'Louie' Season 4 Premiere Review: Louis CK Continues To Laugh Through Everyday Challenges
Louie, the eponymous series by Louis CK has returned with two new episodes filled with more of the strange and admittedly self-satisfied adventures of a fictional version of Louis CK himself. The two episodes that premiered on Monday highlight for the uninitiated why this show and its creator have won Emmys and a legion of obsessed fans.
In tonight’s first episode, “Back,” Louie is woken up by overtly loud garbage men, shmucky friends and ungrateful kids. All this might seem banal but the comedy comes from this put upon man living his put upon life; there are no real endings to these episodes, no sense of closure because that’s not what life is. There are rarely neatly wrapped up packages at the end of one’s day and only one at the end of one’s life: and that’s the day you die. As Louie himself observes in his act, “People always say life is short—which it is if you died as a child; but for the rest of us, life is long.”
Louis CK effortlessly illustrates this point in the Season 4 premiere of Louie, "Back," when Louie pulls some muscles (oh, irony) and after being made fun of by teenagers for being fat and sitting in the gutter, an elderly woman helps him into a cab. The sight of the poor old fragile thing pulling up the wounded Louie staring down the barrel at fifty was hysterical. They really were the poster of before and after, only the before wasn’t that much better. The image is the thesis of the series: it only gets worse as you get older.
This all comes full circle as an uninterested doctor tells Louie there’s nothing he could do about Louie’s back pains, explaining that he needs to be grateful for the moments where there isn’t pain; afterwards, the receptionist gives Louie her wonder cure for her back pains. She bought herself a vibrator and uses it to massage her back wherever it hurts. Louie does the same.
It’s a self-contained story that ends on a positive note that’s small and almost unnoticeable. And those are the everyday victories we get.
What the series manages to capture—and what Louis CK has always managed to capture in his stand-up—is the mundane oppression of an everyday man leading an everyday life. Louis’ fictional counterpart (Louie) is like his creator: a chunky bald ginger comedian who is divorced and has two daughters. Unlike the real Louis CK, the TV version doesn’t have an Emmy winning series that is a commercial and critical success. He has trouble finding love, and as he burrows deeper into middle age, the likelihood of finding happiness is getting smaller, as is the pool of options he’s attempting to draw from. Season 4's second episode, “Model,” depicted this dilemma before seguing uncomfortably into Louie bombing on stage so brutally that you need to remind yourself it’s a TV show.
The depiction of this bombing is so raw that it’s less about that single moment of a comedian doing poorly onstage, but more about any of us screwing up badly at work, looking incompetent to peers and superiors, letting down your friend or making an ass of yourself with no way out. You just have to endure the situation until it’s over and then wallow in its remains.
“Back” and “Model” are a microcosm of what the show is: a highly detailed account of the minutiae of a normal day. It’s the Seinfeld formula brought closer to the ground, yet viewed through the kind of blurred lens of heightened reality based on Louis’ own comedy that seamlessly merges the observational and the absurd.