Louis C.K. has been bouncing around Hollywood for a while now. Having written for David Letterman and Chris Rock, he was given a shot at directing with Pootie Tang, but it bombed though has since become a cult film. A stand-up comic, C.K. got re-energized to do more material after the failure of HBO’s retro-sitcom Lucky Louie, which he wrote and starred in. He’s finally found the perfect home for his material and sensibilities at FX with Louie. A heightened reality of C.K.’s life, it presents him as a divorced father of two who’s also a stand-up comedian. Our review of the Louie: Season One Blu-ray after the jump.
The pilot gives focus to what the show is about. It starts with some stand-up and then shows Louie taking his daughter and her class to the zoo. The bus driver doesn’t know the way, and Louie tells him to take a freeway that doesn’t allow for buses. He then goes on a disastrous date that ends with his prospective mate running as far as she can from him in a great visual gag. It’s a weak episode, but it sets the tone. It’s followed with an episode that starts by addressing the use of the word “faggot” in stand-up, with a gay comic talking about what the word means, and if it should be used.
That the show can be serious for a couple minutes is one of its strengths. Louie doesn’t always go for funny, but it consistently goes for interesting. There are some political debates in the show, and Louie presents his thesis that we’re all people. Finding humanity in bullies and Republicans is one of the charms of the show. It also has a late in the season episode that tackles religion from Louie’s perspective, and the trauma that comes from someone trying to explain Christ’s sufferings in a literal way to children.
The show does go for broad laughs from time to time, and when Ricky Gervais shows up as Louie’s doctor it gets deranged in a good way. Doctors are a great source of discomfort comedy for Louie and Stephen Root shows up briefly as a dentist who may or may not have been trying to take advantage of Louie while he was drugged. The series hits some rocky points when it goes silly, though even the weakest episode – where Louie’s mother comes out as a lesbian – has some great moments even if it’s a little too labored. Perhaps it’s that the woman playing his mother is so annoying, though it’s definitely relatable.
The show has a number of high points, and Pamela Adlon is both a producer and a reoccurring character (she’s a single mother who has playdates with Louie), and she gets a killer couple of scenes, especially the one where she brushes off his clumsy advances. But one of the best episodes has Louie on a date, which is starting to go well when a bunch of teenagers show up and get loud. Louie tells them to be quiet, which sends one over to threaten him. The date rejects Louie for kowtowing, and to get revenge Louie follows the kid home, only to see that the father beats his son, and then there’s a reversal where Louie and the dad share a smoke outside and talk about raising their kids.
The show ends with a great episode where Louie is forced to go out by the babysitter he called, and tries to go clubbing. It builds to this moment where – after finding no love at the club – he hits the stage to do a couple minutes of comedy that address his mental state: he’s more interested in being a father than throwing himself into the dating world. It’s a strong way to go into the second season, though many of the best jokes and runs in the show have to do with Louie trying to date or dating.
Like his comedy, Louie C.K. has a great sense of observation, and his show is one of the best around. Louie is about a warts and all presentation, and maybe that forgives some of the weaker elements, but it allows for great moments like where Louie is with a stoner who throws a water jug out a window and flattens a car. You never know when something will go in a different direction, and that’s exciting to watch. It’s a keeper.
Fox’s Blu-ray presents the show over two discs, with the DVD version on the flip side. All thirteen episodes are presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. This was shot on the Red camera, and C.K. raves about the camera on the commentaries, but you can see the limitations in some sequences, where others look great. The first disc has commentaries for every episode, and though Louie gets bored talking about the opening credits, he’s thoughtful throughout. The second disc offers commentary on four out of six episodes, and features the only other supplement, a collection of five deleted scenes (34 min.) with Louie introducing them, and talking about how curious he is if and/or when people will watch them. The scenes are often longer cuts of certain sequences, and though he mentions some deleted material (on the episode with the gay mother, he talks about shooting a scene where he sleeps with his mother’s girlfriend), but this isn’t a collection scrapped scenes, but chosen sequences that he felt played better or different in the longer cuts. Also included is a fake commercial that is briefly glimpsed on the show and shouldn’t be spoiled, but is hilarious. Not loaded, but definitely worthwhile.