In my recap of last week's season 3 premiere of Louie, I said that the relatively quiet and understated episode, titled "Something is Wrong," was a great starter for newcomers to the series. It showcased all of the elements that make Louie so damn great and different from everything else on television, without shoving them into the deep end that seasoned fans are familiar with. Well, if last week let them wade into the depths of Louie's wonderful weirdness, last night's episode "Telling Jokes/Set Up" not only shoved them into the deep end, but dunked their heads down for a while. (Pun entirely intended.)
Never mind that last night's episode will have one of the most talked-about moments on television this summer (because it most certainly will). Let's just marvel, for another moment, at the sheer brilliance of the split title here. Unlike the dark and delirious season 2 classic "Bummer/Blueberries," "Telling Jokes/Set Up" could have been used for both sides of this perfectly clashing spectrum.
On one end, there's Louie's daughter Jane (an Emmy-worthy Ursula Parker) telling jokes, complete with her own kid-patented brand of a set up ("Who told the gorilla that he couldn't go to the ballet?") while Louie himself uses her joke set up as the set up for one of his own jokes, only to be set up on a date by a fellow joke teller. The magic is in the details, people. When the title of an episode can work on so many levels, the episode itself is pretty much a guaranteed home run.
I always look forward to the scenes involving Louie's daughters Jane and Lily (actress Hadley Delaney.) Not just because both actresses are so talented or because all three have such an effortless rapport or because they tend to bring out the softest side of TV's reigning sad sack king, but because they generate some of the series' best moments. The dinner table scene, which bookended "Telling Jokes/ Set Up," like the daring and off-pitch-perfect serenade of The Who in season 2's subtler "Country Drive," was a lovely slice of life.
I watched that scene multiple times, just to catch every little detail, from the knowing glance between Louie (an especially marvelous turn by Louis C.K.) and Lily after Jane's fantastic non-joke joke to Louie's exasperated conversation with himself after his kids leave the dinner table. And therein lies the real brilliance of Louie: this show could function solely as a family dramedy revolving only around these three at all times, but those moments are so much more satisfying after we've stepped into the stranger world of a solo Louie. The show needs its balance to make the sweet moments sweeter and the strange moments that much stranger. Then again, as Lily would put it, "[If] ya don't get it, you just don't get it."
And, damn, was the strange strange last night. Instead of silly, lighthearted knock-knock jokes at the dinner table, Louie, under the fluorescent bulb of a hot dog joint with Allan Havey, nonchalantly memorialized the passing of a fellow comic. ("That's too bad.") Of course, that was nothing compared to the most awkward dinner on television since The Office, in its heyday, threw its "Dinner Party."
After being invited by Allan to have dinner at his home with him and his wife, Louie (who, as we learned, is still riding that motorcycle even after the accident) is actually being set up with their friend Lori, played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo. While the two mostly sit in uncomfortable silence as their eager married friends let the events unfold before them (or, as Lori would beautifully put it for single people everywhere, "married people just wanna spread their s*** on everyone") they eventually paired off and went to have drinks at the bar.
Things are going great, in the way that only an inadvertent, mutually unwanted date could. They drink, they laugh, they take off, in the way that you do when an unplanned date goes unexpectedly well. After pulling off to the side of the road, Lori (Leo, perhaps at her most fearless) performs fellatio on Louie. Then, in language I couldn't possibly clean up enough to post on this family-friendly website, demands, for equality of women everywhere, that Louie returns the favor. (Let's just say her plea to "consider this" took on a whole different life last night.)
After a disagreement about the terms of this sort of arrangement ("I never left anyone hanging," she argues) Lori gets her way. Yet, even after losing a $1000 bet and his "morals" in a most violent, jarring fashion, Louie, he the avoider of any and all uncomfortable goodbyes, agrees to see her again. Welcome to the deep end of Louie. It's crazier in here than a gorilla at the ballet, but don't even think about getting out.
What did you think of last night's episode of Louie? Was his dinner table scene with his daughters one of your favorite moments from the series, too? Or is that scene with Melissa Leo in the truck too engrained in your mind to think about anything else? Speaking of Leo, should she just make space on her mantle next to her Oscar for a guest star Emmy now? Did anyone else catch this week's genius Obama joke Easter egg? Those have been planted so expertly each week. Share all your thoughts on "Telling Jokes/Set Up" below. (Special shout-out to the commenters from last week's post who informed me about Sweetpro, the talented musical ensemble often used as the show's soundtrack.)
Louie Ep 2
[Photo credit: FX]
Louie Recap: Motorcycles, Ex Wives, and All That Jazz
Louis C.K. Discusses New Season of Louie, Including Jerry Seinfeld's Cameo Louis C.K. Announces Tour, Riffs on Jay Leno, Continues Total Comedy Dominance
Hancock must have sounded great--at least on paper. Hancock (Smith) is the anti-superhero a crime fighter with a bad attitude in contemporary Los Angeles who drinks way too much dresses like skid row and doesn’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about him. Of course since he can fly like Superman stop a speeding train with his fist and take care of just about any badass gang member with his little finger he is invaluable to the police. But the public hates him--so into his life comes PR wizard Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who is determined to remake Hancock into the image of a hero the city can embrace including getting a spandex outfit. When Hancock comes over to Embrey’s house his wife Mary (Charlize Theron) gets an immediate bad vibe about the guy. There’s good reason and therein lies the film’s big twist which comes at the half-way point of the very tight 92-minute running time. To say much else about where the plot goes would put us in spoiler hell and for a movie so reliant on the sudden turn it takes you’ll just have to figure it out yourself. They call the 4th of July “Big Willie Weekend” because Smith has been responsible for opening so many blockbusters during this time frame including Independence Day Bad Boys Men In Black among others. The movie-going public obviously loves him (so do we) and he’s coming off two strong recent performances in I Am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness. On the surface the role of Hancock--a complicated reluctant superhero who is all ’tude-- fits right in with the rest of the resume but despite the star’s best efforts Hancock comes off a little too contrived and affected. Will’s charisma is going to have to work overtime for eager audiences to completely buy this character. An abrupt tonal shift halfway through presents a strong challenge to Theron who suddenly isn’t who she appears to be at first. Credit must go to this fine actress for making the awkward transition Mary Embrey seamless. And thank God for Jason Bateman whose innate charm and ability to play comedy makes Ray a guy in a REAL quandary--the most likeable of all the main stars as he is caught in a Twilight Zone of superhero antics. Actor-turned-director Peter Berg (The Kingdom Friday Night Lights) is all flash and style with Hancock. He moves his shaky camera right up into the stars faces and back again awkwardly shifting the tone from comedy to maudlin drama and trying to ramp up a story that just doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense. Films about comic-book superheroes are a dime a dozen in the summer months and audiences have shown they can easily suspend disbelief if they have a protagonist to root for. Berg’s failure here is to present Will Smith in such a way that we don’t care. The movie is full of botched opportunities with the whole arc collapsing as the thin screenplay recklessly takes off in unexpected directions--including a ridiculous scene in which Hancock goes to prison (for no good reason) that gives new meaning to the term “butting heads.” Not only do sequences like this seriously challenge the viability of the film’s PG-13 rating they test our patience for all its worth. Even though there are some nice special effects and its faults do not lie in our stars (we still love you Will) Hancock does not set off the kind of fireworks you may have been expecting this Big Willie Weekend.
This documentary follows superstar Jerry Seinfeld as he returns to stand-up trying out all-new jokes on tour. Along the way he meets newbie and fiercely driven young comic Orny Adams who aces his gig at Montreal's classic comedy festival and lands a dream manager (Seinfeld's own George Shapiro). From the Gotham Comedy Club Standup New York Carolines and the Comic Strip to gigs on the Tonight Show and Letterman Comedian tracks the progress of many a talented stand-up comic famous and not so who follow their dreams and obsessions to bravely try to make it solo. A trove of master comics like Bill Cosby Ray Romano Jay Leno Garry Shandling and Chris Rock share their wisdom jokes and war stories throughout. Seinfeld's behind-the-scenes preparation to go before a large theater audience suggests that the comic is ultimately motivated by love--the immediate instant gratification love from a big live receptive adoring loud audience.
A film with such appealing and charismatic personalities as Jerry Seinfeld Chris Rock Garry Shandling Jay Leno Bill Cosby and lesser-knowns can't miss having immense appeal. Seinfeld at his peak conveys immense charm and humor. His humbling yen to return to his stand-up roots further endears. Some comics captured like funny guy Colin Quinn suggest that life in the funny lane is irresistible though not without speed bumps and soft shoulders. But Leno proclaims that if you don't do the stand-up you don't have it. A final segment that has Seinfeld making a big return to stand-up in an awesomely gorgeous venue suggests why the thrill of going it alone is never gone.
Director Christian Charles (who directed Seinfeld in his award-winnning Amex commercials) mans one of the two DV cameras that captured the action and delivers the goods. Direction is straightforward and focused allowing the stand-up comics megastars or otherwise to always hold center stage. Charles understands that camera tricks are redundant since his compelling subjects will do the trick. Film clocks in at a peppy 81 minutes and is propelled by a jazzy score.