Louie’s a lo-fi comedy show that stars a stand-up comedian, so you have certain expectations going in. For one, it’s going to be funny. Second, it’ll be edgy, particularly considering the raw, brash, and foul-mouthed talent involved (Louie C.K. is like a less ). The half-hour shows usually stick to self-contained episodes that don’t focus on progression, so you expect to be able to pick it up from any episode without missing too much.
Louie does meet those expectations. The stand-up comedy bits are as dark, inhumane and frank as you’d expect (which is a good thing), and the situations in the show would all fit as stand-up bits. But what works best about the show — and what separates it from other comedy shows — is its tone. The show focuses largely on just how depressing C.K.’s life is: A divorce this late in his life means he’s almost completely out of the dating pool, his kids cause him the kind of stress that only someone you love unconditionally can cause, and generally, he feels like a shitty person. It’s dark and unrelenting in how much bad “behind-the-scenes,” stuff it shows. You never get the sense that the show is reaching for comedy; every scene takes place with C.K.’s half-fictional life, and the show comes off a gritty comedy show, strange as it sounds.
And as you get into the later episodes, you’ll begin to see just how much drama Louie can pack into its half-hour. Episodes 9 and 11 specifically stand right on the edge of the comedy/drama line, and the show knows how to straddle that line. Its actual comedy bits (those outside the stand-up segments) can be hit of miss, but surprisingly enough, the more serious segments tend to be the most well-executed ones. There are huge chunks of episodes where the comedy is intentionally sparse, and those still manage to be entertaining, much like when a comedian launches into ranting or preaching during a segment, at least when those bits are done well.
Where C.K. takes the show in the second season is anyone’s guess, but I hope it continues to alternate itself between its The Office-like awkwardness, its well-executed comedy bits, and Titus-level of black comedy. It may not completely revolutionize the half-hour comedy formula, but it definitely takes it in a great new direction.