I’ll say it, because I’m prepared to defend it…
Louie (which just wrapped up its 5th Season on FX) is the most honest show left on Television. It may not be the “best” show, but it’s definitely the most honest. There… I said it.
For those unfortunately unfamiliar with Louie, here’s the skinny. Louie is about the awkward daily life of a divorced stand-up comedian living with his two young daughters in New York City. It’s loosely based on the star, Louis CK, who in real life is a highly successful (and at times, controversial) divorced stand-up comedian living with his two young daughters in New York City. It tackles love, loss, parenting, sex, health, boredom, and family with reckless abandon. The show’s style is distinctively disjointed and at times even absurd. This can be off-putting to people new to it, but it is always exactly what its home network calls itself: “Fearless”. In short, it’s awesome.
It’s simultaneously and indecisively very real and very surreal. It’s predictably uncertain and still dauntlessly surprising. Anchored squarely to the real emotions of the human condition, but often unfettered by the logic or rules of the waking world.
Across a season (or even a single show), it’s often a chaotic cocktail of “Learn, Laugh, and Cry”. But rarely in that order, as befits the chaotic natures of both human experience and the show itself. So do yourself a favor and watch it in an open-hearted and open-minded fashion. Because too much expectation actually injects too much of yourself. Remember, you’re the student here. Or maybe you’re just an observer. But you’re not the professor or the proctor.
You have to trust the show. Watch it on its terms. Because, in any of the surreal vignettes the show often presents, Louie may give you visual lies, but they’re only there to reveal the emotional truth. If you accept any premise it may offer you regardless of the absurdity, it will surprisingly let you contextualize enough to get all the honesty, humor, and tragedy. Or don’t and you’ll miss the beauty of the forest for the misshapen trees.
You must come to Louie “empty”. Because that’s the cover charge at Club Honesty. You must submit your self and just allow it to teach you this week, amuse you next week, and hurt or offend you the week after that. If you’ll allow yourself to just “get with the program”, you’ll likely find yourself consistently being enlightened, amused, and challenged. This may take a few episodes or an entire season to adjust to after a steady diet of crap network television many Americans feed themselves.
And maybe you don’t think you yet relate to the frumpier middle-aged version of Angst, but I’d wager that if we’re honest with ourselves, we can all relate to a raccoon-eyed reaction to rejection (makeup not withstanding), career pressures unseen by outsiders, and the limitless struggles of raising a new generation purpose-built to exceed us (there’s likely a Sci-Fi angle here about Mortal Gods creating Immortal Subjects that I’m not up to the task of exploring after two bourbons).
For anyone looking for mental and emotional nutrition, the juice here is well worth the squeeze. It’s one of the few television shows that I’d love to watch with director commentary turned on. If I had to choose a lone word to summarize and vainly attempt to encapsulate Louie, that word would likely be the word “Both”. I’d probably consider “Honesty”, but to me the word “Both” evokes the show’s willingness to go to either end of the spectrum to tell you the truth. Is Louie a comedy or a drama? The answer, my friends, is uniquely “Both”.