A review of last night’s “Louie” coming up just as soon as I watch you eat a donut…
This is two weeks in a row now that “Louie” has essentially told a single story, but “Bully” felt as distinct from “Dogpound” as “Dogpound” did from the previous episode, and on and on. TV shows condition you to expect subtle variations from week to week, but while the themes of “Louie” – aging, wisdom, mortality – remain constant, Louis C.K. seems determined to keep people guessing about what style and format he’ll use from week to week.
The episode was bookended, as usual, by funny stand-up – this time intercut with a mortifying but hilarious flashback to Louie’s father giving his seven-year-old son Much Too Much Information about his strategy for satisfying a woman sexually – but in between was a long, dark, intentionally non-comic story about the power that teenage bullies can still have on grown-ass men, and then on the lessons that parents pass on to their children. It was deliberately uncomfortable at times, but still managed to find some brief light moments, like Louie’s indigant dismissal of his date after she admits she was turned off by his response to the bully, or the laugh Louie and the bully’s dad share about Louie’s profession.
TNT’s underrated “Men of a Certain Age” deals with a lot of the same issues “Louie” does, albeit in a different format, and it even had a story with some similarities to this one. Scott Bakula’s character is almost run over by a distracted, inconsiderate driver, and he tracks the guy down to his house to gain satisfaction – even though he has no idea if he’ll just lecture him, beat him up or what. But when he gets there, the man is with his wife, and his baby, and they’re scared that this stranger came to their house, and Bakula’s revenge fantasy dissipates as he realizes he looks pathetic and creepy. Once Louie started following the bully(*), I thought it was going to play out in similar fashion. Things still got ugly, but in their own very “Louie” way, where the mom can curse out Louie for daring to lecture them, yet the dad can recognize some truth in what Louie said and follow him outside for a bit of fellow father bonding.
(*) It also reminded me of one of my favorite DVD commentary lines of all time, which I think I’ve mentioned before. The original edition of the “Ferris Bueller” DVD has a commentary by John Hughes (which he had removed from later editions because he decided he wanted the movie to stand on its own), and when Vice Principal Rooney pulls up to the pizza parlor looking for Ferris, Hughes says, very dryly but in a way that always makes me laugh, “Now he’s gone too far. He’s left the school.” Louie following the bully onto the subway was bad enough, but when he got on the Staten Island Ferry, it definitely felt like Ed Rooney time.
And the tag at the end, with adult Louie meeting his 7-year-old self, was something I’ve seen on many other shows (“How I Met Your Mother” did that gag with Jason Segel not long ago), but Louie’s usual self-loathing and resignation – not even trying to contest the kid’s “This is a nightmare. What happened to you?” – made it still funny, and still “Louie.”
What did everybody else think?