Louie FX Networks (2010- )
Louis C.K.’s current show Louie may well be one of the best things on TV right now. There are plenty of other worthy shows today — Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time with Finn & Jake merits a nod, as do the likes of IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang and Fox’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, for starters. But Louie makes its mark by trying to go a little deeper than the standard sitcom fare. Take the 9 June 2014, Season 4 episode “In the Woods.” Like much of season 4, the episode, stretching to a full 90 minute timeslot, meanders and jumps unexpectedly to flashbacks. But like some earlier episodes, Louis C.K., not only the lead actor (playing a fictional version of himself) but also the writer and director, explores the significance of cross-generational social ills. In this case, it is teen entry-level drug use. But supporting that general theme there are cycles of physical abuse manifested through burnouts and bullies, and adolescent angst reflected upon by an aging, then middle-aged man. What clicks is the sensitivity of looking back upon school teachers and administrators who seem to really want kids to have opportunities, parents who care, or don’t, the kids, making angry stands against a parent, not because they know they are right but because they don’t and can’t see anyone else who seems right either. But regardless of intent, there’s an attempt to look back and analyze what was done, what failed, and make stupid best-intention attempts at something that might work better. The most basic and fundamental quality of the show, particularly across season 4, is a pervasive sense of trying to do better, of breaking out of negative cycles and downward spirals and not taking the “old ways” as a given. There is a strangely “scientific” quality to it. But of course, this is still Louie C.K. So the show makes a funny spectacle of failure. There is a Whitmanesque celebration of mistakes, which is deftly played off as a crumbling aspect of American society when it appears most strongly in flashbacks. Thankfully, the weakest aspect of his comedy, the Catholic guilt sex jokes, are kept to a relative minimum this season. Instead, one of the strongest aspects of his comedy, that of kids and trying to comprehend being a parent, has occupied center stage. Occasionally that makes the show feel like a present-day counterpart to The Cosby Show. Louie remains Louie, though. There is still a fair amount of sentimental flotsam and jetsam. But a desire for lone individuals to desperately pull off the little things in life in a society where greatness isn’t anything great gives the show some heart that puts Louie ahead of most TV shows with a dramatic element. No, the show doesn’t tackle big issues. But at least it deals with interpersonal and family relationships in a way that emphasizes a constant struggle to attempt, err and correct that seems a lot like a precursor to tackling bigger issues.