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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Louie goes dark, stays funny

FX's Louie is a strange show. It is consistently funny, but not consistent in just about anything else. There's isn't much continuity, each episode has different themes and goes down its own path. It would be nearly impossible to describe what the show is about in a single sentence or even a paragraph. But that doesn't take anything away from the wonderful, unique show.

This week's episode is called "Barney/Never," and is actually two distinct stories. The first is done artistically, ditching the traditional theme song and replacing it with a solemn, black and white opening. Louie (Louis C.K.) stands by a graveside. An unknown man approaches and they stare at each other.

Then colors are added, and the two sit across from each other in a diner. The man's name is Robbie (Robin Williams), and they talk of the deceased guy, Barney, that was just put in the ground. Neither liked Barney, who was a jerk, but they couldn't stand the thought of no one being at his burial, so they showed up. Talking, they remember a strip club that Barney frequented, and they go to the place. Upon learning of Barney's passing, the patrons of the strip club mourn Barney, whom they loved.

This is a very short piece, but like many great short films, tells a complete story, and leaves a lot to ponder. Everyone has different sides of themselves, and as much as Barney was an ass towards many, there were still people that cared. People are afraid of not being remembered or mourned. One can find comfort and solace with a stranger. There is good in people.

Bringing in the legendary Robin Williams really gives "Barney/Never" weight. This is a man who has won an Oscar and many other awards, and whom everyone knows. But Louie holds his own, and there is definitely a kindred spirit feeling in the room. While C.K. doesn't have the movie career Williams has had, that doesn't matter. These men are peers, and with some incredibly skillful, detailed performances, they deliver one of the best Louie stories to date.

The second half of the episode deals with a kid name Never whom is thrust upon Louie, much to his daughter's chagrin, while Never's mother has a consultation for getting her vagina removed. Never's mother doesn't allow him to eat anything with carbon, and yet she doesn't tell him no. This paradox confuses Louie, who ends up allowing Never to eat a bowl of raw hamburger meat. Never, for his part, causes a multi-car crash, throws Louie's rug out the window, and has diarrhea in the bathtub.

This plot is very strange, and yet somehow, still humorous. It takes the relaxed and neurotic parenting styles of the modern era, and raises them to the extreme, showcasing what kind of child this situations turns out. And yet, Louie has nothing but sympathy for Never, even letting the kid know he can always talk to Louie. This, despite the havoc and mess Never causes while Louie is trying to do a dreaded phone interview.

Don't blame the child, blame the parent. That is sentiment Louie is telling. The kid, at this point, can't help what his mother does. But with supportive adults like Louie around, Never could still come out of this OK. It's great when Louie tells Never bluntly that his mother is wrong. This is something most people will never tell parents, but sometimes, it needs to be said. Louie is the type of guy to do it.

There is a lot going on in this story, and yet, it all feels real, never rushed. Louis captures subtleties and authentic premises that other shows routinely miss. It's relatable even without being something most of us will ever confront. Louie C.K. is a genius, and this series proves that over and over again, especially this week.

Plus, there are tiny bits by J.B. Smoove and Artie Lange stuck in "Barney/Never" just for the hell of it. Louie is so popular among his peers, that respected comedians will accept almost nothing roles just to appear on the show. That, in of itself, is telling.

Watch Louie Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on FX.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Check out my new website, JeromeWetzel.com! Article first published on TheTVKing

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