kimberlee rossi-fuchs reviews the third season of the critically acclaimed series…
Comedy, like rock music, can be viewed as somewhat of a youthful art form – not necessarily in the sense of the performer’s actual age, but in the sense of his hunger – as success often seems to dull a comedian’s edge and rehashing the same shtick that made him popular in the first place eventually turns repetitive and predictable, reducing him to caricature. In little over a year, Louis CK has gone from a critically beloved, but somewhat obscure “comedian’s comedian,” to total rock star, selling out tours dates across the country and riding high off the success of his acclaimed FX sitcom, Louie. Thanks in part to his seemingly inexhaustible creativity and ability to turn out new material at a ridiculous pace, CK has remained so far immune from the perils of success. What’s more, CK’s ever-increasing creative control of both his act (just this week, he sidestepped Ticketmaster and sold affordably-priced tickets for his upcoming tour exclusively through his site, LouisCK.net) and his sitcom has further endeared him to his fans and bolstered his artistic integrity. Most importantly, his stand-up still kills and as “Something Is Wrong,” the third season premiere of Louie reveals, his sitcom remains unlike anything else on TV – sometimes scatological, at times poignant, often hilarious, and always immensely watchable.
As usual, “Something Is Wrong” opens with CK’s live act, here a typically self-deprecating joke about coming to the realization that he needs glasses after his dick looks blurry while masturbating. Even though CK’s comedy often returns to certain themes – his sexual humiliation is a well he draws from often – his punch lines are never predictable and often wander off in surprising and hilarious directions. Within a moment, Louie goes from self-abasing to surreal, when he realizes his eyes aren’t going bad, his dick’s just getting blurry and then segues into the satirical, wondering why science hasn’t yet perfected penis replacement surgery which will allow wealthy old men to replace their withered genitalia with that of “some twenty-two year old Puerto Rican track star (who) gets hit by a bus.” It’s a great joke and one that nicely sets the stage for what follows, as the episode makes clear that Louie has a lot more in common with the rich, penis-buying middle-aged guy of his bit than the virile, young Puerto Rican track star.
The episode begins with Louie’s disastrous misreading of both New York City traffic laws and women, two equally inscrutable languages for him. After parking his car under some ridiculously cryptic parking signs, he heads off to lunch with his girlfriend, April (Gaby Hoffman). Within seconds of entering the diner, April’s criticizing Louie’s choice of ice cream as an entrée and grilling him on why he seems so tense and unhappy. Even though this is our first introduction to April and their relationship, we get the sense that she’s a bit of a nag and that their relationship isn’t so great. Despite his feeble claims that nothing’s wrong and he’s just tired, April insists on drawing out a real answer. She tosses out a variety of reasons and Louie sits essentially motionless, but when she hits on, “You want to break up with me,” his eyes light up. It’s a great moment, one which shows just why CK was nominated for a best actor Emmy last year, as he’s able to convey that hallelujah, breaking up is EXACTLY what he wants with just a flicker of his eyes. Still, he lamely insists he doesn’t want to break up and forces April to break up with herself for him, finally leaving him to eat his ice cream lunch in peace. It’s possibly the weirdest break-up scene I’ve ever seen, but one that’s distinctively Louie.
Louie finishes his meal just in time to see his improperly parked vehicle, now in the center of a quickly set-up construction site, repeatedly smashed by a crane and destroyed. “You shouldn’t have parked there,” offers the helpful construction worker. In need of a new vehicle, he wanders into a motorcycle shop and is initially put off by the shop owner’s many bike-related scars and the prospect of leaving his children orphaned. However, after learning that the bike costs only $7,500 and gets forty-five miles to the gallon, Louie decides, “So it’s actually smart to buy a motorcycle.” Cut to Louie confidently zipping around the city on his new bike, looking practically bad-ass in his biker gear and leather jacket. By this time, though, fans of the show know Louie never gets to be the cool guy for long and suddenly he’s surrounded by a gang of intimidating, more experienced bikers, popping wheelies and swarming around him. In comparison to the real biker dudes, Louie looks like a total dork, clutching the handles for dear life and riding stiffly in the middle of the pack before wiping out completely, he and the bike flying in separate directions.
Although mostly unscathed aside from some bumps and bruises, Louie is taken to the hospital, where he has to borrow the unsympathetic doctor’s phone to call his ex-wife, Janet, and tell her he’ll be unable to pick up the kids. (The fact that his ex-wife and mother of his two blond children is African-American would be confusing on any other show, but on Louie, you just go with it.) Janet initially expresses concern when Louie tells her he’s in the hospital, but when she learns he’s in the hospital due to a motorcycle accident, the sympathy quickly turns to annoyance and disgust, as Louie’s no longer the victim of an accident, but of his own foolish selfishness. When April visits his apartment later to retrieve some of her things, Louie carefully omits the motorcycle detail of his accident, thus garnering some sympathy and a sandwich from her. Her display of kindness prompts Louie to propose, in an extremely half-assed and wishy-washy way, that maybe they should get back together. April quickly and correctly reads this as a misguided attempt to repay her taking care of him rather than an expression of any real desire to be with her and storms out, leaving him alone once again and thus returning all things to normal in the Louie world. While there weren’t a ton of laugh out loud moments in “Something Is Wrong,” it’s a fine example of the often fearlessly self-deprecating wit that makes “Louie” such a must-see and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of what season three has to offer.