Friday, July 15, 2011

"Louie" - "Joan"

Spoilers for this week's "Louie" after the jump:


And this is why I'm not quite as high on "Louie" as most critics/viewers are. It's just a little too inconsistent for my liking. This stems from the format of the show itself: each episode is self-contained and there are very few running storylines or recurring characters. At its best, it's transcendent in a way that no other show is. But if the central storyline doesn't entirely work, you're left with either an episode that doesn't reach those heights or (worse) an episode that is truly awful..

Fortunately, "Louie" has had few of the latter ("Dogpound" being the only one that comes immediately to mind). And this week's episode certainly doesn't add to that total. It's engaging and reasonably entertaining throughout, thanks mostly to Joan Rivers's terrific guest appearance. But in the end, I was left feeling a bit let-down after the past two weeks of brilliance.

The main premise of the episode is that Louie is having a hard time with his show in Atlantic City. No one's really listening to what he has to say, and people keep coming in and out during his act as well as talking during it. Eventually he's had enough, and decides to forgo the rest of his scheduled performances. And then he runs into Joan Rivers, who invites him up to her room to talk.

So far, so good. We've got two stand-up comedians talking about their profession, one of them a legend (although I've actually never seen Rivers perform, on TV or elsewhere) and the other quite possibly a legend-in-the-making. There were so many interesting directions this could have gone, but unfortunately it didn't.

Instead, we're treated to what is basically an extended scene featuring Rivers calling Louie out for his whining, telling him he should be grateful to have a job and things like that. She's great at it, and the results are occasionally quite funny. But there's really nothing there: no surprising insight, no depth, and certainly nothing as profound as some of last week's material. Rivers is so good that this really doesn't hurt the episode until the minute you stop to think about it.

But when you do, you realize that this was merely a good half-hour of "Louie" rather than a magnificent one. For now, that's good enough. But I've come to expect more from the recently Emmy-nominated C.K.. In the meantime, I'm happy to stick around. Because when this show is great (and it often is), it's greater than all but a handful of shows currently on the air.

Other Thoughts

- Very much enjoyed the opening scene, even if it had nothing to do with the rest of the episode. The call from Louie's sister was odd, though. Could be that the show is setting up one of its very rare ongoing storylines.

- As I said a few weeks back, I won't be reviewing "Wilfred" on an ongoing basis. Instead, I've decided I'll briefly comment on each new episode here. This one was maybe the best so far, although the show is still a bit too small and too offbeat to really be considered great. All that said, I appreciated the focus on Ryan's relationship with his sister over Wilfred's antics (though the latter still delivered a number of the episode's biggest laughs). Good stuff.

Grade: B

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