elijah Wood that I kept meaning to watch but wound up never watching because I forgot “Wilfred” existed.) That’s the good news! Louie Louie Louie, etc.
The bad news: FX will also premiere Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom “Anger Management” at 9 p.m. the same night. So there’s chance, however slim, that people curious about this Louis C.K. sitcom they keep hearing about might also hear there are other new sitcoms on the same night, so they will tune in earlier. This would be bad, because the new sitcom starring the walking cloud of cocaine and entitlement that is Charlie Sheen has an unusual contract with the network: It will air 10 episodes and, should they reach some unspecified ratings targets, the show will automatically be renewed for 90 additional episodes. I have no idea what those ratings targets are, but if they’re low enough that any lingering Sheen-related interest could lead viewers to check out his show a few times out of morbid curiosity, that’s it: we’re stuck with the show for at least 100 episodes.
The people who run “Parks and Recreation” and “Community” walked the A.V. Club through their respective recent seasons, episode-by-episode, sharing all sorts of fascinating little tidbits. Considering they have already explored two of the three best comedies on television, the A.V. Club decided to go for the hat trick and do the same for the third member of that club*: FX’s “Louie.”
* – It’s tough to determine whether or not “Louie” is a comedy or, more likely, a genre-blending hybrid that varies in tone and topic from week to week. “Louie” is more of a series of semi-connected vignettes, all anchored by the comic sensibilities and presence of Louis C.K., but since he is a comedian, and since the show has lots of funny moments, and since it’s certainly not a drama, I’m going to go ahead and agree that it’s a “comedy.” With that in mind, “Parks and Recreation,” “Community” and “Louie” are the three best comedies on television and, really, three of the best things on the air right now in any genre. Those shows all just completed rather remarkable seasons, and while “Louie” aired over the summer and the two network sitcoms aired during the typical television season, it’s still also somewhat remarkable that we got three seasons of such terrific and intelligent televised comedy within such a short timespan.
Returning to the airwaves with gusto, the second season premiere of “Louie” made it feel as if no time had elapsed since the last season wrapped up. It was the same bizarro combination of surrealistic and naturalistic, mixing Louis C.K.’s brilliant on-stage persona with rather vividly imagined slices of life. He cooked for his kids, he welcomed his pregnant sister, he met his neighbors and he rushed his sister to the hospital. He also made some jokes on stage. All in all, it was a decidedly offbeat season premiere, which made it exactly what was expected.
The show has gotten a lot of attention and buzz in recent days and weeks because of the unique backstory and production process. Louis C.K. was given a budget by FX and can do pretty much anything he wants, which he does; in addition to starring in the show, he writes, directs, edits and basically runs the series in a one-man band kind of way that nobody else in Hollywood can match. The critics and audience that love it seem to enjoy it equally because of what it is not (typical television) as well as what it actually is (perpetually surprising and funny, but able to veer into drama or pathos without any notice), and I’m sure some element of the fascination comes from the odd creative process and Louis C.K.’s general likability.
It remains amazing, even in the second season, that someone would give him half an hour of television and let him do whatever he wants. It’s like some bizarre dream — sure, why not let the best working stand-up oversee his own show, but actually oversee it rather than the usual television-by-committee process — only it’s really happening. Each individual episode might not be perfect, and the show might veer into some odd patches, but you really need to be watching this.