Termite Television: Lucky Louie
Lucky Louie is unique. It is a sitcom about a lower middle class family that actually live and dress like they have money problems (along with Everybody Hates Chris). There's also a lot of male nudity. The brainchild of stand-up comic Louie C.K., it wrings humor out of muggings, frigidity, race, and heart-attacks. Filmed in front of a live studio audience on video, with extremely shallow staging (reminiscent of early sitcoms like The Honeymooners), the show is refreshingly intimate. There are no stylistic flourishes, appropriate for a show that's trying to approximate how a bummed out working class guy lives. As for plot, here's C.K. from an interview on HBO.com:
"Well, it's real simple. It's about a guy in a dead-end job who has a wife and a kid. He works in a muffler shop, but he's not even a mechanic. If you work at Dunkin' Donuts, you can just go over to Midas and retrain for two days, and you now are a muffler guy. So that's what this guy is. He's working in the service industry, and his wife is a nurse, so she's got an actual profession, an actual skill. And since her job has benefits and real pay, she's the one that works full-time. It happens in a lot of families. The guy's job has to be part-time, 'cause if he did it full-time it would only cost too much to put the kid in day care. So we're just in a common situation. His wife can be a pain in the ass, he's a douchebag in her eyes. And it gets to feel numb after a while. His friends are stupid, but he can't go out looking for a great best friend, like in other sitcoms where the friend is just right there for the guy. I don't know, I never had a friend like that. So it's just regular folks."
So, no bullshit, and the laughs are always barbed. In the last episode Louie's wife Kim (Pamela Adlon) tries to get him to go on a diet after his friend Mike (Michael Hagerty) has a mild heart attack (she challenges him to catch her, he gets exhausted running around the table). He tries for a few days, then starts sneaking food on the side, ending up on the toilet eating chocolate cake. In the end, she gives up. It's funny because Louie is sympathetic, with his permanent hangdog pout wanting to slam down the final bite of the Big Mac. We want him to be happy, but shit, he's killing himself. And that's how it ends. No resolution, nobody's learned anything, and Louie will remain out of shape. Truly a feel-bad comedy - but it's all done with a light touch - no lessons are being imparted. It's just how this guy is. No judgments, but often hilarious.
The actors are key for this to come off at all, and they're aces all around. Hagerty's been around forever in commercials and everything else on TV, and he's been honing this deadpan fat slob for years. It's lived in. Jim Norton's the other friend, Rich, who deals dope to teenagers on the side. Norton's another stand-up guy, a regular on the sorely missed Tough Crowd, and whose splenetic vulgarities gain more impact in a minor role. They sneak up on you. Adlon (who's voiced a string of animated series), and who's way too attractive for poor Louie, supplies the show with a mischievous energy and a facility for the sly putdown.
I don't expect it to last long - the spare style, banal subject matter, and off-hand vulgarity (it's never what I'd call obscene) are way out of step with what sells, especially on HBO. Shit, it follows up the rich-hued complexity of Deadwood and just looks out of place. I'm scared for it.
Labels: Termite Television