Louie Season 3 Premiere Recap: "Something Is Wrong"

We've spent most of the time between the end of "Louie" season 2 and this week's season 3 premiere reveling in the unquantifiable glory of the show's writer, director, creator and star, Louis C.K.

It was the year of Louis, as many have put it, from his surprise Emmy nominations, to the way he revolutionized the stand up comedy special by offering it for $5 bucks on his website (a move that has been mimicked by many other comedians ever since), and by being an upstanding citizen by keeping no more for himself and his family than he needed, donating millions to charity and spreading the money around as much as he could. As the hype amped up for the return of his show, C.K. continued this goodwill by ditching Ticketmaster for his upcoming tour and selling tickets directly on his website, in order to reduce costs and fees and to mitigate the effect of scalpers, another unprecedented move.

And then, season 3 of Louie began, and the comedian/unwilling actor starts it off with -- you guessed it -- with a bit about how his dick is blurry when he jerks off, segueing into a joke about how if women can get most of their body parts replaced, why don't older rich men get their cocks replaced.

Then, he has the fictionalized version of himself in the show get accidentally dumped by a girlfriend (played by Gaby Hoffmann, who's probably out of his league and 15-years younger than him but simultaneously believable as his girlfriend) he's presumably had since season 2 ended and his love Pamela moved away and broke his heart, when all he wanted to do was eat some ice cream, he has that character proceed to have his car destroyed in front of his eyes and then get into a motorcycle, and, as we found out yesterday, he makes his ex-wife (the mother of his two white, blond daughters, by the way) black, presumably for the sake of comedy.

There's self-deprecating humor, and then there's Louie. I don't know if it's because he's insecure, or uncomfortable with all the success he had, but Louis C.K. doesn't seem to want any of it, and he wants you to know it. Sure, for the sake of pseudo-realism he'll make the character well-off, well-intended and slightly successful (he drives a nice car, he has a decent apartment and he's not wallowing in filth or anything), but it seems like his intention is to reset everything at zero with every passing episode, in terms of where the character is emotionally. The prime example of this theme is in last season's "Moving", where Louie decides to move and dreams of buying a home well out of his means, only to end up repainting what he has.

"Something is Wrong" was sort of like that. Louie turtles in the face of confrontation and ends up getting dumped, and he replaces those feelings by doing something crazy like buying a motorcycle. It all blows up in his face and he's right back to where he started when the end credits roll. He's alone, he's miserable, but he recognizes that things could be worse.

But because this is Louis C.K., it had to start with an extended piece about penises and masturbation. It's a theme that's recurring on the show, especially when coupled with aging and humiliation, and that's what C.K. does best. And even though it was crude and a little ridiculous, it perfectly represented what he was trying to accomplish with the episode. Getting dumped was like looking down and noticing your penis is blurry, while his desire to eat his ice cream I guess represented the masturbation. His car getting destroyed was his decaying body, and the motorcycle he bought was the throbbing new penis of a recently deceased 22-year-old Puerto Rican marathon runner grafted onto his pasty redheaded body. But he gets into a crash, gets hurt, and none of it is enough to get his girlfriend back, or at least man up and tell her how he really feels.

So, what's really "wrong", as the title teases? Is it his blurry penis, his eyesight, his body after the motorcycle accident, or something deeper? Is there something wrong with his girlfriend or the relationship, or is something significantly wrong with Louie himself?

That's the genius of this show. He'll take a bit about detachable blurry penises and he'll weave it in with getting dumped and buying a motorcycle. There's nothing else like this on TV, and it goes beyond the fact that the show doesn't have any discernible format -- something that Louis has stated he wants to maintain -- or the stand-up bits or anything else. It's original and it's funny because Louis takes his fictionalized version of himself to places no one else would, not even the likes of Larry David. It's because C.K. is the best of both worlds. He's as funny as Larry David or Jerry Seinfeld, but yet as talented behind a camera and in writing a script as the likes of his filmmaking hero, Woody Allen. It's mixing the comedic talent of his comedy brethren, with the deeper more questioning and philosophical talents of the best writers and directors as they express who they are and maybe more narcissistically or even nihilistically, who they want to be, both on a mental and spiritual level, as well as a more primal level.

I'm aware that all of this comes from a joke about a blurry penis, but that's who Louis C.K. is, and how he gets to places. That's why he makes dick and masturbation jokes, because that's how he's most comfortable expressing himself.

The episode itself wasn't the best we've seen of Louie, it had trouble expressing these things above at times and it definitely wasn't as meaningful as last year's "Duckling" or as funny as some other episodes, but it was a great way to set up the season and reset the show's main character, which is, again, something C.K. has stated he wants to do ever year. Just like last season, we're building to something spectacular, and if you didn't feel it with this particular episode, you can definitely feel it coming. It's going to be a great season.

"Something is Wrong", the season 3 premiere of Louie, gets 8.5 confusing street signs out of 10.

Bits & Pieces:

  • All poor Louie wanted to do was eat his damn pie and ice cream.
  • I loved the bit about the confusing street signs, and how it carried over into the tag in the credits. It's a plight everyone has to deal with every day, and it was closest you'll get to a pure sight gag with Louis C.K. The green sign with a line across it was perfect, as was the bit about how it's always after midnight.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about Louie's ex being a black woman. That's not racism or anything, it's just uncertainty. Obviously it doesn't matter if she's black or white, that's kind of the point, regardless of the skin and hair color (and frankly the attitude and demeanor) of their kids, and they're probably going somewhere specific with all this, but it just felt uncharacteristic of the show. Not the fact that Louie would marry a black woman, but the way it was presented. I have a feeling Louis was going for a sight gag or some measure of shock value here, and you could say it worked, because it'll definitely be a talking point of the episode, but we'll see where he takes it. It just felt weird and surrealistic, even for this show. But I guess that goes back to the whole dick joke vs. deep philosophical discussion about relationships and life thing. Plus Curb already did the pasty awkward white guy dating a black woman joke.
  • The motorcycle salesman showing Louie all his scars (including inside his pants) yet still convincing him that buying a motorcycle is smart was perfectly executed. As was the scene where he was riding his cycle, complete with the so-very-Louie style music.
  • Signs your budget has increased: destroying an Infiniti.
  • We talked about the episode "Moving" and how it compares to this one. I feel like Louie meant for those comparisons, because he actually had a very specific callback to that episode when the old lady at the hospital yelling in the background utters "What about Obama?" If you'll recall, Louie says this in Moving as a sort of justification of going after something he can't have, similarly to how he can't have a meaningful relationship or a motorcycle (or replacement dick) in this episode. Boom.
  • "The next time some 22-year-old Puerto Rican track star gets hit by a bus, I get his dick."
  • "It's always before midnight and it's always after midnight."

Next week: "Telling Jokes/Set Up" -- "Louie has dinner at a friend's house."