Louie returned to FX after a year-long break with two new episodes, “Back” and “Model.” The series, starring, created, written, and directed by Louis C.K., with his singular vision, is intact and as good as ever.
There is no real premise, and Louie doesn’t worry about continuity from week to week (although there are several multi-part installments coming up this year). Instead, he picks something absurd to comment on, or a humiliating situation to put himself into, and presents a type of avant-garde, stylistic humor, the likes of which is seen nowhere else on television.
The first half hour, “Back,” is about Louie hurting his back. He goes to a doctor (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) for assistance, but the doc just tells him that the human spine is not designed to be vertical, so back pain is a part of life and there’s nothing he can do about it except count the moments his back isn’t hurting as lucky ones. This isn’t particularly helpful, true as it may be, but it’s also a commentary on life in general. Things aren’t easy and rarely go smoothly. Enjoy the good times. The bad times will help you appreciate them. There is definitely deeper meaning to be found in the episode.
Yet, on its face, “Back” is still a funny entry. Louie starts out talking to his poker buddies about masturbation. He then hurts himself while trying to buy a vibrator, is embarrassed to be helped into a taxi by an old woman (Rebecca Darke, The Wrestler), and then it all comes back around when the doctor’s secretary gives Louie a vibrator to help his back. The situations themselves are amusing, and the story is well written enough to have cohesion, completing the look before the closing credits. For someone to achieve all of this in a single half hour and to do it so well is extremely impressive.
Now I know there’s a big ol’ bandwagon among television critics adoring Louie and this review reveals that I am firmly on it, but it’s completely justified for Louie. From episode one, Louis C.K. has awed viewers exactly the way I describe “Back.” He’s someone who’s not only amusing, but very smart.
Louie is also as lucky as his character is unlucky, as FX does what no one else would – allow Louie to do exactly what he wants to do, making a show that is truly his. It has paid off for the network and for C.K., so I wish others would take note and allow more programs of this nature to be produced. I don’t mean that Louie should be copied, but rather, more artists should be permitted to create what is in their soul and present it to the world at large.
In the second half hour, “Model,” Louie can’t stop screwing up, even when things are going well for him. His pal Jerry Seinfeld (himself) invites him to an event, but Louie doesn’t realize there’s a dress code and ill prepares material for the crowd, thrown off his game. This actually works in his favor when a beautiful model (Yvonne Strahovski, 24: Live Another Day, Chuck), who happens to be an astronaut’s daughter, is attracted to him.
However, after sex, she tickles him and Louie punches her in the face, reacting, landing him in huge financial and legal trouble, which actually makes waitresses who scorned him earlier act nicer to him. It’s a good thing this probably won’t play into the character in future weeks, or the whole outlook would be bleaker than it is.
Poor Louie. No matter what happens, things just do not work out for him. The humor of the series is often at his expense, which makes it even more surprising that he is behind it. But that’s his brand, and he does it so convincingly, even after all the success he’s had in the past few years. He is the guy you feel sorry for, but can’t help laughing at.
I do really look forward to the upcoming six-parter, beginning in the second half next week. C.K. has promised some bold, new directions this year, and while I enjoyed these two more ‘typical’ episodes immensely, it will be interesting to see in what weird, unexpected ways Louie guides Louie next. One thing you can count on Louie for is continually surprising you, almost always in good ways.
Louie is airing double-episodes each of the next seven weeks, Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
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