The long-awaited fourth season of FX’s hit show “Louie” started off with a bang — quite literally. In the fine line that the show often walks between what is reality and what is fiction, Louie awakens to the cacophony of garbage men clanging trash cans outside his window, then just as assuredly, the men begin to crash through his bedroom windows and jump on his bed—a sensation any New Yorker feels they encounter on a daily basis. Louie has coffee with a friend, played by Todd Barry, who tells him he hates his daughters, another moment that captures what the show does best: “Are you kidding me? ... Or not?”
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Louie’s reality as a parent is always one that provides chuckles, whether intentional or not. When one daughter wrinkles her nose at what he’s making for dinner, Louie says, “Get away from me, get far away from me,” something any parent who battles a kid’s picky palette can relate to. He makes us laugh over his shock that his daughter’s homework assignment is to write a letter to AIDS. “Dear AIDS,” he says, “Please cut it out. How’s the weather in AIDS-land?” His own daughter admonishes him for not being funny. “This is serious!” she says, juxtaposing the bizarre assignment with his reaction. They beg him to “Do the Beatles” before he turns off the light at bedtime and he finally responds with spot-on impressions of John, Paul, George and Ringo. We love Louie for his paternal soft spots.
A conversation over poker with comedian buddies (the only woman of the group is Sarah Silverman, who can certainly hold her own with the boys) leads to curiosity over the sexual practices of one friend. Later, when Louie is slyly exploring in an adult toy store, he points to a rack of dildos and ends up throwing out his back. Of course he does. A visit to a totally unsympathetic doctor (played by Charles Grodin), leads to his diagnosis that humans are actually using their backs wrong. His advice: “Walk around on your hands and feet, or accept the fact that your back is going to hurt sometimes.” Another moment that makes us stop and say, is this for real?
The second episode of the night is full of this misfortune.
Bombing on stage and in bed
In “Model,” the second episode that aired last night, Louie is invited by pal Jerry Seinfeld to open for him at a benefit in the Hamptons. “It’s in Long Island,” Seinfeld says, seeming to doubt that Louie will show up on time. After taking the jitney out by himself, and struggling to write any clean jokes for the performance, Louie arrives in jeans and a T-shirt while women in gowns and men in tuxes pour out of Maseratis and limousines. Jerry Seinfeld finds him as they’re supposed to be starting their performance and is visibly disgusted by Louie’s outfit. C.K. plays dumb, or actually really is dumb—we can’t tell. Seinfeld borrows a security officer’s jacket and sends Louie onstage sticking out like a sore thumb, in a jacket covered in badges. And true to form, he bombs on stage. He starts by stuttering about the weather and ends up calling all of the attendees’ slave owners. It’s enough to make you cringe.
After his disastrous performance, he ends up meeting the leggy blonde who provided the only laughter at any of his jokes. She invites him to hop in her black sports car, and as they speed off down the road, the camera lens gets a bit foggy. We see her blonde hair whipping about and we instantly get a bit suspicious. Is this really happening? When Louie and the woman, Blake, end up in bed together, she even says as much. Louie can’t quite believe it either. Despite his performance on stage, he’s still managed to end up with the girl. It’s totally out of character for the same guy we see being shot down by a waitress at the start of the episode.
The foggy, dreamlike sequence ends quickly though. Blake attempts to tickle Louie and he reacts so violently that he punches her in the face, leading to her hospitalization and being on the end of a multi-million dollar lawsuit by her astronaut father for causing her to lose her eyesight in one eye. Now there’s the Louie we know. Awkward, ungainly, getting the short end of the stick. It was comforting to see after a long 19-month hiatus.
In episodes to come, rather than short vignettes like we were treated to last night, there will be a five-part story arc that will unfurl itself over the next few weeks. I’m eager to see how C.K. evolves as the most loveable sad-sap on TV. What did you think of last night’s double feature? Was it a welcome return after such a long time away? Let me know in the comments. Or tell me a story about the last time you accidentally punched someone in the face. It might make Louie feel better.
Follow Abbe Wright on Twitter at @abbewright.