S2E10: Some shows rely so heavily on plot, it’s annoying. Some shows shirk plot so often it’s annoying. And then there are shows that are so well done that you can forget the whole question of ongoing plot and just enjoy the art of it all. This week’s Louie was that kind of episode.
“It’s not nice to scare people and you shouldn’t scare my daddy either.” –Louie’s daughter
The first vignette of the episode, “Halloween” finds Louie trick or treating with his daughters, one of whom is bravely dressed as Frederick Douglass – yes that means black-face makeup is involved. But it’s not even offensive, because Louie explains why the little girl wanted to be Douglass for Halloween and it’s because she read the book about his life and it meant something to her. It’s powerful enough to overpower our confusion at the costume itself.
It starts to get dark but the girls want to stay out later, so they whine and he agrees to let them. Of course they encounter the New York city assholes who roam the streets on Halloween night and his kids get scared. Louie reassures them, saying it’s all fake because it’s Halloween. As they’re walking home, they’re followed by two guys in costumes who stalk after them menacingly, and this time, it’s not all fake. They come around the corner and ambush Louie and his kids, and threaten them.
This is a little akin to some 80s movie about big, bad New York because it’s certainly not the New York I know, but it serves a purpose. Fed up with her Halloween fun being ruined, Louie’s youngest daughter gets fed up and swats the tormentors with her fairy wand until they back up and Louie can reach for some scrap metal to hit them with. He takes the higher road and breaks open a store window to set off the alarm so the duo goes running. We’re left with Louie and his two daughters crouched together on the street, waiting for the police so they can explain what happened and pay for the shattered window. It’s a simple little moment, but it’s this relief and love for his daughters that emanates from this half of the episode that makes the costumey antics of the first few minutes so tolerable.
“People are here to add ideas, so got any?” –Head Writer
“Not really. Just saying it’s lame.” –Hired writer
Louie is hired to help rewrite jokes for a movie script after a slew of rewrites have “sapped the funny” out of it and we see the valley of comedy writers laid before us. They’re working on page one, wherein the main character is woken up by his alarm and his dog licking his face. It’s a pretty typical scene, and we find our token cynical critic who complains that it’s typical but can’t offer any solutions and the hipster new-wave writer whose every suggestion is typical, but meant to be ironic and of course, the old comedy writers whose styles are a bit outdated. Then Louie offers an idea: what if the dog stops the alarm clock. This sets off a whole storm of creativity and catches the eye of a mysterious woman in a suit sitting at the edge of the room.
Her name is Ellie and she insists they go to lunch – it turns out she’s a Vice President at Paramount Pictures and she wants to help Louie makes movies. He’s getting everything he ever wanted, but he looks kind of terrified. She asks him for his best idea and it’s this depressing downward spiral of a movie that no one would ever make because it wouldn’t make any money. Ellie starts looking around the restaurant and checking her cell phone before interrupting him to say she’s got to go say hello to some people. He’s just been dumped before anything even took off.
There are two reasons this scene works so well. First, the realism of that awkward sort of conversation wherein one person speaking passionately and the other person is trying desperately to escape is palpable. You can feel Ellie’s desperation and Louie’s disappointment. The second is that it highlights that Louie’s style of humor is likely never going to be suited for mainstream movies or television. In this short scene, it’s as if Louis C.K. is proudly declaring that, pitting the aloof, vapid nature of Ellie the movie exec against his genuine passion for comedy and comedy writing.
Louie can be a depressing downward spiral that most of America probably won’t line up to shell out cash to see, but it’s a beautifully handled, well-written, hilarious, poignant downward spiral and those of us who can appreciate it will be all the validation it needs.