Apr 17, 2015

TV Recap: Louie - "A La Carte"

Left to right: Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K.
Hello and welcome to the TV Recap series on FX's Louie. Join me every Friday as I recap all of the events that have happened over the course of the fifth season. Join as the show reaches new highs and news lows while following the stand-up career of Louis C.K. with his family and friends. Will it be better than the overtly ambitious season four? Will the show produce its best season yet? You'll have to read on to find out all of the juicy details along with plot descriptions and opinions on every memorable moment.
After a very odd first episode, Louie seems to be back on track with its old habits. For those that felt like season four delved too far into mystical imagery and odd storytelling, this season is turning out to be the great antidote. Starting with a poop joke and ending with a pee joke, the show may be approaching itself with a little juvenile of an approach, but it still manages to make the lowbrow into highbrow art in unsuspecting ways. Basically, it's another week of Louie and it is back to what it does best.
The episode opens with a segment involving Louis C.K. with his children Jane (Ursula Parker) and Lilly (Hadley Delany) walking through a grocery store. As they check out, the kids notice that their father is looking constipated. They suggest that he goes to the bathroom in the store, but he refuses. Instead, he stumbles down the blocks on his way home, eventually asking a deli clerk if he can use his bathroom for $20. It doesn't work. When all else fails, he stops and tells his kids to go on without him. He has faced defeat and must do what he needs to.
When the episode returns, he is at the Comedy Store getting off of the stage as Steven Wright goes on. He is immediately asked by Mike Bocchetti to run an open mic for $500. He eventually mistakenly says $400 and C.K. is too ashamed to ask for the original price. Instead, he goes to the open mic and runs it haphazardly, immediately upsetting the people by not following the rules of order. As he considers leaving, he runs into Bart (Nathan Fernald), who asks for him to stay and watch him. His jokes are more candid statements than punchlines. When C.K. gives his feedback, he tells Bart to quit. He won't and instead persuades C.K. into giving him more advice, which is to use a funny voice.
Later on, he is out on a date with Pamela Adlon, who insists against seeing the French film that they're heading to. C.K. doesn't know how to convince her, but she goes along anyway. They try to get randy in the theater as a joke, but C.K. isn't buying it. During dinner following the events, they discuss being friends who only see each other when it's appropriate. They don't need to date and can have sex with whomever they want. After a comedy show, C.K. goes to Pamela's house and the two sleep together. The episode ends with Bart being introduced on TV by Jimmy Fallon doing the same jokes, but with a funny voice.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Left to right: C.K., Hadley Delany and Ursula Parker
This is the moment where I breathe my sigh of relief. Last week may have had the unfortunate thing of following season four, which I generally found too ambitious to be great. The choice to make yet more upsetting sexual humor was also not helping, considering that last season had an infamous rape episode that didn't sit well with some people. However, this episode won me back over so quickly because instead of going for an immediately ambitious story arc that would see him mixing art with absurdity, he went back to what he does best. He went back to the lowbrow humor that this show started off with.
One could complain that lowbrow humor coming back to this show isn't the best move. However, it does have an interesting dynamic to this. Much like the season three premiere, C.K. isn't just doing a joke that we all expect to play out. He lets it build, even satirizing it here within the confines of this big humiliating tragedy. The joke is beyond the constipation that he faces. It's about the dignity that he must show in front of his kids and the inevitable final moments before everything is lost becomes the punchline because of the kids screaming in a horrid tone. That opening reassured me that this is the C.K. that doesn't overthink things. It's the one who goes for the jugular.
Most of the remaining episode has its moments and plays out like the sketch humor that we know and love. The odd choice to alter the opening credits to show him walking into the Comedy Store may have been a little off, but the rest matched up nicely. There's the awkward situation and the eventual payoff that the man he tells to quit comedy has gained more rapid success than he has in his years of bumming around the city. It is also a nice touch that he brings on the current Tonight Show host for the bit. Thankfully C.K. has some very odd connections and we should all be more thankful for those odd guest stars.
At its core, it's about the complicated relationship between him and Pamela. It has been ongoing since the beginning. However, what exactly is to be gained from their weird chemistry? This episode finally gets to some motivational core of the question with a conversation in which a la carte reveals itself to be about how they will shop around for lovers and go about whatever their frivolous lifestyles want. They are candid and don't have any pretensions to what their relationship will be. It is pretty odd considering how different it is than most other TV couples, but that's part of the charm of Louie. He may be able to strike out with several women, but he can come back to Pamela for whatever happiness she has.
The French film joke feels like another callback to season three with the "Daddy's Girlfriend" arc in which footage plays over the credits in silence. While this one has the woman screaming, it still feels comical. Otherwise, there's not a lot of depth to the episode other than not to take life too seriously. We can embarrass ourselves sometimes, but we can keep moving on and show people that we're able to succeed, even if that means putting on a funny voice. It is a message that comes in spite of C.K. still managing to be somewhat unsuccessful in his televised career. I am not sure how to feel about that. Otherwise, the jokes were fine, but the sentiments of the Pamela/C.K. moments were enough to make this a nice return to form.

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