Jonah, you’re right—tonight we got the first real Louie cliffhanger. “David Letterman is retiring,” Garry Marshall’s network honcho declares. “Do you want his job?”
Cut to teen agent, Doug, stunned. Roll credits.
Life, as Louie tells us in his opening set, “is good, and so we want it to be better.” Then we ruin everything by trying to make it so. Following that logic (plus knowing that this is Part 1 of a three-parter), I suspect that Louie’s gonna go for it—prepare yourselves for the New York Sports Club weight-loss montage! Maybe this is a nutty pipe dream, but wouldn’t it be incredible if he beats out Seinfeld for the gig and all of next season is C.K.’s take on The Larry Sanders Show? Think big!
Louie, of course, prefers to think small, assumes he’s getting bumped at every turn; just having the option of life-improvement is horribly excruciating for him. (“Shit, now I don’t have time to jerk off” is Louie’s response to getting a meeting at CBS.) That Garry Marshall monologue was terrific—from the camera angles to the score to the delivery—but instead of inspiring Louie, it clearly freaked him out/pissed him off. Is he angry about being challenged to greatness? Or does he simply not want to be disturbed in his post-peak professional life?
Even if he can’t embrace it, things are tentatively looking up. Every section of this episode set him (and us) up for failure and instead delivered success. The Improv gig? Great, says Ross Mark, and at 4 minutes 30 seconds, perfectly timed. Don’t change a thing. Tom Cruise bails on Leno and Louie has to fill in? He goes viral. There is no higher compliment! Mystery meeting at CBS? Biggest professional offer of his career.
This is not how things usually go on this show. Given that C.K. does not seem willing—or even able—to give us a traditional rags-to-riches (or $80k to probably under a million) story, I am going to guess that the moral of this arc is not going to be that taking risks nets great reward. (As Jonah said, the theme of this season does seem to be risk, but so far, no payoff.) I would like to see Louie go for it; I would like to see Louie get it; I would like to see the prize fall under the general category of: satisfaction only comes when you stop looking for the best (Blu-Ray player). I don’t want to see Louie spectacularly fail, not because I’m necessarily rooting for the character (though I am), but because that would be boring and expected.
One more thing: Jonah, I also loved the industry-insider feel of the episode. That anonymous P.A. shouting “don’t swear!” at Louie as he walked out onto the Tonight Show set was one of my favorite lines of the night. (The other was “Just. Don’t ever clean in here ever again.”) But this week the emotional disconnect between working-Louie and life-Louie was starker than ever. Sleeping in until 11 a.m. on a weekday, sunlight just waiting to pour into his comped Standard Hotel room, may make Louie absolutely miserable, but on stage, he’s delivering, he’s comfortable, he’s smiling.