Poster: Mr. Television
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Lucky Louie aired from June until August 2006 on HBO.
Louis C.K. starred as Louie, a part-time mechanic at a muffler shop who spent most of his time at home taking care of his four-year-old daughter Lucy ( Kelly Gould). His wife, Kim ( Pamela Segall Adlon), the real breadwinner of the family, worked as a full-time nurse. This untraditional arrangement could be tricky at times, but they always stuck it out, because somewhere underneath all the muck they loved each other... plus, they had no choice.
Kim and Louie's best friends were Mike and Tina ( Michael G. Hagerty, Laura Knightlinger), a married couple with an enviably simple life (Mike would bring home the bacon, and Tina in turn would have sex with him) and a bunch of kids from their current and previous marriages. Across the hall were an African-American couple, Walter and Ellen ( Jerry Minor, Kim Hawthorne), and their daughter Lisa, a family with whom Louie awkwardly tried to cultivate a friendship. Also living in the building was Kim's eccentric brother Jerry ( Rick Shapiro), who had a blurry past and was in constant need of direction (and food). There's also Louie's friend Rich( Jim Norton), who lived with his mother and earned a living through shady means.
Filmed before a live audience, a first for HBO "Lucky Louie" was also the network's first multi-camera situation comedy.
A Review from Variety
(Series -- HBO, Sun. June 11, 10:30 p.m.)
By BRIAN LOWRY
Taped in Los Angeles by Circle King Prods., 3 Arts Entertainment and Snowpants Prods. in association with HBO Independent Prods. Executive producers, Louis C.K., Mike Royce, Vic Kaplan, Dave Becky; co-executive producer, Kit Boss; producers, Andrew D. Weyman, Leo Clarke; director, Gary Halvorson; writer, Louis C.K.
Louie - Louis C.K.
Kim - Pamela Adlon
Mike - Mike Hagerty
Tina - Laura Kightlinger
Lucy - Kelly Gould
Walter - Jerry Minor
Ellen - Kim Hawthorne
Rich - Jim Norton
Jerry - Rick Shapiro
The multicamera sitcom format has a half-century of history behind it, so seeing HBO attempt to turn the genre on its head through sheer raunchiness is initially jarring -- almost like hearing children curse. The novelty, not surprisingly, wears off quickly, though there are still some extremely funny moments in this blue-collar comedy, a wildly uneven half-hour built around acerbic standup Louis C.K. Hardly everyone's cup of tea, "Lucky Louie" will have its loyalists, though likely as a narrow cult confection.
Indeed, if sitcoms traditionally skew toward females, "Lucky Louie" should appeal principally to guys -- filled as it is with jokes about masturbation and the frustrations of the terminally married. The set itself resembles "The Honeymooners," the most mundane and drab of apartments, then distilled through a fun-house prism, with the initial episodes providing occasional glimpses of (mostly bad) sex and, in later installments, male nudity.
Louie (Louis C.K., who doubles as a writer-producer) works part time in a muffler shop while wife Kim (Pamela Adlon) is the primary earner as a full-time nurse, and they have a young child. In the premiere, she catches him engaging in a form of stress relief in the hall closet. Inasmuch as the two haven't had sex in months, her sudden interest in reversing that trend triggers Louie's suspicion that she harbors an ulterior motive -- namely, a desire to have another kid, prompting him to dub her most private of areas "a chamber of financial ruin."
The supporting cast includes Louie's gruff buddy Mike (the well-traveled Mike Hagerty) and drug-dealing pal Rich (Jim Norton) as well as Walter (Jerry Minor), the patriarch of a neighboring African-American family whom Louie inadvertently keeps insulting.
Like most sitcoms, this one tends to focus on a theme within each episode -- though here, the topics include frank discussions about Kim having an orgasm and Louie's pathetic eating habits. Perhaps the best moment comes during the premiere's pre-credit sequence, when Louie fields a series of "why" questions from his daughter and finally explains, "Because God is dead and we're alone."
Although the show seems designed to generate shock value, cheerful vulgarity is welcome as long as its clever -- think of the audience that (once upon a time, anyway) flipped between listening to Howard Stern and National Public Radio. The problem is that "Louie" struggles to make that blue streak feel organic, at which point some gags come across as forced and a little smutty -- "Home Improvement" on acid.
Adlon (formerly Pamela Segall, and among other things the voice of Bobby on "King of the Hill") possesses a strong comic presence that offers a fine counterpoint to C.K.'s standup delivery, but again, her blunt banter with Mike's wife Tina (Laura Kightlinger) at times feels labored.
Given HBO's strong association with single-camera half-hours, credit the pay net with at least exploring an about-face by seizing upon the familiar sitcom template and trying to enliven it with the "It's not TV" imprimatur. And if the experiment doesn't wholly succeed, considering the bad luck that sitcoms have recently experienced, "Louie" is at least worth taking a roll of the dice.
A Review from The New York Times
TV Review | 'Lucky Louie'
Setting Out to March Boldly Into TV's Rabbit-Eared Past
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Published: June 10, 2006
Like so many dusty and forgotten shows before it, "Lucky Louie" purports to reinvent the sitcom brilliantly, styling itself as "the end of the sitcom as you know it."
What's weird, then, is that "Lucky Louie" doesn't look anything like most reinvented sitcoms, since it does none of the newly cliched things that were supposed to bust the old cliches: it doesn't use a single camera or withhold laughter or focus on a nontraditional family or have an ensemble cast instead of a headliner. It doesn't rely on show-biz self-referentiality or (with one exception) names as punchlines, like "Paris Hilton."
Louis C. K.'s "Lucky Louie," which starts tomorrow on HBO, is, in fact, about nothing less than some blue-collar couples who crack jokes about money and sex. So forget rehashing by-the-numbers 90's hits like "Friends" or "Seinfeld"; "Lucky Louie" hauls out the real retro stuff, shortening the skirt and adjusting the lapels of "The Honeymooners" and calling it high style.
And if vintage works in fashion: Maybe. It. Could. Work here? I'm not sure. But there's something refreshing about the show's spare stage sets, which seem to belong to the let's-just-televise-some-plays days of early television. Louie (the standup comic Louis C. K., who created the show) and his wife, Kim (the wicked, feral-looking Pamela Adlon), pace around in front of get this a live studio audience. At a glance, the effect is of some PBS night of new one-acts by young playwrights.
But don't touch that dial. There's nothing serious or existential about "Lucky Louie"; there's nothing really play-like, in other words. The comedy is nifty, light and kind, even as it tries to be real, slitting open the stand-up themes of marital sex, masturbation and dope smoking until it's dirty enough to convince you that you're not being condescended to, but smart enough not to be grim. That's a huge feat.
The good news is that you'll know instantly, with the first scene, whether you're ready to bring a slightly more sordid, slightly less shrill and slightly sweeter "Honeymooners" back into your living room after all these years. Tomorrow's pilot is a near-perfect comic set piece: it's almost a monologue, and comedy actors should try it for auditions. It seems to be one of those scenes that someone should have come up with years ago. If nothing else, Louis C. K. deserves an Emmy for the creation of a single timeless comedy scene, if such an award is ever offered.
Without further ado: the exchange is based on a series of whys asked of Louie by Lucy (Kelly Gould), his school-age daughter. While sitting together at the breakfast table, she asks him if they can play outside, and he tells her no. She asks why, and he tells her it's dark out. She asks why, and he tells her about the rotation of the earth. She asks why, and he tells her he doesn't know. She asks why he doesn't know, and he tells her that he didn't pay attention in school because he was high.
From there he unfurls, very naturally as the questions keep coming, the seamy details of his life how he has no skills and makes very little money at a muffler shop while his wife supports them, and how the service economy has replaced manufacturing and concludes on a note of simple, resounding despair. God is dead. And that is why.
Now remember, this is stagey. There's a studio audience, laughing. There's uniform light. It's not a cool scene, not at all. But if you can adjust to the simplicity of the televised stage and yield to the laughter, this is charming and funny. And it's also the smartest way I've ever seen a sitcom give its exposition. The situation is firmly established before the opening credits, and it is painless.
Louie's character is also fixed upfront. He's well intentioned, feckless, fine. Under his wife's thumb. Not a florid buffoon but a solid dolt. His awkward and semiracist encounters with his black neighbors, which are "Curb Your Enthusiasm" light, are nonetheless amusing. And his slovenly friends (the guys recalls Doug's clique on "King of Queens") are hams of the first rank: Mike Hagerty is the slobbery wiseman Mike, and Jim Norton is the scroungy pot dealer Rich.
"Lucky Louie" will follow "Entourage": the night is an easy, easy slide down the tax brackets. After "Entourage," the tenser Hollywood comedy, with its cultivated high-def edges, it feels swell to dump the melontini for a beer, get the Barcalounger-and-Zenith attitude, and exhale into this televised museum piece, which includes no hip references to anything.
HBO, tomorrow night at 11, Eastern and Pacific times; 10, Central time
Created and written by Louis C. K.; Louis C. K., Mike Royce, Vic Kaplan and Dave Becky, executive producers.
WITH: Louis C. K. (Louie), Pamela Adlon (Kim), Mike Hagerty (Mike), Laura Kightlinger (Tina), Kelly Gould (Lucy), Jerry Minor (Walter), Kim Hawthorne (Ellen), Jim Norton (Rich) and Rick Shapiro (Jerry).
A Review from The Boston Globe
HBO banks on the boys with a trio of comedies
By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff | June 9, 2006
Call it ``guys' night in." On Sunday, HBO begins a new programming lineup featuring a bunch of porn-using, attention-loving, curse-inventing, beer-belly-bearing dudes. Sure, these men bust each other plenty, but they always hug it out -- with conspicuous non sexual back pats, of course.
With Tony Soprano and his crew weakening and then departing in 2007, HBO is declaring a new demographic war on young men. This summer, from 9 to 11:30 p.m. on HBO's most valuable night, you'll find a sort of Howard Stern - flavored sundae with Vince Vaughn sprinkles on top. Look for the good (``Entourage"), the bad (``Dane Cook's Tourgasm"), and the ugly (``Lucky Louie"), all airing right after the return of HBO's most brilliantly artful of stinky sinkholes, David Milch's ``Deadwood."
Seriously, you wouldn't want to do laundry for the HBO men, who now include the comedian Louis C.K., a one-time Boston boy. His explicit sitcom, ``Lucky Louie," premieres in the 10:30 slot, and it's one of HBO's more fascinating series -- but not because it's good, or funny.
It's actually a failed experiment in TV genre, and a reminder of the power of the unspoken and the unseen in entertainment. When you can swear like a sailor and simulate love making openly in an old-fashioned sitcom, as the actors do on ``Lucky Louie," you don't generate much excitement or outrageousness. Often, shock depends on the forbidden for its ballast.
``Lucky Louie" is HBO's first-ever conventional multi-camera sitcom, complete with live audience laughter and a fake-looking set. It's the antithesis of the more sophisticated TV comedy that HBO has championed, from ``The Larry Sanders Show" to ``Sex and the City." But while ``Lucky Louie" mimics old-school sitcoms such as ``The Honeymooners," ``Roseanne," and ``The King of Queens," it's also frankly sexual. In tonight's episode, for instance, Kim (Pamela Adlon) catches her chunky lug of a husband Louie pleasuring himself in a closet. Next week, the series becomes even more unreserved, as the couple make love during a scene -- while exchanging quips, naturally.
Kim is a nurse who suffers Louie's quirks; Louie is a James Belushi type with a part-time job at a muffler shop and buddies with whom he can complain about women; and they have one adorable preteen daughter. They're just another working-class TV family, and if the same characters appeared on a network series they'd be definitively unoriginal.
On HBO, they're definitely unoriginal -- with sex. But let's be kind and say that Louie C.K. and HBO are ambitiously trying to usher an antique sitcom format into today's risque standards and see how it holds up. It's a study in cultural change. I don't think HBO would have anything to do with this lousy series if that weren't the agenda.
The masturbation content on ``Lucky Louie," so self-conscious and forced, made me think of the ``Contest" episode of ``Seinfeld," when the four friends competed to see who could refrain the longest. The word ``masturbation" was never used (according to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, NBC forbade it) and that fact made the half-hour funnier than ever.
``Will & Grace" also toyed successfully with ``dangerous" material, as the writers mustered their wit to make their sexual humor clear and yet stealth. Prudishness is boring, but pushing the envelope isn't fun when the envelope is torn wide open.
``Entourage" is compensation for ``Lucky Louie." Entering its third season Sunday at 10 p.m., ``Entourage" is the Hollywood satire with a heart. It makes good fun of movie-business self-importance and superficiality, in the way Fox's failed sitcom ``Action" did. But it also includes a collection of affectionately drawn characters whose successes and failures matter to us, and whose boyishness is amusing. The gang of five -- star Vince, brother Johnny Drama, dude-in-waiting Turtle, manager Eric, and agent Ari -- has jelled into a dynamic unit.
Based on the first three episodes, this season will add dimension to the characters, including Jeremy Piven's Ari, whose expanding sado-masochistic rapport with receptionist Lloyd (Rex Lee) has become one of the series' little gems. In the first episode, we meet the guys' moms, most notably Vince and Johnny's mother, when Vince tries to lure her to LA for the opening of his ``Aquaman." In a bit of perfect casting, she's played by Mercedes Ruehl. She's more like Johnny, with superstitions and competitiveness, but she probably doted on her baby Vince. Also, in episode 3, we meet one of the guys' buddies from Queens, as well as Ari's daughter's boyfriend.
The successes and failures of these guys -- and they are all guys, since female characters such as Debi Mazar's publicist get little attention -- has been a great device. They can never quite relax, because fame and money are so fickle and fleeting in Hollywood. Vince is only as good as his last movie, and if ``Aquaman" isn't a blockbuster, he, his friends, and Ari will be yesterday's news. And as long as they're on their toes, they're worth watching.
The oddest thing about ``Tourgasm," at 11, is that it's like a nonfictional ``Entourage." The docu-reality show follows four male comedians who live on a bus together as they perform around the country. Dane Cook has a Vince-like presence, since he is t he most successful and charismatic of the four. He's surrounded by Robert Kelly, Jay Davis, and Gary Gulman, each of whom has character traits similar to the guys in Vince's posse. As their customized ``Tourgasm" bus cruises along, they lose track of time and place, nerves go on edge, and mundane reality arguments occur.
And that's about it. We get snippets of the guys onstage at their gigs, but most of ``Tourgasm" tracks the morale on the bus. One minute, the porn jokes are flying, the next Davis is having a snit fit because he doesn't want to talk about porn. Whenever there is a clash, Cook jumps in as a peacekeeper, in case we didn't already know he's a nice guy. ``We've got to be the glue for each other," he tells the viewers.
But in trying to make the bus melodramas seem important, Cook stretches too far. This is a cross-country tour, something most performers have experienced, and there's nothing particularly special about it. Cook pretends that the bus dynamics are TV gold, but you can feel him straining to be convincing.
Cook is headed for greater stardom, for sure; just watch him dance around the stage as he pours out his stand - up material. He's a likable and formidable force. But ``Tourgasm" isn't going to get him to the top any faster. His show is too much like a dull season of MTV's ``Road Rules," without the women.
A Review of Luckie Louie
Sitcom Aesthetics, Intertextuality, and Lucky Louie
Posted by Walter Metz / Montana State University at Bozeman on August 18th, 2006
When I first sat down to write about Lucky Louie, HBO's first foray into the multiple-camera proscenium sit-com, I had no attachment to the show other than its aesthetic practices, which are significant enough. After all. HBO's crucial place in the history of the sit-com lies in its regeneration of film style (i.e., one camera) shooting practices. Its first show, Dream On (1990-1996), used this technique so that it could cut between the characters and old movie clips. The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998), HBO's flagship series until the 1999 debut of The Sopranos used one camera shooting techniques to parody the multiple camera techniques of the talk show. Finally, the one camera shooting style of Sex and the City (1998-2004) took the cut away one camera moments of Seinfeld (NBC, 1989-1998) which foregrounded Manhattan in the midst of a traditionally shot multiple camera show and made them the dominant motif of the show's exploration of single women's lives in New York City.
The aesthetics of Lucky Louie seem deliberately designed to herald, yet again, HBO's crucial importance in the history of television. Like All in the Family (CBS, 1971-1979) before it, the show revels in its low rent style. Norman Lear's experiment was built around a radically flat and barren x-axis set, purportedly to showcase in isolation Archie Bunker's racism. Lucky Louie features a similarly bare set, also shot on a noticeably less nuanced videotape, especially in comparison with the aforementioned HBO signature shows. In its refusal to apply the sit-com form to the major political issues of the day as did All in the Family, Lucky Louie perhaps skips back even further, to the very origins of the television sitcom itself, rendering a sex- and expletive-filled version of The Honeymooners (CBS, 1952-1953): Louie (Louis C.K.) and his wife Kim (Pamela Adlon) struggle to make it in their grungy apartment building in the big city, supported by their friends, Mike (Michael G. Hagerty) and Tina (Laura Kightlinger), echoing the struggles of Ralph, Alice, Ed, and Trixie fifty years ago.
But then something remarkable happened: I began to like the show. I find this odd to say the least: It is a distinctly unlikable show, filled with unfunny R-rated stints consisting of men's verbal assaults on women's anatomy. Louie's friends are homophobic and downright detestable. However, in the show's first ten episodes, I have not yet encountered one that does not, at discrete moments, shock me with its intelligence. In fact, I think of all the shows I am currently watching, Lucky Louie is the most intertextually rich show on television. In the pilot (June 11, 2006), Louie's and Kim's daughter, Lucy (Kelly Gould) has a childish fit at having been given, by their upwardly mobile African-American neighbors, a black Barbie. In the middle of her 4th birthday party, Lucy begins sobbing about how much she doesn't like the black Barbie. The scene comes straight out of Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959), at the beginning of which Sarah Jayne demonstrates her first sign of radical assimilationism when she rejects her black doll in favor of the white one that her adoptive step-sister has. However, the Lucky Louie pilot moves beyond this now ancient 1950s liberal critique of racism. When Louie goes into the hallway to throw out his trash, the black neighbor, Walter (Jerry Minor), sees that among the detritus is the black doll. When Louie tries to cover for his insult, Walter explains that they only bought the doll because they were half off. Walter calls Louie on his intentions I get the feeling that you're only trying to acquire a black friend which Louie admits to immediately.
Three episodes later, in The Long Weekend (July 2, 2006), Louie and Walter again engage in some of the most honest engagements with race on American television. Standing outside having a smoke, Walter observes matter-of-factly that it must be great to be white. After some denial, Louie finally fesses up: Yeah, it's pretty sweet. Walter retorts, in a hilarious deadpan delivery, If white people aren't having a good time, what's it all for? However, the episode is built around Louie's failure to find success, despite his whiteness. This time, he has spent the rent money for a $300 Frankenstein doll on E-bay. Louie exits his conversation with Walter explaining, See, I don't even know how to be white. Whatever the show's more general problems, it is moments like these'interrogating the complex relationships between race and class in America that converted me into a fan of the show.
In its examination of the white working class, Lucky Louie builds on HBO's expertise, established most clearly in its equally innovative reality show, Family Bonds (2004). The pilot ends with the mother teaching her son to ride a bike after the abusive father has failed, a moment that stands in my viewing experience as the most heartfelt and honest depiction of the kind of community I grew up in when I was young (and my family was poor). In its depiction of frank sexual relations among married people, Lucky Louie furthers a different HBO strength, one found most explicitly in Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present). While the show is rightly celebrated for its improvisational examination of public social dysfunction, what strikes me as most relevant to my life is Larry's spot-on and quite wonderful relationship with his wife Cheryl. They talk frankly about their sexual desires. At one moment, I think the show's best, Cheryl complains that Larry never initiates sex. He explains that he is always available, but that he is merely being respectful of Cheryl's personal space. While the gendering of things is very different in my own relationship, it is refreshing to see frank discussions of sexuality on television that ring true of what goes on in real bedrooms.
Because it is a show based on an R-rated comedian's act, Lucky Louie is awash in sexuality. However, beyond the unfunny sexist jokes that Louie's male friends share with him, back in the private seclusion of their bedroom (of course made public for us in the audience), Louie and Kim are honest, flawed lovers. In a hilarious preamble for an episode, Drinking (August 6, 2006), Louie lies awake obsessing over his paralyzing, existential dread. His babbling about death wakes Kim up. To shut him up, she gives him a hand job. In a hilarious moment, she asks him if he's still thinking about death, to which he replies in the negative with a happy grunt and a smile. At this point the credits roll. I can think of few moments on American television that so delightfully capture the idiocy of male sexuality.
Lucky Louie is most obviously a show whose importance lies in its radical aesthetic style. On this point, I have given the show short shrift. Week in and out, it uses the traditional x-axis set of the family sitcom with virtuosity. In the episode, Discipline (July 23, 2006), clearly the best so far, Louie is trying to keep Lucy from becoming a spoiled brat, and being undercut by Kim, who, because she works all day, is overly indulgent with the child. As Louie is trying to give Lucy her first time out, somewhat incompetently by locking her in the closet (which the show's pilot and subsequent episodes have established as the place he likes to masturbate) on the right hand side of the set, Louie rushes over to screen right to lock Kim out of their front door. As he is doing so, Lucy escapes from the closet and runs towards the camera in the front of the set. This moment captures wonderfully the potential of stage design in the American sitcom.
However, what has me excited about the possibility that the show will continue beyond its initial twelve episodes is its intertextual depth, not at either the aesthetic or narrative level, but at the level of the individual, throw-away moment. As one final example, in the episode Get Out (July 30, 2006), Louie's friend Mike's teenaged stepdaughter is going through a rebellious phase, running away and living with a sleazy middle-aged man named Carl. Their friend Rich explains the behavior at the dinner table in terms he seems to have learned from watching too much Animal Planet: Mike is the dominant male. He wants to kill Shannon and eat her. While the line itself is unfunny and sexist, it indicts the phony science and anthropomorphism of the natural history programming rampant across the basic cable outlets. Any show that is smart enough to do something like this will keep me watching next week.
To watch some clips from Lucky Louie go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=lucky+louie+full+episodes
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://timstelevisionshowcase.neocities.org/luckylouie.html
For an interview with Louis C.K. go to http://www.dead-frog.com/blog/entry/interview_louis_ck_creator_of_the_sitcom_lucky_louie/
For The Official Site of Louis CK go to https://buy.louisck.net/
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D6_AFns1w8
� Date: Sun May 13, 2007 � Filesize: 24.9kb � Dimensions: 506 x 316 �
Keywords: Lucky Louie: Pamela Adelon Louis C.K.