TV Review: ‘Louie’ Starts Slowly, But Improves in Future Episodes

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CHICAGO – Comedian Louis C.K. is an undeniably talented and very funny man but can he carry his own show? Most of his best work has been behind-the-scenes as a writer on shows like “The Chris Rock Show” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” but he had at attempt at sitcom stardom with HBO’s “Lucky Louie” and FX has given him a second shot with the inconsistent-but-quickly-improving “Louie.” Don’t judge this show on the very mediocre premiere episode. Like many comedian’s stand-up acts, it takes some time to find its rhythm but subsequent episodes provide a lot to like. TV Rating: 3.5/5.0
TV Rating: 3.5/5.0

Following a formula not unlike “Seinfeld,” “Louie” features handheld camera shots of the stand-up doing bits at the Comedy Cellar in New York and then proceeds to scripted vignettes loosely related to those bits. For example, in the first episode he riffs on-stage about volunteering at his kids’ school and then we see a bit about a field trip gone horribly awry. Stand-up about dating post-divorce leads to a horrible first date. Most episodes are divided into two bits/vignettes and they usually feature self-deprecating humor about this forty-something, divorced father of two.

Photo credit: Eric Leibowitz/FX

The premiere of “Louie” never finds its rhythm and feels so awfully cliched at times that it can be tough to watch. Bits about the difficulty opening paper cartons of milk? Really? And a bad first date? I’m a fan of C.K.(and one of the few people not related to him who watched every episode of “Lucky Louie”) but I was shockingly disappointed by the premiere to the point that it actually took two attempts to watch it all the way through. It’s bad.

Photo credit: Eric Leibowitz/FX

Luckily, things change for “Louie” pretty quickly and subsequent episodes are significantly better starting with just the second episode and skyrocketing from there. After barely making it through the premiere, the other three episodes sent for review flew by and I couldn’t wait to get to the next. What I think probably happened is that the premiere was filmed and sold to FX and then the show was refined and tinkered with for subsequent installments. The tinkering worked.

One of the most notable changes in post-premiere episodes is the inclusion of notable guest stars. C.K. works better with someone just as talented as a comedy partner. For example, Ricky Gervais has an absolutely hysterical guest appearance in the third episode as the most inappropriate doctor in the world (“That’s the worst penis I’ve ever seen in my life. This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”) and Bobby Cannavale and Pamela Adlon (“Lucky Louie”) appear in episode four. Regular C.K. collaborators from the stand-up circuit like Jim Norton and Nick Di Paolo also make appearances as themselves.

It also helps that the balance between the mundane elements of C.K.’s life like taking care of his kids or going to the doctor and his unique, almost surreal sense of humor is much more refined in episodes two through four (and, presumably, thereafter). C.K. doesn’t feel like he’s trying as hard to be entertaining, finding a more confident, natural rhythm. Episodes three and four are among the best comedy programs you’ll see this summer.

A lot of comedies take some time to find their rhythm but rarely has a show improved so drastically from its premiere to the episodes that immediately follow. It’s usually a more gradual progression. It’s almost a good idea to ignore the premiere tonight. Don’t even watch it. Start with episode two and take it from there. You won’t be missing anything and you’ll have an excellent new summer comedy relationship without the disappointing first date jitters.

“Louie” stars Louis C.K.. The show premieres on FX on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 at 10pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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Anonymous's picture

Are you high? The premier

Are you high? The premier was brilliant! This review speaks more to the reviewer’s poor taste than the quality of the show.

Cory's picture

saying that something

saying that something isn’t funny because it’s been done before it insanely idiotic. EVERYTHING’S been done before……except a readable article on this website.

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