Why “Louie” is Essential Television

Normally, this blog space is reserved for and inundated with my healthy zest for film. For now, it will combine the usual subject matter with that of television as I (attempt to) put forth my comments on an experiment that successfully, admirably combines two revelatory artistic mediums into one experience: film and television. I’m talking, of course, about comedian Louis C.K.’s brilliant, original series “Louie.” Caught square between the riffraff of depthless, cheap-laugh-a-minute sludge that is, for lack of a better term, being perpetually shot from the bowels of every television channel currently being viewed by basic cable subscribers across the United States, C.K.’s experiment is a beacon of light flickering through the depleting, decaying state of inspiring comedic television. Lest we forget: “Seinfeld,” “M*A*S*H,” and “Cheers.” And, yes, there have been redeemable gems of much more recent memory: “The Office,”  Fey’s “30 Rock,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but, there’s something refreshingly, blissfully amiss about “Louie, and I love it. This one, finally, is different.

What unequivocally defines “Louie”– as opposed to the aforementioned shows of comedic depth–is its implementation of a definable, cinematic approach to its own brand of comedic storytelling. It’s a deliberate choice by a comedian who, on every noticeable level, takes no exception to the humorously satisfying nature of self-deprecation, unbending honesty and biting commentary on the reality-induced roller coaster of everyday life. Louis himself, an aspiring filmmaker with the sentiment of a gifted one, finds touches within his show that create moments of stirring emotional pause—whether good or bad.* More often than not, “Louie” builds its originality through an acutely perceptive creativity: framing, placement and camera movement. It’s the stuff of movies and, I think we can all agree: applying the “stuff of movies” to the brilliant craft of an unflinchingly honest comedian makes it, for lack of a more far-reaching term, great television.

Imagine, for instance, “Louie” being staged in front of a traditional live audience. It would be miserably ineffective. Why? “Louie,” like any well-made film, relies on nuance, pause, timing, and the subtleties of what is occurring between the dialogue. Without C.K.’s chosen approach to its filming and acting, his show would simply exist as the man himself on stage. All of this is a tremendously effective feat to accomplish, especially considering the shows’ material versus its goal, which, oftentimes, culminates into a synonymous thing. What exactly do I mean? As Louis is sharing his finely tuned, acutely observed humor with us (the material), it happens to be refreshingly, almost unequivocally necessary (the goal). So, then, you might ask: What is one to take away from an anomaly like “Louie”? That life is miserable, strange, beautiful, hilarious and coincidental. It’s about nothing more than enduring existence itself and, for that, it’s truly a gift. To throw into the mix of mindless, lagging television a mind that consists of brilliant, honest comedy is exactly what we, collectively, need.

If you haven’t seen “Louie” yet, you need to. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, there’s foul language. Hell, you may even find it offensive, but, guess what? So is life. And so it goes. Above and beyond all else, though, “Louie” is honest and that, is exactly what we need more than anything else. Especially now.

*In Season 2 of “Louie,” Louie confesses his love for his friend Pamela in a scene of unexpected sentimentality:



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