Louie, Season 3

Louie’s Past Bum-Rushes His Present
Talking television.
Aug. 10 2012 1:15 PM

Louie, Season 3


Louie’s skinnier, hack-ier youth.

Louie still.
Louie and Delores

Photo courtesy of FX.

I’m glad you got down Louie’s inspired rug rant for posterity, David. It was a thrill to watch. Along with the monologue he unfurled to ask out Parker Posey in the bookstore, that’s one of the only times this season we’ve seen Louie flaunt the verbal muscle that animates his stand-up. His bald-period stand-up, that is—those “Comedy Channel” jokes about red hair and rampant New York urinators were definitely weak, and I agree that they seemed chosen in part for that reason. I don’t have a unifying theory for the episode, Allison, other than this: In scene after scene, whether it was in the form of Delores’ “residual feelings,” Maria’s mystery crabs, Louie’s skinnier/hack-ier youth, or the decade-old Maron fallout, some niggling aspect of the past bum-rushed Louie’s present. Everyone who watches this series has talked about its flagrant disregard for continuity, but this was an episode precisely, it turns out, about continuity, full of old loose ends that, even if they remained ultimately loose, re-emerged uncomfortably. (Delores’ infantilizing motif actually seemed to resolve: the spanking from Season 2 becomes a tender tucking-in here; and in the van ride home Louie participates, sweetly, in her home-decor problem.)

Last week and this week had in common a single mother at Louie’s girls’ school imposing on him. Allison, you’re the only parent in this TV Club: Does this subject speak to you, generally? You must find yourself constantly entangled with other people with whom you’d otherwise have no contact or grounds for interaction, simply by virtue of being a parent. Strikes me as ripe comedic turf, and it certainly strikes C.K. that way.

One tiny thing worth giving C.K. big props for: the water bottle, complete with shoulder strap, that Doris the piano teacher brings. What a nice bit of characterization. I imagine C.K. on the subway, seeing a woman with a water bottle on a sling, whipping out his notebook, and extrapolating a whole life for her based on that one detail.

Great catch on the No Country for Old Men coin-tosser cameo, David (or should I say, Friendo?) One trivial tidbit: C.K. told me in a Rolling Stone interview before this season (don’t think it’s online) that he wrote this season while sitting at a giant wooden desk he has in his living room, while looking out at some really nice rugs he treated himself to after his lucrative 2011. “I rewarded myself with some stuff for my office: some really nice rugs, some stuff to hang on the walls, and, uh, furniture and stuff,” he told me. “I like to make my home nice. That’s a new thing for me this year—I’ve never really done that. The rugs are beautiful. I look at them from my desk, writing, and it’s like the writing is conjuring up physical objects in my apartment.” Completing the circuit, the rugs manifested in his writing: This is the second episode this season featuring a rug-based bit. (The other came last episode when Never tossed Louie’s rug out the window.)

There was no way that the Maron exchange was going to rival the real-life WTF version, and while I would have loved to see a scene as tightly wound—as smolderingly, epistemologically strange—as last season’s Dane Cook détente, I didn’t mind the quiet encounter C.K. staged here. You can tie this scene, along the axis of an old dog trying/failing to learn a new trick, to the (aborted) piano lesson. Maron in his boxers was funny, and the payoff was excellent. Louie apologizes profusely and sincerely, but the feelings driving the apology, we learn, are ephemeral. This doesn’t make him a bad person, and indeed I like how C.K. builds a novel scenario around a pretty banal truth about dormant-verging-on-extinct friendships, and the scant amount of emotional and psychological resources we’re able and willing to devote to rehabilitating, sustaining, and reinvigorating them. What we see on the couch, as Louie watches Mark, is the flare-up of a guilty itch he can rub some shampoo on and forget about.

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