Goddamn, this is a good show. There's no show on TV quite like Louie. It's alternately hilarious, moving, bizarre, frustrating and tremendously insightful about what it means to be a comedian, father, brother, and just plain guy in New York City these days.
I gotta admit that I hadn't watched Louie before I grabbed my copy of the Season Two DVD. I didn't know too much about the show or what to expect of it before I started watching it. But as soon as I started watching the first episode of this DVD set, I was completely hooked.
The first episode begins with a sweet scene in the bathroom as Louie is brushing his younger daughter's teeth. The scene is shot in close-up as we see the faces of father and daughter talking. At first it's an intimate and tremendously charming scene, but as we will soon find out from watching this series, things are never as simple as they seem to be in Louis C.K.'s world. Louie's daughter starts talking very sweetly about how much she prefers to live at her mommy's house. "When am I going to go to momma's again? I like momma's better. I like momma's better because she makes good food. And I love her more so I like being there, too. I like being here, too. It's just not as great." Louis nods and smiles and slowly seethes listening to the happy little rant. As his daughter wanders to bed, Louis flips her the bird – but in the sweetest possible way.
It's a perfect scene to kick off the season because it sums up Louis's life perfectly – full of vague, uncomfortable and true-to-life situations. There is really no way that Louie can win in his conversation with his daughter – if says the wrong thing , he will look like a bad guy – and actually there is no right thing he can say to the girl. His adorable daughter doesn't mean to be cruel – the whole world around Louis C.K. doesn't mean to be cruel – but she's brutally honest in the way that only a young child can be, and she wants to share her opinions with the person she loves the second-most in the world. Louie is stuck in the uncomfortable middle, his wonderful hangdog face full of conflicting emotions.
That's a facial expression that we get to see a lot in these 13 episodes, an expression that makes it look like Louis C.K. is a bit overwhelmed by all the trivial and great complicated incidents happening around him. Sometimes his pain, confusion and frustration are justified – as in the really wonderful episode that takes place in Afghanistan. Sometimes Louis creates his own complications – as in the wonderful episode that guest-stars Joan Rivers and takes place in one of Donald Trump's New Jersey casinos. And sometimes Louis just makes life more complicated for himself than he needs to – as in the pair of episodes that show him pursuing his unrequited love for Pamela.
Mostly, though, this show is just a reminder of how complicated life can be. Whether it comes from dealing with your neighbors or your crazy sisters or simply the complications of trying to be a good guy in a complicated world, Louie shows us that our most complex nemesis and most difficult person to please isn't our kids or our friends. It's ourselves.
Over and over again on this show, Louis C.K. puts himself in the position to be an outsider. Much of the stand-up comedy that is laced throughout these 13 episodes are meditations on being in his 40s, of the exciting parts of his life being mostly over, of being trapped in his failing body and endlessly uncomfortable mind. In one of the best episodes of the season, the very moving "Niece", Louie is completely unable to talk to his 13-year-old niece because, as his friend Godfrey tells him, Louie just needs to get out of his own head and try to relate to people.
And even when he does relate to people, the results are complicated and difficult. When Louie reunites with his friend Eddie from his early comedy days, he finds that Eddie is a complete mess, an asshole drug addict with nothing going on in his life and who just wants to crawl off in a corner and die. All the standard ways of relating to people disappear when confronted with a person like that, and this sad and uncomfortable episode makes us appreciate the richness of Louie's life – even if Louie doesn’t.
Maybe the most challenging episode of the second season is in the second episode, when a very casual hookup with a self-possessed woman from his daughter's school ends up being a complete dysfunctional, psychotic nightmare. The emotions in that episode are tremendously raw, and Louie seems hilariously uncomfortable with those emotions.
Damn, I'm making this awesome comedy sound like some kind of existential tragedy. But that crazy razor's-edge, tragic feel of this series is a perfect way of thinking of it. Louie is a comedy, but it's a different sort of comedy. It's a show in which almost nothing is predictable aside from the kind of haplessness of the lead character and his weirdly dysfunctional world. There is a long line of sitcoms that make you uncomfortable because of the situations they portray, but few shows seem to have as high a stake, or make you feel more uncomfortable, than this show.
You can see why Louis C.K.'s daughter prefers to live with her momma. Louie is kind of a piece of work. And while I loved spending time with him, I wouldn't want to live with him.
This two-DVD set collects all 13 episodes of Season Two of Louie, but there ain't a hell of a lot of extras to make you want to buy the collection rather than watching it on Netflix. Louis C.K. does commentaries on the first two episodes and we get a pointless behind-the-scenes little featurette on DVD too. That's it.
Go to the FX website for LOUIE to watch full episodes, downloadable extras, and dive deeper into the world of Louie. Season 3 of Louie begins June 28.