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(Tuesdays at 11:00/10:00c beginning tonight)
The network's description: "FX has scheduled 13 episodes for the premiere season of Louie, a comedy filtered through the observational humor of Louis C.K. Each episode puts a spotlight on Louis' hectic life as a successful stand-up comedian and newly single father raising his two daughters in New York. The single-camera comedy is a mix of Louis C.K.'s stand-up comedy and scripted stories. Guest starring appearances include Ricky Gervais, Pamela Adlon and Bobby Cannavale. Louis C.K. serves as executive producer, writer and director, and Dave Becky and 3 Arts Entertainment are executive producers."
What did they leave out? While there are no continuing storylines, the episodes are actually being shown out of production order: 1, 4, 2 and 3 thus far.
The plot in a nutshell: Louis C.K. is Louis C.K., a divorced, misanthropic comedian and father of two young girls. Each half hour then tracks C.K. doing his stand-up, intercut with two scripted vignettes. In the pilot, it's supervising a field trip at his daughter's school and a disastrous first date. The second episode, "Poker/Divorce" (also airing tonight), features C.K. and his comedian buddies playing poker and him looking up an old crush from his teenage years.
The following week "Dr. Ben/Nick" sees Ricky Gervais turn up as Louie's immature doctor while Nick DiPaolo and Louie get into a heated argument that sends one of them to the hospital. And in the last episode provided for review, "So Old/Playdate" (airing July 13), Louie deals with a younger woman (Elisabeth Hower) who shows a surprising interest in him, while a playdate with a fellow single parent (Pamela Adlon) doesn't go as well. Seriously, that's it.
What works: To the extent that it's part weekly concert film, C.K.'s stand-up remains as sharp as ever. His deconstruction of the futility in pursuing happiness is impossibly both soul crushing and hysterical at the same time. As for the show itself, on the surface it plays a little like "Seinfeld": stand-up scenes interspersed with slice-of-life stories that are about his everyday foibles. After viewing four episodes though, it ultimately feels more like C.K.'s stream of consciousness put on the screen. The scripted elements are more like random thoughts than fully developed stories...
What doesn't: ...resulting in a show that's widely uneven and frustratingly aimless. Far too many of the aforementioned stories come across as either pointless or incomplete, a stark contrast to C.K.'s very specific routine. And so the quality pendulum swings from Louie's amusing take on his rotund physique to Louie the character suffering through Ricky Gervais being an asshole doctor; from his exasperated views on dating post-divorce to an awkward evening in which his character drinks wine and swaps secrets with a single mom.
Even worse, the show seems to veer between hyperstylizing the aforementioned events to filling them with raw uncomfortableness - facets which make it hard to get a handle on what exactly is supposed to be the point of what we're seeing. That's not to say there aren't some legitimately funny moments outside C.K.'s stage act, it just at best makes you long for when the episode returns to Louie's routine or at worst makes you wonder what's the point of the show. All in all, a half hour with Louie C.K. in any format is never a bad thing but in this case...
The bottom line: ...it is a challenge to really like it.