I've always wondered when Louis C.K. sometimes uses jazz music in the background of certain episodes of Louie, including last night's Season 3 premiere "Something is Wrong," if it's intentional or simply wonderfully harmonious happenstance. It's easy to make the correlation between jazz music and C.K.'s brilliant, surreal FX series. Both rise and fall throughout; both take you to unexpected places and both have fans who when they really get it, they really get it. That, or Louis C.K., the Miles Davis of comedy, just really digs jazz.
Either way, the long-anticipated Season 3 premiere began with C.K. performing a raucous Comedy Cellar routine about d***s. It was filthy bit and a testament to C.K.'s power as an artist. Only he could make the line "some dead kid's d**k on your body" funny, let alone get away with it on cable television. Season 3 wasn't starting with some light rat-tat-tatting of a drum, but a big, booming cymbal. And a f***ing hilarious cymbal at that.
In fact, a loud crash was the soundtrack to a great, but funnily enough, in many ways quiet premiere. From the screeching halt of his relationship to his demolished car to his motorcycle accident, there was a whole lot of noise for someone who remained pretty hushed throughout.
After parking his car in a zone filled with baffling, cryptic street signs (an epidemic in New York City) Louie meets his girlfriend of six months April (Gaby Hoffmann, now, guest starring on Louie, then the girl you remember from Now and Then and Field of Dreams) at a diner for lunch. Theirs is a relationship that is painfully recognizable. They are comfortable, but not in love. They are also at the six-month mark of their courtship and must decide whether to call it quits or move forward and become a real couple and do real couple things like meeting each others families. Simple enough. But this is Louie, nothing is ever simple.
Doing what Louis and Louie does best, the moment plays out in awkward comedy glory. A frustrated April tries, and fails to get Louie to open up. Instead, Louie sits there, flustered, wanting nothing more than to let this relationship float on until its run its course. Well, and to eat his ice cream. ("Let's not have the food talk" April bemoans at one point, a throwaway line that spoke volumes about their relationship.) Without actually saying, "I want to break up" Louie finds himself broken up, but he's hardly broken up about it. After April — who tried in vain to make it a simple split — exits, Louie lets out a sigh of relief and finally digs in.
But this is Louie. And this is Louie, this most painfully hilarious reminder that life, especially life in New York, City is a giant unpredictable mess. One minute you're relieved of your terrible duties of handling a breakup like an adult, the next you watch your car getting crushed on a construction site. One minute you're enjoying the perks of a car-less midlife crisis by buying a motorcycle because, thanks to the gas mileage, is "actually smart," the next you're lying on a stretcher in the ER, because, as an ER doctor will tell you (lucky for Louie, not Ricky Gervais) having a midlife crisis and a motorcycle actually isn't very smart at all.
While anyone could have seen Louie's crash coming from a thousand miles away, C.K. threw us off our bikes, too. For the first time in the show's history, we finally meet Louie's ex-wife Janet when he calls from the ER to tell her he can't pick up their girls. Now, let's get it out of the way. Yes, Louie's ex-wife is African-American. No, the logistics (both of their children are white) don't quite work out. But this is the funniest show on television and Louis C.K., the funniest man alive, plays by no rules, so let's just let it slide.
Besides, the 44-year-old star has already addressed the "confusion" about the casting of Janet. During a conference call earlier this week, C.K. said, "I think when people probably first see her their brains do a little bit of DNA math and go, 'I'm not sure I get how that would happen,'" C.K. acknowledged, but also noted, "I think with my show most people just go, 'Oh, alright, just go ahead' and then they watch the scene. I like what that character brings out in the story and in [my character] and to me that trumped whatever logistical notion." So, let's move on.
When a limping Louie returns home, he's later greeted by April, not to reunite, but to get her laptop back. After she learns he was "hit by a truck" (a truly brilliant maneuver when he realized that telling the truth about the accident, like he did with his ex-wife, garnered much less compassion) April comes to his aid and fixes him lunch. A sweet, friendly gesture, but hardly an invention for a reconciliation. Of course, Louie/Louis could see that about as clearly as a blurry d**k or a street sign.
But you could tell the wheels were turning with Louie, even though he spent an entire day having trouble with various wheels. "Do you want to stay?" he asked her, not realizing what a loaded question that was for someone he non-dumped hours earlier. Again, poor April is left with the task of calling out what was really going on here while a fractured, fumbling Louie sat silent. Until, once again, he breathed that great sigh of relief when he heard her walk out that door. The sound was music to his ears. This well-orchestrated piece of art, especially after those brilliant ending credits ("It's always before midnight and it's always after midnight") was music to mine.
With Louis C.K.'s fame and success reaching new heights, especially as of late, this seemed like an almost perfect way to introduce the inevitable new masses to Louie. It had so many elements that make the show the masterpiece that it is (the ebb and flow of Louie's hilariously tragic life) without throwing them into the deep end. But for established fans "Something is Wrong" was a satisfying return. He's still the Louie we know and love, but it's clear C.K. is setting things in motion for this new season with opening the prospects of a dating life and introducing his ex-wife. It felt like the premiere only scratched the surface of things to come, and oh, how I can't wait to see what's coming.
What did you think of the season premiere of Louie? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section.
[Photo credit: FX]