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Louie is a highlight reel of flaws but his efforts to improve save him

We're not over television shows about middle-aged white men going about their lives yet, right? No? Good. Because I'd like to talk about Louie, a sitcom about a middle-aged white man going about his life.

It's a grossly overstuffed genre, for sure. And at this point there's not much we don't know about the comedic trials and tribulations facing 40-something white dudes everywhere. If there's one thing all these shows have taught us it's that, for a white man at least, it is indeed a hard-knock life.

None more so than for Louie, the hapless hero of Louie, as played by creator, writer, director, editor, executive producer and - in all likelihood - coffee gofer, Louis CK.

While the real Louis is clearly some kind of superhuman over-achiever, the character Louie is most definitely not. He's slovenly, greedy, weak, unsure of himself and, a lot of the time, afraid. Of life, of death, of failure and, in season three's astoundingly great three-episode finale, of success.


Louie is a veritable highlight reel of character flaws: a pervy, jealous, masturbatory, judgmental, weak-willed glutton. He should, by all measures, be extremely unlikeable.

And he would be if it wasn't for the simple fact that we constantly see him desperately trying to improve his lot. We see him making a very real effort that involves a very real struggle to be a better person, a better parent to his two daughters and a better member of society.

There's no sugar coating here. Self-improvement is hard, which is why most of us don't make the effort. Hell, even just realising that there's something about yourself that you could maybe, possibly improve requires more thought and energy than the majority are willing to give.

For some, life is perfect and ignorance bliss. The mirror is a place to style your hair, not a place for reflection.

Louie is CK holding the mirror up to his character and to us his audience. Life is there in all its brutal, ugly, overweight glory staring right back at us, daring us to do something about the beast we're looking at. Because if we do, then the beauty behind it will be revealed.

We sometimes see Louie succeed in his efforts, sometimes we see him fail miserably. Sometimes he gives good lip service. In Louie's New York any such BS is called on almost immediately.

But the important thing, and what keeps the character somewhat relatable, is that he's trying. It seems both God and television audiences love a tryer.

I've called Louie a sitcom, but that's not entirely accurate. It's more of a notcom. At its core Louie is a comedy, but many episodes aren't really all that funny. CK is determinedly not making a LOL generator or 30 minutes of canned laughs. What he's doing instead is much more interesting.


Don't get it twisted, the show can be extremely funny and often is. But it also indulges CK's creative and artistic impulses on the regular.

Famously, he has complete control over the production with no interference from network suits. It's a freedom he revels in.

Some episodes are filled with non sequitur vignettes, some are played for laughs, some go full drama. Some, somehow, manage to do all of this at the same time.

There's a freewheeling surrealism to the show that means as the opening credits roll you genuinely do not know what you're going to get.

It's experimental television at its finest. The fact that you generally do get a good laugh out of it as well is just icing.

In the States the show is a pop culture juggernaut that has just started its fifth season. There's no word yet on when the fifth season will screen here, but Lightbox has the first three seasons available for streaming right now and I highly recommend doing so.


Because while Larry David argues and shouts at any and all obstacles that disrupt his day on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Marc Maron spits at life's unfairness on Maron, CK uses Louie to try to understand the unwritten rules of society and the inherent prejudices that exist within its decidedly grey morality.

Through the show he attempts to work through them, to highlight their absurdity or grotesqueness and to show how the application of common sense could and should resolve them, but very often doesn't.

If all this sounds like just another show about "white people problems" well, you're not wrong. But then what did you expect from the man who coined that expression in the first place?