HBO was betting we'd never look at sitcoms the same way again after we viewed Lucky Louie. Well, that's what they said in their promos for the show.
From the official "about" page over at HBO.com:
Welcome to the end of the sitcom as you know it.
They've been a staple of the commercial networks since "The Honeymooners," but there's never been a sitcom quite like this before. HBO breaks new ground with "Lucky Louie," a fresh, funny, and very adult comedy that looks at the challenges of marriage and family through the story of a young couple who are just barely getting by.
If the premiere episode is any indication of what's in store for viewers the rest of the season, it'd be safe to say we should never want to look at this particular sitcom ever again.
Don't get me wrong, there were moments of laughter to be found in Louis C.K.'s new comedy series. However, they simply didn't outweigh the painful acting or the rest of the setup viewers were given on the first go 'round. I was a little disappointed at how stilted it was. I laughed a few times, but not nearly as much as I cringed. And that's not a good way to start a new series.
Sad sack Louie works part time at the muffler shop and plays Mr. Mom the rest of the time. Wife Kim works as a nurse and is, essentially, the big bread winner for the family. Lucy, the couple's child, is a curious kid doing and saying all the normal things any parent is sure to recognize.
In the first episode, little Lucy, who is about to celebrate her fourth birthday, is asking Louie endless "why" questions to everything he says; Kim's sad that her little darling is growing up and decides she wants another baby; Louie hates being broke and really wants to make nice with the black family in the apartment across the hall; and various friends show up to throw advice at poor Louie.
I wasn't impressed. The "whys" from the child went on far too long and Louie didn't get nearly as exasperated with his answers as a normal parent would have. Lucy's whiny and, frankly, obnoxious behavior at her birthday party went unchecked, something most parents I know wouldn't allow to occur without reprimand. Kim's "sex isn't high on my priority list" until she wants a baby attitude was too obvious and overplayed. Louie's struggles were something we can all recognize as part of life, but his reaction to them didn't really ring true. Sure, this is comedy (or, rather, it's supposed to be), but there was little depth to the acting and poor delivery with the "funny."
Of the rest of the cast, the only actor I enjoyed was Jim Norton. Now, this may be purely a personal thing, but in my opinion, Jim can wring laughter out of a bone-dry washcloth more often than not. He made the most of the material (no pun intended) he was given and I can't fault him for the quality of the script. I only hope and pray he's showered with better stuff from here on out. Otherwise, this is an absolute waste of time and effort for a actor/comedian of Norton's caliber.
Actually, it would be a waste of time and effort for the entire cast to continue without some major improvements to the script and the production quality. The lighting was far too harsh, making the actors and the scenery appear flat. When the lines are falling flat, the last thing in the world you want is a set that does the same thing.
While I understand the idea behind the "filmed before a live audience" concept, in order for that to work, you need actual film as opposed to what really looked like video to me. A perfect example of this is the first season of Newhart in 1982. Bob Newhart didn't like the image quality rendered by video and switched to film for all subsequent seasons. Not only was the set given depth, the actors no longer looked drawn or washed out.
As I stated early, the script for Louie needs serious tightening. Compared to other HBO shows like Entourage or even the failed The Comeback, Louie is highly uneven and lacks any real punch. Episode one came across as a tacky throwaway you'd find on a marketing survey tape. You know what I mean – those sitcom pilots you get in the mail and are asked to rate while, in reality, marketers are wondering if the sample commercials were more interesting and effective.
Louis C.K. and his cast deserve much better. I sense untapped hilarity, especially for the supporting cast. At the rate the show's going, I'd rather watch reruns of The Jeff Foxworthy show, with or without Jonathan Lipnicki or Jay Mohr. Or maybe it's worth it for me to keep watching just so I can get my fill of the normally crude and delightful Jim Norton. Yes, it's come to that. I'm not ashamed to say it. I've missed him ever since Tough Crowd was cancelled.
I'm not giving up on Lucky Louie, but I'll approach it with a cautious eye in the coming weeks. I'm hoping for big improvements and you should, too.