April 10, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Louie”


LOUIE:  Thursday 10:30PM on FX

We’ve learned over time that it’s impossible to take the measure of a season of LOUIE until we see what its auteur has in store for us.  Last year’s Season 4 was extraordinarily ambitious, with a feature-length episode that only barely featured its star tossed off in the midst of multi-episode story arcs.  Tonight’s Season 5 premiere was more modest, but still a reminder that Louis C.K. dares more tonal risks than anyone else around.

Even when Louie‘s plot takes a formulaic turn, the staging and mood play out in unexpected ways.  The opening act of the premiere (written and directed by C.K., as usual), featured a twist that one might find on a routine sitcom:  Louie, rushing to a potluck dinner thrown by a fellow parent at his daughter’s school, followed some other guests without paying attention to the apartment number–and found himself at an entirely different potluck dinner, a genial gathering for the followers of some eastern religion.  The scene, instead of rapidly cutting for easy farcial laughs, unfolded in lengthy takes, as Louie realized his mistake, saw the group’s guru (Jonathan Hadary) making his way around the room to call on congregants to chant their holy sayings, and couldn’t figure out a route to escape, which intensified both the feeling of panic and the humor.

Even though that scene may have had a familiar twist, there was no possible way to guess where the episode was heading:  to Louie, finally in the right apartment, sharing an Uber car home with the surrogate (Celia Keenan-Bolger) carrying the the baby of the unpleasant mother (Judy Gold) who had hosted the party.  (Louie didn’t help matters with the hostess by wondering aloud if the gizmo that kept the identity of the owner of the egg being used by the surrogate unclear was like the spinning dice cup in Yahtzee.)  Once he’d helped the pregnant woman upstairs, he delivered an awkwardly heartfelt paean to her beauty (while repeatedly assuring her that he was leaving and had no dangerous intent, which may or may not have been a reference to the controversy over his character’s clumsy attempt to force his attentions on his friend Pamela in an episode last season), which made her want to have sex with him at once, which led to her water breaking mid-coitus.  It was all farcial but also touching and–especially when Louie was verbally assaulted at the hospital–faintly disturbing.  In short, it was an episode of Louie.

As Louie has developed through the seasons, Louis C.K. has only become a more skillful, adventurous actor and director.  (The use of music in tonight’s episode, an intermittent series of returns to a street performer Louie had seen early in the half-hour, was particularly adept.)   Louie has never been a breakout hit for FX, and with its insistence on idiosyncracy in both content and filmmaking style, it’s unlikely ever to find a mass audience.  Its continued brilliance, though, makes it hugely valuable to its network–a true branding statement–and even more to its band of viewers.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."