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‘Louie’ Season Five: Bigger, Badder, Blacker
April 8, 2015  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment

The promo portrait for Louis C.K.’s fifth season on FX has his Louie character with a scowl – and upside down. Inversion is no surprise for the comedian-actor-director who has made his mark by crossing up almost every traditional sitcom trope in the four years of his bleak, alt-comedy series. Not only are there no learning moments in Louie, there are generally no winning ones.

Subversion is what makes Louie go round. Past seasons have seen him toss off his theme song (it is back this season), split his half hour show into two shorts, or switch to multi-episode mini-dramas. Last season, he devoted a six-episode arc (out of 14) to a budding love affair with a Hungarian visiting New York who spoke no English. He’s had one actor (F. Murray Abraham) show up in two different roles in two different seasons.

The only recipe for Louie, which returns Thursday April 9 at 10:30 p.m., ET (reportedly back for only seven episodes in 2015), is ongoing upheaval while sticking with the basic ingredients: his titular doppelgänger’s middleage neuroses and his ongoing humiliation at the hands of New York City, fellow comics and women. Louie’s a walking embodiment of the urban alienated – those who need community but dread the rudeness and intrusion that comes with it. His mortification is only equaled by his withered dignity and the willingness, however futile, to show up for another try. 

As a result of all that, Season Five seems to be a kind of Louie, V5, Darker. Episode One finds him in therapy making surprising admissions we’ve never heard him utter. Those are coupled alongside some of the Season Five promos (below) that show Louie, a tango-styled rose in mouth, doing a swan dive off the Brooklyn Bridge. Given the death of Robin Williams last August, the risky subject of a comic committing suicide may be signaling plot lines for the Louie season to come, and it certainly agrees with and runs right up to the edge of what C.K. routinely considers the comedy envelope.

Season 5 certainly resumes Louie’s usual plight all too well. In the premiere episode “Potluck”, he’s openly mocked and insulted by a pair of lesbians at a gathering for parents of children of the school where his two girls attend - that is, Louie walks into a room, wherever he goes, and it goes bad. In Episode 3 (premiering April 23) he’s stopped by a cop (Michael Rapaport), a scorned boyfriend of Louie’s sister, who mocks him over the loudspeaker of the squad car, calling him a child molester for all nearby to hear.

But Louie’s real nadir comes in Episode 4, “Bobby’s Place” a two-segment story (April 30), where the plot of his current love affair with Pamela (Pamela Adlon) takes an outrageous turn. Adlon’s character — the most openly dismissive of Louie — has resisted a relationship with Louie since the start of the show and finally surrendered at the end of last season. What ensues may be his most abject on-screen humiliation to date yet. And we’re the winners of some precious interpersonal territory as witnesses of it.

Like Larry David before him (and Lena Dunham after him), C.K. seems to be one of the few writer-directors who has no fear when putting himself in the most unflattering, squirmy-awkward situations where the payoffs are the largest.

That may be the reason why C.K. has won Emmys for writing Louie, but the series has never won for Outstanding Comedy Series. Louie episodes are tersely crafted dark dramas – he’s covered racism, teen drug use, domestic violence – while inserting outlandish, comedic surprises. 

That means Louie is not in the business of the 22 minutes of standard sitcom gags. 

Not that C.K., who’s in constant reinvention and reflection, would be remotely interested in that anyway.

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>>...where the plot of his current love affair with Pamela (Pamela Aldon) takes an outrageous turn. Aldon’s character...<<

Don't you mean Pamela ADLON?

(Once is a typo, twice is a mistake.)
Apr 10, 2015   |  Reply
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