Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Underrated TV on DVD #4: Lucky Louie

Series: Lucky Louie
Year: 2006, 1 season, 13 episodes
Creator: Louis C. K.
Stars: Louis C. K., Pamela Adlon, Mike Hagerty, Jerry Minor, Kelly Gould

The Concept: Shocking sitcom about a working class couple and their sketchy friends, focusing on the painful realities of modern American life, based on the creator's brazenly frank stand-up.

How it Came to be Underrated: This series got terrible reviews and it was quickly cancelled. It’s no mystery to me why that happened: The great scripts and performances were undercut by an ill-considered, intentionally fake-looking style for the sets and cinematography that was understandably off-putting to audiences. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay on the air long enough to figure out that they should stop chasing audiences away.

Sample Episode: 1.1, "Pilot"
Writer: Louis C. K.
The Story: Louis's life is filled with embarrassments. In one storyline, the black neighbors give his daughter a black Barbie, then see him throw it away. In the other, his wife decides she wants to try to make another baby, which he has to admit that he can’t afford to do.

Why It’s Great:
  1. In the court of public opinion, there have always been two verdicts for Louis C. K.: He's perceived as a super-smart stand-up comedian, but a widely-reviled low-rent screenwriter, responsible for Pootie-Tang and several other flops. This show should have been his opportunity to finally connect to a broader audience, but its failure only seems to have confirmed the status quo.
  2. HBO likes to be “daring”, which generally means making shows about rich people cavorting nakedly. This show had a lot of raunchy humor, but it also made a rare attempt to honestly lampoon America’s two biggest “don’t-go-there’s”: race and class, which was a little too fearless, even for HBO.
  3. Louis’s desperate attempts to befriend the black neighbors culminate in a hilarious spiel about how he really needs a black friend because his young daughter has only ever spoken to one black person: the refrigerator repairman. Now she says ‘refrigerator’ every time she sees somebody black on the bus. Though they have little in common, his neighbor has to relent: “I guess it’s worth it if I can help one little white girl learn the difference between a black person and a refrigerator.”
  4. The show specialized in finding those painful little moments that don’t usually get dramatized, sacrificed in the name of that stern TV taskmaster: likability. Have you ever made dinner plans and then forgotten all about it? I have. It's painful. Seeing it on screen, I winced.
How Available Is It?: The whole show is rentable on 2 discs, including hilarious, rowdy commentaries that were recorded right after the cancellation.

But Don’t Take My Word For It: Only the first scene of the pilot is online but it’s one of my all-time favorite introductions to a show.Please, please watch this:


christinembird said...

This clip may be the funniest thing I've ever seen on television. Watch it!

Unknown said...

Wow. The amount of characterization and backstory jammed (entertainingly, no less!) into this 'simple' opening scene has my jaw bouncing on the floor in admiration.

Steve Bird said...

Last time I heard, you were pretty skeptical about this show. I guess it won you over? Meanwhile, I've become a big fan of Louis's standup, but he works so far over the line that I'm usually hesitant to recommend him to anyone.