Louie: “Late Show (Part 3)” (3.12)

TV Reviews louis c.k.
Louie: “Late Show (Part 3)” (3.12)

The conclusion to Louie’s talk show arc was a masterful fulfilment of what both the small saga and the show are about, which is no small task. From the beginning, this has been about Louis gaining a sort of self-confidence about his own comedy and taking the next step. He knows that he can do stand-up, but the question for a while has been “then what?” By giving him this ultimate goal, we’ve seen a possibility of Louis discovering something new about himself, and that’s been exciting to watch. Yet Louie as a show is tinged with irony and disappointment. It needs things to fail in order to reiterate its message that the world is awful but we, as people, can still get by.

David Lynch returns as Louis’ producer for a try-out episode of the Late Show, and he’s as wonderful and cantankerous as ever. But it’s a change from what we saw before, in that he’s no longer asking for Louis to just show up. He’s asking for commitment, and nothing he’s seen so far from the prospective host has shown that he has what it takes. In last week’s episode, Louis was still too self-involved to really commit as a host in the way he needs to, and it takes Lynch’s increasingly hostile coaching to help him realize that it takes disregarding his own preconceptions about what humor should be is necessary for the job. He’s there to make people laugh, and that’s it, and he needs to get over himself in order to do so.

When he finally understands not only that Lynch’s advice was actually brilliant, if frequently opaque, it helps. But even more helpful is his drive to not let anyone else take it away from him. As long as Louis doesn’t feel threatened about the show, he doesn’t really try. But once he realizes it’s his to lose, suddenly he’s on fire and reborn as the decent talk show host we all knew he could be. The only sad part about his audition is that we don’t get to see more of it.

We know he was great, and everyone who sees the audition knows it was great, but that was only important to our protagonist. The world, as always in Louie, couldn’t care less. While some may consider Letterman’s contract extension to be a cop-out, it’s really the only logical way the show can continue. It’s not that Louie wouldn’t work if Louis took the job, it’s that the show would be something else entirely, a heartwarming Oprah-approved sort of affair rather than the darker, more cynical and truthful show it is. And what’s great is that none of this cynicism reduces Louis’ achievement.

This arc, with its myriad of celebrities and far more plot-based structure than the rest of the show, has been in some ways the most ambitious thing Louie has done so far. And like its hero, the show managed to succeed, even though next week it’ll be back where it started.

Stray observations:
•”Daddy, you’re a fat daddy.” – Every episode, those two girls are brilliant. I think they’ve become my favorite child actors, period.
•”If you want to be a talk show host, it’s better if you’re funny.” – Or, you know, Jay Leno.
•”You’re just a pencil… penis… parade. pffthhhh” – A sneak preview of what Louis would be like had he chosen to be a performance artist rather than a comedian.
•It’s still kinda odd that Letterman himself never made an appearance in any of this. Or Conan. They both felt oddly missing, considering that this was about Letterman’s show and Louis used to write for Conan.

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