A short-lived look at a real loser
Unfortunately, like Louie, I had to make a financial decision just before the show hit the air, and as a result, HBO and the other costly movie channels left my cable bill. It was an easy choice, as the last series I cared about on HBO was probably "Dream On," but I wasn't happy about missing out on Louis C.K.'s profane homage to the sitcom. I figured I'd see it eventually when the obscenely-priced HBO DVDs were released, but I didn't expect the show to be cancelled before I saw a single episode.
In watching the 12 episodes that made the air though, it was obvious the show would never succeed, whether as part of the "nuturing" cable landscape that killed edgy comedies like "Huff" or the brutal network world that slaughters non-conformist series like they are a threat to national security. Ironically, in a world that embraces "reality" television, this show was just too real.
That sense begins with Louis C.K., the titular Louie, the star and inspiration behind the series. A stay-at-home dad who works part-time at a muffler shop, Louis isn't living a dream life plagued minor nuisances, like the majority of sitcoms. Louis is locked into a life of mediocrity, and he's accepted that, as long as he gets a little sex occasionally. He's the kind of guy you can root for, as he's an everyman.
That's where his wife Kim (Pamela Adlon) comes in. A trash-mouthed little dynamo, she's the family's breadwinner, putting food on the table as a nurse. She also gets many of the best lines, often at Louie's expense. It's hard to understand how such a hot little lady with such a self-assured sense of herself stays with an anchor like Louie, but she does, and she enjoys a healthy sex life with him, unlike most married TV couples. Their sex life is often at the core of the story, and it always results in big laughs, as its a more realistic portrayal of sex than I think I've ever seen. Kim uses her hotness as a way to get Louie to do what she wants, and Louie gladly takes it in trade. They both know where they are coming from and it's an accepted relationship.
As is often the case with people with a healthy sex life, they have created a child, an adorable munchkin named Lucy, who bounces between "Oh gee" cute and Goddamn annoying, much like a real child does. The best part of her character is the way her parents react to her. They may love her, but they don't try to sugarcoat the annoyance she brings. When Louie says that she's an *******, he means it, because she is one. And it would be hard to argue with him. A surprising amount of episodes focus on her character, including "Discipline," which is heartily depressing to anyone with a young child. Fortunately, they are never cloying like most shows about kids.
It would hard to be cloying with the supporting cast on this series. Louie's boss and best friend is played by gruff TV vet Mike Hagerty, with his wife being played by Laura Kightlinger. An odd couple, they work well together, and Kightlinger is as good as she's ever been as a sexed-up housewife with no internal filter. Another couple, Jerry Minor and Kim Hawthorne, live across the hall from Louie's apartment, and give the series an uncomfortable edge thanks to the uneasy racial integration between Louie and Minor's Walter. Though they don't have a lot in common, and Louie can't cope with the racial difference, they bond in their marital discord, making the show's one true "buddy" relationship work very well.
The show has it's share of wacky "neighbors," starting with Kim's brother Jerry, a burnout played to scumbag perfection by Rick Shapiro. Though his long freak-outs are somewhat Kramer-ish, he does a good job of making the character fun and creepy all at once. The same goes for Jim Norton, who seems to be playing himself while portraying Louie's pot-selling pal Rich. Wearing the worst costumes ever to grace TV, he does basically the same thing he does when guesting on the Opie and Anthony radio show, which means he delivers some of the most ridiculously insane dialogue in a loud manner, which is very funny. But one of the most memorable scenes of the entire series, when Rich faces off with Kim, is classic and hysterical, as Norton shrinks into himself and shows a bit of acting ability.
Though the series is a sitcom, it doesn't go for the standard sitcom plots, just the classic construction. So when Kim and Louie are fighting because of a gift, it isn't because he forgot their anniversary, but because he doesn't pay attention to her, and bought her a gift she implicitly said she didn't want. A story about Lucy being a bad kid doesn't see her straightening out, but instead, her parents just give up. The show also gets to touch on some plots network TV can't, like Kim's lifelong inability to climax, a hellspawn child and the use of a confession booth as therapy. By blending traditional TV with a more modern, realistic sensibility, the show achieves a surreal level of existence that lends itself well to comedy. And there are some penises thrown in for good measure. It's essentially "Married with Children" without the cartoonish behavior, and a lot more laughs.
The audio is a standard TV-quality stereo track, which fits the show perfectly, as it creates that sitcom feel the rest of the show captures so well. Dialogue is delivered clearly and without distortion.
Four commentary tracks are included on the set:
Also found on this set, separate from the rest of the show's run, is a 13th episode, which was never aired by HBO. "Clowntime is Over" sees Louie compromise his dignity by taking on the role of "Mr. Pizza Box Man," entertaining children to earn the money for Lucy to attend dance class. At the same time, Kim is dealing with how her rough-edged personality is viewed by Ellen and the moms at the dance class. There are some good solid laughs here, including a rather satisfying conclusion, but it doesn't feel like the ending the series should have had, after the way the 12th episode wrapped up.
The Bottom Line