Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why Louie is the Best Drama on TV

 Some people may have been surprised when Louis CK was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards for his television series, Louie, last year. After all, he’s “just a comedian.” What does he know about acting, writing and directing (not to mention editing)?
I wasn’t. My only quibble was that he was nominated in the wrong category. He should have been nominated in the drama category.
Each episode of Louie unfolds like a miniature Woody Allen movie, from its beautifully-photographed New York locations to its jazz score. And it appears that Mr. CK has learned a lot from The Master and may even be his rightful heir, even though he works primarily in television.
Louis CK has been rightly praised for his willingness to take chances, whether it’s because he allows his scenes to go on “too long,” because he frequently places his characters in extremely uncomfortable situations, or because the episodes of his show sometimes seem to end abruptly, without tying up all the loose ends.
For me, one of the most amazing things about his show is the plotting. It’s like watching that improvisational exercise “Yes, but…,” only in this case it should be called “What if?” What if Louie bombed at a benefit in the Hamptons but wound up going home with a beautiful model who was in the audience? What if one of Louie’s neighbors got stuck in an elevator and asked him to get her medication from her apartment but, when he did, he found her niece sleeping on the couch? You truly never know where the plot is going to go when you watch Louie, and that’s what makes it great.
Another thing I love about this show is the way it routinely breaks into the absurd, such as when Louie is awakened by noisy garbage men in one episode and they literally break into his apartment, jumping up and down on his bed while continuing to bang their garbage cans. Or the Time Warner Cable-like message he listens to, which drones on about how awful their service is.
Curiously, Louis CK is the kind of comedian who doesn’t necessarily make me laugh all the time, but I enjoy listening to him because he’s interesting. Oftentimes, I find his stand-up segments to be the weakest part of the show. (I’m sure I’ve just destroyed my comedy career by saying that!) There are more laughs per minute in the more cleverly written Silicon Valley than there are on Louie. But that’s not why I watch it.
I watch it because Louie delves as deeply into the human condition as any episode of Breaking Bad. Like this week’s episode, where an overweight woman talks for an uncomfortably long time about how hard it is for fat women to meet men, while at the same time underscoring how easy it is for a similarly overweight man like Louie to meet women. Or the episode where he breaks up with a girlfriend at a diner: another uncomfortably long conversation. One of the other great things about Louis CK is the way he’s able to put himself in the place of other characters, particularly women.
So the next time the Emmy Awards roll around, I expect Louie to be recognize for what it is: the best drama on TV.

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