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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Louie: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review

Loosely based upon the life of Emmy Award winning comedian Louis C.K.,  "Louie"  is about a 41-year-old divorced stand-up comedian trying to meet people, raise kids, and score with women.  "Louie" puts a spotlight on Louis C.K.’s everyday ordeals, with each episode offering a mix of a scripted story and some of his stand-up comedy, which is original material for the series. The single-camera comedy is shot entirely in New York and features a unique mix of Louis C.K.’s stand-up comedy and scripted stories. Louis C.K. serves as executive producer, writer, director and editor for the series, which is a fairly impressive feat especially considering how good the show is.  "Louie"  Season 2 Blu-ray and DVD comes with exclusive bonus materials and features unforgettable episodes and hilarious performances from guest stars including Ricky Gervais (“The Office”) and Joan Rivers (“Fashion Police”).

Show (5 out of 5 stars)

"Louie" is a very funny show about a somewhat fictional version of Louis C.K.’s efforts to find love and humor in this modern difficult age. The show is as unpredictable as it is funny and it often goes into politically incorrect humor often. This is a no holds barred show and there’s plenty of jokes about religion, Jews, race differences, raising kids, being a comedian, and more. The man on the precarious tightrope is Louis C.K. who you may have seen from his stand up routines or on his previous show "Lucky Louie". Abandoning the sitcom three camera setup of his previous show, Louis C.K. has employed a more dynamic style where the camera follows him closely as he navigates his challenging life and career. Some have said this new format is reminiscent of "Seinfeld", but other than the show is about the life of a comedian that shows his private life as well as his stand-up routines, they have really different agendas.

While "Seinfeld" excelled at creating humor from absurd artificial situations, "Louie" finds its humor from how life itself is absurd. Whether it's Louie going along with a groupie to have sex across state lines to New Jersey, only to discover that she wanted a threesome with another man (played by F. Murray Abraham), or watching a homeless man get killed and then continuing on with his date, or being forced to go on a treasure hunt of sorts for items before he's allowed to sleep with a woman, Louie keeps getting himself in over his head while we watch him thrash about trying to escape them.  Louie is like an adult version of Charlie Brown who is still trying to kick the football with the same amount of success.  Instead of Lucy pulling the football away at the last second, it's life itself now doing that to him and Louie never seems to learn.

There isn't a show on television like "Louie".  It's equal parts drama and comedy, with a real sense of reality to it.  When Louie's daughter tells him, "I like mama’s better. I like mama’s better because she makes good food and I love her more so I like being there more," without any anger and in a matter-of-fact voice, it's devastating to Louie as it would be to any divorced parent.  Louie tries to keep his feelings hidden from his daughter until she goes to bed, and then flips her off after leaving her room.  That scenes encapsulates the appeal of the show.  There's plenty of touching moments, but before it gets too far into the drama territory, Louis C.K. undercuts it with humor.  While I enjoy all the comedy he brings to the show, I wish he would occasionally just leave a tender moment alone which he does every once in a while like the end in the "Duckling" episode that is full of emotion.

The brilliance of the show is that while these are mundane issues that we all deal with, Louis C.K. always finds a way to make it funny with a wry comment or to subvert the the almost preordained outcome.  The reason he gets away with making the show this subversively funny is because of the deal he made with FX. As he said, “I went [to Hollywood] and I had other networks offering me a lot of money to do a pilot, and I got this call from FX and they said ‘Well, we can’t offer you a lot of money, but if you do the show for us, you can have a lot of fun.’ He was offering me $200,000 as the budget for the whole pilot and I was like ‘So, what do I get paid?’ and he was like ‘No, that’s the whole thing, $200,000…’ I said ‘Look, the only way I’m doing this is if you give me the $200,000 – wire it to me in New York – and I’ll give you a show. But I’m not pitching it, and I’m not writing a script and sending it to you first.’”

The show itself is unique in also how it’s presented. There’s no real continuity or narrative since he prefers to keep things loose to achieve what he wants to achieve.  Louis C.K. also brings on a lot of his favorite friends and colleagues on the show including Chris Rock, Joan Rivers, Pamela Adlon, Nick DiPaolo, and more.  On some shows, there some stand-up and two small scenes to make up the rest of the running time, while others take up the whole episode. As he explains it, “It’s very vignette-y. It’s very vérité. All those French words. I use ‘em all.”  While the first season seemed very cinematic, this season is even better as Louis C.K. has become an even better director and has begun to stretch himself even more.  If you are looking for a show that’s a little dark, a little risque, and very very funny, then you should check out this show. 


Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The show is shot on a Red camera setup and this 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks good even though it seems somewhat muted but that may also be an artistic decision. There’s some very nice detail in both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the show which is a good thing since he likes to do a lot of close-ups. Color is excellent when allowed to pop up but overall the visual palette is muted. Black levels are nice and dark and the flesh tones are life-like and consistent.  This season Louis C.K. changed things up by adding two episodes that were filmed in black and white which look very good on Blu-ray.


Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

"Louie: The Complete Second Season's" DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix does a very good job providing crystal clear dialogue which is what’s most important for this kind of show. It doesn't really use the really use the rear speakers much except for some occasional music or for some light ambiance since this is a mostly front speaker kind of mix. One exception is when Louie is in the comedy club doing his stand-up routine there’s a little bit more atmosphere from the rear speakers.The jazzy music comes through very nicely and is well balanced with the dialogue.


Extras (3 out of 5 stars)

Last season's extras were pretty light but compared to this season's, they're starting to look pretty good.  This time around we get less extras and less commentary tracks which is a shame since that will bring down my final score.
  • Audio Commentary - Louis C.K. provides a commentary for only five episodes this time instead of the eleven from the first season which is a shame.  I wish he would record one for every episode because his comments are both funny and informative, especially since he's a one man show who writes, acts, directs, and edits these episodes.  Much like his character on the show, he is self-deprecating, funny, but he’s also not afraid to get into technical details about his show and how he films it. 
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents - Louie Season Two Premiere - This is a four an half minute featurette from the red carpet premiere of the second season.  We hear from Louis C.K. and get some clips from the show but that's about it.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)

Louis C.K. has made an original show that says things that people think but don’t often say. "Louie" is also clearly influenced by Woody Allen and this feels like a modern version of Allen’s early movies like Take the Money and Run, Play it Again Sam, and Annie Hall.  By using Allen’s template of keeping things loose, funny, and real, and then adding his own dark humor to it, he’s managed to create a unique way to comment on society which allows him to have his cake and eat it too.  As he says, “I like to keep people off-balance, so I like to give them shit they really like and then suddenly lead them happily down a road to somewhere disturbing.  And all of a sudden they go, “How the fuck did I get to watching this?”  If you want to see something original, daring, and funny, then you should do yourself a favor and check this out!

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