Louie is tired. He is tired in every sense of the word. Tired in the most relatable way possible as the sensation of being “rudely awoken by the dustmen”, as Phil Daniels once described it, is utilised to hilarious effect in the brilliant opening scene of the long-awaited comeback of Louie. The cacophony of noise from the New York garbage men wakes Louie up and degenerates into the exact kind of committed surrealism that this show does so well. The descent into full-blown chaos as the bin-men smash through Louie’s bedroom windows and destroy the place as he lies in bed has a visual poetry which matches anything this show has done before. The character of Louie is tired but the show is back with a very literal bang.
But this tiredness doesn’t stop with just bodily fatigue, as the double-bill of episodes progresses there is a very definite world-weariness on display. Louie is tired of life, tired of his kids, tired of conventional masturbation, tired of never getting the girl, tired of getting old and perhaps most importantly tired of the looming spectre of death.
In season opener ‘Back’, Louie, whilst attempting to purchase a vibrator to liven up his “alone time” (a scene I could have done with a lot more of incidentally), puts his back out and has to be assisted into a taxi by a frail, elderly woman. A typically surreal exchange with a Doctor follows (played excellently by Charles Grodin, mercifully selected ahead of Gervais) in which the disinterested practitioner puts Louie’s back pain down to an evolutionary failing of the entire human race, “we were given a spine that was meant to function as a clothesline and we’re using it as a flagpole”. This isn’t a hacky look at how our bodies fail on us as we get older, it’s a reminder that every single one of us, regardless of our age, is doomed.
Fittingly, the second part of the double-bill, ‘Model’, plays out perhaps the biggest doomsday scenario possible for a show about a stand-up comedian, whilst opening for Jerry Seinfeld at a benefit for heart disease, Louie bombs. Hard. It’s not his fault, he’s an unclean comedian trying to do clean comedy (chickens are dumb) to an audience he’d never usually play to in a venue he’d never usually play. I love the device of physically taking Louie out of his and the show’s safe haven of New York for an episode. Getting out of the city puts us on edge as an audience and does the same to Louie here. The technique has been employed brilliantly before in the episodes South, Miami and Dad and a few others.
This unwanted trip outside of his comfort zone turns into an unexpected success story for Louie though as a beautiful blonde woman, amused by his failure picks him up and takes him back to her place for a one-night stand. This, being Louie though, can’t possibly end well and after the deed is done and he’s finally beginning to loosen up, Louie accidentally elbows her in the face after flinching away from being tickled (a scene eerily familiar to me but we won’t go into that). Things go from bad to worse as the wealthy family (Buzz Aldrin) of the model take legal vengeance and Louie is ordered to pay $5000 a month in damages. At least he gets an effective anecdote to tell the ladies though which is perhaps the closest thing to a happy ending as we’ll see on this show.
I have to admit, I didn’t love everything about the two episodes though. I find the presence of other comedians not noted for their acting prowess (Jim Norton, Sarah Silverman and Jerry Seinfeld in particular) to be occasionally jarring when the casting is usually so spot-on. Additionally, for a show so committed to not falling into the traditional sit-com traps of having regular cast members, catchphrases and set-pieces; I found the return of the poker table chats a little disappointing but these are very minor complaints. Louie is finally back and I can’t wait for the rest of it.