The Joy of Louie

May 20, 2014 — Leave a comment
Image credit: FX

Image credit: FX

I’m not sure if it’s a good sign that FX has decided to squish the fourth season Louis C.K.’s Louie into seven back-to-back instalments, but, as a gluttonous fan of the show, I am grateful for the opportunity to binge on the surrealist satire-come-farce.

Some might say a glutton for punishment, given that Louie is often dismissed as ‘depressing’. True, some of it is bleak, but humour and despair are an ancient double act. Shakespeare’s comedies are leant all the more pathos because they are closer to life as it is than tragedy; The Winter’s Tale is still, I think, the most terrifying play ever written.

We may cringe whilst Louie is upbraided by a fat girl for denying her size or when, this week, he struggles, through an intermediary, to ask a woman who doesn’t speak English out for a dinner, before being promptly told that she’s leaving the country. But if you persist – and don’t look away – Louie often rewards you with a tenderness that is rare this side of nineties-sitcom schmaltz. Most episodes traverse every emotion, which is not to say that it isn’t primarily hilarious – simply, that that’s not the only thing it can be.

Veep (HBO), however, can only be hilarious because it is populated by people without souls and it succeeds with malice aforethought. This is of course familiar territory for Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who probably doesn’t need to be prefixed with ‘Seinfeld’s’ anymore) who, as Vice President Selina Meyer, fresh off last week’s incident with a Finnish politician, continues to have as many problems with europeans, in London, as she does with her own team of bumbling backstabbers. As usual, the gong for most fabulously feckless goes to director of communications Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) for brazenly insisting upon a fraudulent knowledge of German, even in the face of someone who clearly did possess the language. Such dedication to ineptitude and artifice has a pathos of its own.

Finally, a brief word about Mad Men (AMC/Sky Atlantic) – a programme that is only ever a vodka shot away from turning into car-crash television: three cheers to Matthew Weiner for making Don the centre of the show again, after being the man-who-wasn’t-there for much of the previous season. More on this after next week’s mid-season finale – and what can be done about these year-long breaks?

Jacob Knowles-Smith

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