Why ‘Louie’ is the Most Groundbreaking Show on TV

‘Louie’ is a triumph for Louis C.K. creatively and—dare I say it—the most groundbreaking show in recent memory.

Singular Vision

How many advantages can one person have? I’m a white man!

The credits say it all: “Executive Produced, Edited, Written & Directed by Louis C.K.” So not only does Louis bestow the audience with his balding carrot top mug in front of the camera, but behind the scenes he’s also chief architect from creative conception to visual execution. Quite a feat in this day and age of writer’s rooms, multiple directors and “creative teams” which is typical of all modern TV shows. Even Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, which could be considered the forefather to Louie, has used a stable of different directors during its current seven season run.

Utterly Personal

“It’s hard to start again after a marriage. It’s hard to really, like, look at somebody and go, hey, maybe something nice will happen. ... Or you’ll meet the perfect person, who you love infinitely, and you even argue well, and you grow together, and you have children, and then you get old together, and then she’s going to die…that’s the best case scenario.”

I wasn’t aware that Louis C.K. had gotten divorced before this show. His marriage and his kids were always fodder for his stand-up material and the eventual HBO show. So I wasn’t sure what to make of the first episode dealing with Louis’ re-entrance into the dating scene. Did he suddenly throw away the autobiographical aspect of his work in order to manufacture a more entertaining narrative? No, Louis C.K. and his wife of 14 years divorced around the time this show was being developed, or perhaps developed because of it.

While watching the show it’s hard not to wonder if these are actual experiences he’s adapted for our amusement. If the inevitable loneliness and desperation that comes from being single again at the age of 43 is put on display for us to laugh and point at. If so, then I couldn’t imagine anything more personal than that.

Back-alley Aesthetics

I like New York. This is the only city where you actually have to say things like, ‘Hey, that’s mine. Don’t pee on that.’

If you don’t pay close attention to the opening credit sequence—which you should be to revel in the genius of the Reggie Watts produced theme song—as Louis C.K. walks the New York City streets and has a bite of pizza, then you might miss the reasoning for the odd jumpcut that ends with Louis staring directly at the camera.

During this sequence, which is shot from outside a typical pizzeria, there are various people walking in front of and past the camera who are oblivious to the fact they are now part of a TV show. One passerby does notice the camera and decides to flip the bird directly at it. Louis sees this mid-bite then looks up at whoever is manning the camera with a hesitant look that says: “Did he just— should we cut?” Thankfully, Louis keeps this fourth wall-breaking moment by snipping the shot by a few frames to make it broadcast safe, but still communicating a sense of what just transpired.

It’s a small editorial gesture that speaks volumes of the raw and gutter-like aesthetics of the show. Sure, it’s not the first in shaky cam-shot TV comedies, but there’s an extra layer of grit. The stand-up sequences in particular pay no regard to using typical coverage, but instead stay on odd compositions as Louis bounces all around the frame.

All in all, Louie is just proof that the medium of TV doesn’t need to play within the bounds of what audiences come to expect and can compete on all levels with their big screen counterparts. They can be just as artful, creative and personal, but with a weekly time slot. And hopefully Louie isn’t just a show that slipped through the cracks, though if it is we can rest assured that Louis C.K. will do a bit about it.

If you haven’t seen “Louie” yet what’re you waiting for? Check out all the current episodes embedded below.