TV Review - Louie: Season 4

Ellen Burstyn (left) guest stars
with Louis C.K. in "Louie"
Louis C.K. is back with his almost anthology-like, cinematic but indie filmmaking TV series, which is quasi-autobiographical in its about a middle-age, balding, ginger comic with kids. The show wanders through his life being a single dad and a comedian doing gigs in clubs and other venues. Along the way, he has various awkward encounters with people where he is proven king at self-deprecation and making honest observations of existence and culture. Gone is the opening song, which started each of his episodes. Maybe he got sick of it. Maybe he could no longer afford it, but it was my favorite part of the show.

The first scene in Episode 1 is brilliant. It involves some noisy garbage men. What could have been a quick and easy joke, Louie drags out into a pretty inspired gag. It perhaps goes on too long, but it's very inspired. Louie C.K. is not only the principal writer for the series. He's also the principal director and editor for the show. His network deal allows him a lot of creative control, which is a good thing and bad thing. It's good because Louie is free to do what he wants. It's bad because Louie can indulge and drag jokes out past the point of purposefulness.

Louie returns to the comics' poker game where he and various other comedians will gather round a table to play poker as well as joke with each other. Of all the scenes, this one feels the most improvised. If it was scripted, to Louie's credit it doesn't feel that way. It feels like a bunch of comics sitting and speaking off the cuff.

Yet, it does get to a point where something feels scripted, not in terms of specific, written dialogue, but plot points that had to be hit Curb Your Enthusiasm-style. Unfortunately, it leads to a totally unbelievable moment. Louie goes into a sex shop to buy a dildo. Given Louie's championing of selling things over the Internet and doing so in an open way, it seems odd that he wouldn't go online to buy the dildo. Going into the sex shop feels contrived.

It's also a very obvious joke. I much prefer when Louie is more subtle. There is a very subtle joke about texting-and-walking that was brilliant. Episode 2 guest stars Jerry Seinfeld from whom Louie probably takes a lot of queues. The first half of the episode throws into question Louie's self-awareness and pushes perhaps his inherent need to push against wealth and high society. It's done so subtly.

The second half of the episode, however, indulges in a trope that is frequent to this series. Louie comes off as a guy that has trouble meeting new people, especially non-comics with whom he can't easily identify or who wouldn't fit at his poker games. In various episodes, Louie will meet someone outside his usual social circle and that person will overwhelmingly embrace him and what might be going out of his or her way to continue embracing him and pulling him into another world.

Last season, Louie went to Miami and had Ramon, a sexy Latino lifeguard, played by Miguel Gomez, be the one who embraces him. In Episode 2 here, Louie goes to the Hamptons and has Blake, a sexy, pampered princess, played by Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck and Dexter), be the one who embraces him. In both instances, Ramon and Blake rescue Louie and then take him on a ride that allows him a window into another culture or level of existence. Strangely, both end up on a beach.

A kind of romance develops between Louie and these two people, but both end the same. Louie always goes a step too far and ruins whatever relationship could have been. In the Miami episode, it's apparent that Ramon and that city will likely never be revisited, as it probably shouldn't, but the Hamptons episode opens up a thread that should be revisited. Yet, the nature of Louie's stand-alone episodes dictates it won't ever be revisited.

It makes all that happens in this Hamptons episode of no consequence. This is my essential problem with the series. It's not that I don't like shows that are sketch comedies or anthology comedies. Yet, the difference between sketches or anthologies is that something different is attempted each time. As has been noted with the similarities between the Miami and the Hamptons episodes, Louie is already repeating himself.

The best the series has ever been is the run of episodes dedicated to the David Letterman story. It was a story that continued from one episode into another and another. It wasn't just a one-off that Louie tossed away. He developed the character of his fictionalized self and did something that was highly prescient, that of Letterman needing a successor nearly a year prior to Letterman making the actual announcement of his retirement.

It's a question if Louie will do anything like the Letterman series of episodes again. He will more than likely continue to do his one-offs and stories of no-consequence. His awkward situations are funny in an individualized way but they don't add up to much. The joke, which caps Episode 2, is one that I've seen several times within the past year. The joke is of a man hitting a woman and I've seen it done too many times within the past year that it's getting to be disturbing.

The joke in Episode 3 is about Louie being pursued by a fat girl in whom he's not interested. That joke is also one I've seen done before. Melissa McCarthy has done it before. Even Lena Dunham has addressed this. Louie seems late to the party and the fact that it's coming from him, a man, feels less authentic than if Roseanne Barr or somebody were doing it.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA-LSV.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Mondays at 10PM on FX.


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