If you have not checked out the FX show Louie, I would first suggest to you to check out Jason Bailey's review of the first season, which provides a nice perspective as to the origins of the show, his previous foray into television, and how the show sensibilities compare to sitcoms through the years. The first season was well-received and the offer of perhaps moving to an earlier position from its 11pm timeslot was offered, along with more money. He decided against it, compromising to a 10:30 timeslot while taking less money and retaining the same level of control he had before, a control that he would have lost some of if he moved to an even earlier spot. Suffice to say after watching the second season the decision was a wise one.
Louis C.K. is the writer, director, producer and editor of Louie, and stars as Louie, a New York stand-up comic and single parent of two young daughters in a life much like his own. The first season of the show included a mix of anecdotes from what would appear to be previous experiences, along with moments in some episodes that transcended those found in comedies and served as messages or illustrations of the world Louis sees and/or experiences. If there is one word to sum up season two (as difficult a challenge as it is to do), the word may be 'connections.' It could be his reluctance to leave his children with a neighbor while he takes his pregnant sister to the hospital in the middle of the night in the episode titled "Pregnant"; it may be a hilarious liaison with a fellow single parent at his daughter's school, who wants to be spanked until she collapses in a pile of tears beyond what could be considered a fetish (in "Bummer/Blueberries"); or it may be a crazy night in New Jersey with a woman following an electric performance of his work (in "New Jersey/Airport"). Louis is in his forties and takes care of two young girls, so the chances of him seeing what his options are would be most certainly limited, and when he plays them for laughs they are entrancing and hilarious
It is when he plays some of these same feelings for authenticity that result in the show's most brilliant moments. Pamela Adlon, who serves as a consulting producer on the show, reprises her role from Season One where she plays a fellow single parent at the school. In the episode "Subway/Pamela," he has lunch with Pamela and opens up to her in a way that is both touching and heartbreaking, and the arc between the two ends in such a way that makes you forget about what you just witnessed. Seeing Louie open himself up and leave his vulnerability out there at the end of the big scene is only topped by what occurs in the next one, and his attempt in connecting with Pamela on another level prove to be fascinating.
The standalone episodes away from his involvement in the city are also brilliant. "Oh Louie/Tickets" is a doubleheader where Louie shows us the inanities of some of the television comedy that people consume in droves while poking a thumb in its eye at the same time (and as it turns out was based on a network pilot that was shot but ultimately did not get picked up), but it is small potatoes compared to the next segment, which is a reconciliation of sorts with fellow comic Dane Cook, oft-accused of stealing jokes from Louis C.K, and whom the latter is approached for Lady Gaga tickets for one of his daughters. What is brilliant about the scene is just how well both people come out from the sequence. I will try to avoid it as much as possible, but C.K. expresses his contention brilliantly and Cook talks about his feelings and his demands of contrition in a perfect tone. It is a bit of a meta moment but the way it plays out is amazing and this connection with a perceived enemy is engaging.
Another jewel of an episode is "Duckling," inspired by Louis' USO Tour to Afghanistan that he went on in 2008 and which he blogged about . After a day when he picks his girls up (along with baby ducks the class cares for as a project and whose night it is that he's responsible to care take), Louie goes to the Middle East the following morning with a country singer (Keni Thomas, an Army Ranger alumnus in his own right), and the episode which is to date the only hour-long installment in the show's history, culminates in a gesture that I can only describe as one that makes a connection that goes beyond normal protocol. It is heartwarming, it is poignant, and among a glut of films that have had the War on Terror as its backdrop, seeing a stand-up comic provide one of the better contributions in recent memory is amazing.
These moments and countless others that I have not even mentioned that are within the second season of Louie still prove to be fascinating to watch a year after I first saw them. In a weird way as Louie, Louis C.K. goes from being more of an observer in the first season to someone with more of a vested, personal interest in the second, and what he has to say and feel about those things proves to be something that resonates far greater than what many people could have possibly anticipated.
The Blu-ray Discs:
Consistent with their original broadcast, Louie appears in 1.78:1 widescreen and the episodes (13 spread over two discs) are presented using the AVC encode. The overall result looks about the same, if not a touch superior. The show is shot digitally and tends to use vintage lenses periodically to take advantage of desired artistic looks, and the image does not waver in the least. During a sequence in "Subway," the show cuts to a grainy black and white image and handles that adequately. The New York locations look solid and there is a subtle multidimensional look to the backgrounds, and the foreground possesses good image detail to boot. The discs continue to quietly impress. As a sidenote, compared to the first season, these are not combo/flipper discs, they are BD-50s. If you want an SD copy, plan accordingly.
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround rules the day for the season and the soundtrack is solid, whether it is The Who's "Who Are You" (when you see how it is used, you'll enjoy it) or the original music from Matt Kilmer, Adam Platt, John Shannon or the many others who contribute a score that provides gentle ambiance to the experience. The subwoofer stays quiet through the production and channel panning is additionally scarce, but there are some fleeting moments of directional effects that make things sound mildly immersive. Dialogue is strong through the center channel to boot, and the overall result is satisfactory on Blu-ray.
The big and really only extra are a series of commentaries with Louis C.K. for the season, but the number of commentaries on the set is for the first six episodes, down from commentaries on the entire first season (and to be fair the tracks do tend to lose some steam around the third one), but still is full of information nonetheless. He covers things like his writing process and gets involved in some scene breakdowns, along with the types of lenses certain sequences used and the intent for them. He discusses the differences in various comedy clubs and the crowd dynamics for each, and even gets into what types of microphones he uses for gigs, and his thoughts on the guest stars in the relevant episodes. They are solid tracks and worth listening to. The other extra is a Fox Movie Channel piece on the premiere of the second season, with red carpet insight from the star himself (4:33). Not related to the discs themselves, but the A.V. Club has a series of posts with Louis in which he discusses the second season in tremendous detail and is worth the time to read.
The first season of Louie was hilarious, dark, disturbing, but possessed a depth that few other shows could realize. The second season took this to a level consistently that few shows could even consider realizing, never mind ones that would include the utilization of a bag of dicks into a scene. Technically the set is solid and while from a bonus vantage point isn't as good as the first, still provides enough detail to justify the time and attention in consuming. Seeing the evolution from an already high standard in Season One to Season Two was breathtaking; seeing Season Two in a vacuum, on its own, is required.