"Louie" – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” Television Review

7/24/2010 Posted by Admin

"Louie" – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

Louis C.K.’s new FX original series brings together various formats, ideas and tones into one sweaty, uncomfortable box.

The show’s loose structure delivers a unique perspective that shows the comedian for what he is--no matter how unglamorous picture that may be. Damning conventional formats and simultaneously unifying them in his own pessimistic, unsure manner, C.K. brings his comedy to life in way that is both hilarious, horrifying and, most of all, honest.

No stranger to the medium, C.K. takes a different approach to the half-hour comedy with "Louie" by adding elements of sketch, sit-com and stand-up to relay his ultra-pessimistic observations, breaking the show up into two sections--stand-up and sketch. However, unlike Seinfeld, the show uses the stand-up as a thematic lead-in to each sketch. “Pilot” features two such sketches--a volunteer field trip with his child’s elementary school and an uncomfortable date from hell. The one-joke structure of each story keeps the vignette in sketch format, even if it looks uncomfortably like a sit-com, and is actually an expression or dramatization of C.K.’s stand-up routine.

The surreal elements of these sketches, particularly in their resolutions, allow C.K. to put his varying perceptions on display. In sketch one, he’s observed as the only rational person in an irrational world, dealing with the stupidity of others. He’s able to deal with the stubborn, idiotic bus driver, but in sketch two, he can’t grasp the dating world, acting diffident, pathetic and scared—a complete 180 from sketch one. Much like Larry David on "Curb your Enthusiasm," these characters have no social filter and act complete on an offensive and, occasionally embarrassing, instinct. The characters' free-flow of ideas doesn’t make up actual human reaction, but rather an expression of their inner-workings.

The stand-up segments ground the show’s surreal elements, giving them life and perspective. Louie is in control here, so while people treat him like garbage everywhere else in society, he can make light of these situations here--thus, events that were arduous in the moment are hilarious in reflection. This is the funniest section of the show, which shouldn’t be too surprising, because he’s telling jokes here rather than smiling too much or crying at the thought of his daughters.

The show’s unique structure can make things a bit confusing and slow at times, particularly in the date segment, and the pessimistic tone and uncertain personalities will alienate the faint of heart. Nevertheless, C.K. is so funny on stage that it makes up for some the sketches’ writing and pacing problems. So, even if he isn’t quite sure how to use his camera yet, he’s clear in what he’s looking to do, and when it’s all figured out, it’ll be a joy to watch people treat Louis C.K. like dirt.

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