there’s no point in denying it: i’m one of those people. i don’t really like watching television—or, at least, i’m well under the national average of watching 2.7 hours a day. i frequently try to convert non-believers to the gospel of the the wire, but otherwise this equation tends to be true: time spent wondering how people (including very good/very well educated friends of mine) can sit & watch so much stupid shit on tv > time spent watching shit on tv myself. then i started watching louie on the fx channel. and on demand. and online. and probably soon, the first season on dvd.
i haven’t had cable in my home since 2004. i do not give a shit about mad men, or entourage, or franklin & bash. but i can’t get enough of louie, and if there’s an upside to me being unemployed & homeless, it’s that i get to split my time between my sister’s and mother’s homes, where i can see the show whenever the hell i want. which is often. i’ve even gone so far as to seek out reading material about louis c.k. online, just so i can get access to more things that emerge from this comedian’s brain (for the record: gq has an excellent profile on louis c.k.; on grantland, chuck klosterman has a brief, but great, breakdown of what makes louie awesome; and the slate, vanity fair, pitchfork and l.a. times interviews with him are ok).
what i’ve found is that there’s a general consensus that louis c.k. is the best comic working today, and not only is his show doing stuff unseen before, it’s stuff that makes you simultaneously laugh and be horrified by our humanity (and that includes you, bub). in other words, it’s as close to the perfect distillation of comedy that you’re likely to find.
i might be talking blasphemy here, but in retrospect, seinfeld isn’t as amazing i remember it being—once you’re familiar with the characters and the plot, it seems less funny on a second viewing. and though i couldn’t admit it at the time of it’s original airing, i can now say that the west wing—while well-written and -acted, and still a fascinating look behind the curtains of washington d.c.—suffers from the presence of an obvious liberal slant. but i’m willing to bet that louie will hold up better (re: “the greatest show on tv” claims) because it’s tapping into something True with a capital “t.”
louie (which is written/directed/edited by the star himself) eerily echoes much of louis c.k.’s life: it’s about a divorced stand-up comedian working to support his two young daughters, and it incorporates situations (but not necessarily events) that really happened to him. given how topically unflinching the show is—no personal moment too awkward to be edited out—it’s entirely too easy to see the show as autobiography, which gives viewers the perverse pleasure of feeling like they’ve just stolen and read the man’s diary. this is true even after hearing louis c.k. say that he’s inspired by but not bound to stories as they really transpired.
though i haven’t read reality hunger (excerpted in willow springs 59), maybe louie is a good example of what david shields was talking about: blurring lines of fiction & non-fiction, and blending genres (here of comedy & filmmaking), all in the name of creating something “seemingly unprocessed.” at the very least, this show is fascinating to point of making me watch tv more than i’ve read this summer, which is no small feat. and i can’t recommend it enough. right after you fucking watch the wire already.