What is your damage, Louie? Every time I watch you, I become simultaneously depressed about the state of the world/my life and thrilled that such an accurate depiction of this terrible truth is on television. Your flawlessness drives me crazy. In the immortal words of Angela Chase, “You’re so beautiful. It hurts to look at you.” You’re just too good. That is your damage. And damn you for making me watch Leno!
Last night’s episode, “Late Show: Part 1” was one of my favorites ever. Garry Marshall starred as a CBS exec who, after watching Louie kill on The Tonight Show as the lead guest because silly Tom Cruise didn’t show up, asked if Louie would be interested in replacing David Letterman when he retires. As it was set in L.A., the episode somewhat abandoned the dark, somber, painfully awkward vibe we’ve come to expect and flung Louie into the bright and unfamiliar dreamland of Hollywood. He already felt like he didn’t belong, then the chance of a lifetime came along and suddenly boom: an existential terror more profound and challenging than any I can remember on this show. I’m not describing it well, i can tell. Anyway, my overwhelming thought was whoa: S— just got real.
Anyway, when a Louie episode is this good and this unexpected and just so….YES!…I feel like it almost ruins the rest of TV for me. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s even on TV or that it exists at all. I end up feeling like an even bigger idiot than usual for watching anything else. (Yes, I’m exaggerating and yes I’ve seen Breaking Bad. I’m just not caught up. I’m commenting on the existential terror of summer TV at large!)
And the crazy thing about Louie is that all of its often barely related segments somehow combine to make this bizarrely perfect whole. This week’s ep featured a standup bit about suicidal-murderer Amazon.com product reviewers (!!!) and a delightfully torturous scene in which a half-asleep Louie earnestly struggles to figure out why hotel housekeeping would call him to inquire about the Do Not Disturb sign. So random, so perfect. How does he keep doing this?!
I also turn into a lunatic while I watch Louie, or maybe I’m consistently a lunatic and Louie merely brings out my true nature. A moment that stuck out for me from this season was when a construction crane jauntily crushes Louie’s car while he’s standing right there. I freaked out via an odd combination of laughter and horrified gasps as I rewound this 10 times. I am constantly replaying tiny moments in the show to relive the genius. What’s weird is that it’s ostensibly not fun to watch this show. It’s painful and awkward and ultimately depressing. But I just figure, that’s how I feel real life is at least half of the time. AT LEAST. Louie is the antithesis of escapist TV. It’s more like a chance to walk around inside my head, right into a pile of my own bulls—. I end up feeling worse about my own approach to life but ultimately better that such an exact portrayal of reality exists. I cannot escape the bulls—‘s siren call. “Oh, hey Annie! Roll around in this for awhile, as if you don’t do that ALL DAY already. Marvel at the stench of the way things really are. Sometimes I can’t believe I love Louie so much because it confirms and intensifies my suspicion: the world really is that awful.
Buzzkill! But not. It’s important to face the truth.
This is probably the TV scene I’ve watched the most times in my life. It is PAINFUL. It is amazing.
Could anything ever top this? Another scary thought.
Plus, doesn’t Louis CK in general make everyone feel disgustingly inadequate? On Louie alone, the guy writes, directs, and edits most episodes. He edits them himself! I mean doing just one of those jobs would qualify him as a genius. The care he puts into achieving the exact right tone in each scene is just astounding. This week, the music and lighting during the Garry Marshall scene floored me the most. The slow, sweeping score that played behind Marshall’s brutally honest assessment of Louie’s career and the way everyone’s faces were basted in natural light made me wonder if the whole scene was a dream. (When Garry confirmed that Jerry Seinfeld was the network’s “slam dunk” choice right after Louie mentioned Seinfeld, I thought wait a minute, is Louie conjuring up all of this?) I know that’s not the case; I just like that the audio/visual details would help suggest the possibility.
This week’s apocalyptic moment – because there’s always one – was pretty much Garry Marshall’s entire monologue, in which he succinctly and brutally challenged Louie to step it up. I can’t find video yet so I’m just going to put this here:
Look, Louie. We’re talking about the big game here so I’m gonna use big terms…. You’re circling failure in a rapidly decaying orbit. That’s the reality we’re talking now. But you can change that. It’s in your power to change that. Yes, you’ll have to work hard, you’ll have to do things you haven’t done before – and still, your chances are very slim. But you could change it. I’m gonna ask you one more time: David Letterman is retiring. Do you want his job?
Showbiz specifics notwithstanding, any self-loather interested in self-improvement can relate to this – the terror of trying harder. As a writer who constantly feels worthless and lazy but still thinks there’s a slight chance she could do something great if she’d just get her act together, this was a sucker punch. I can’t breathe. Nor should I!
So f— you, Louie. And more important: Thank you.
Do you also love Louie even though it makes you examine how f—ed up you really are?