I’ve thought about adding this particular category for a while, sort of a spin-off of my Best Movies You’ve Never Seen category. There are a lot of TV shows that I loved over the years that ended up getting canceled quickly, like within the first year. And I’ll occasionally spotlight some of them here. First up is a series which I hadn’t seen when it originally aired. This aired on HBO from June-August 2006, I think I had turned my cable off, to save money, during that time. Plus, Louis CK wasn’t really on my radar back. Now he’s currently one of my favorite comedians, and he’s got a hit show on FX called “Louie”, but I watched an interview with him where he talked about his experience making this show, and I was intrigued. I looked it up on Youtube where several scenes are available and it seemed very funny. And then, as luck would have it, I found out that my brother owns the show on DVD, so I was able to borrow it from him and watch all 13 episodes in a row for free!
It’s a very interesting concept, as it is filmed like an old traditional network TV sitcom. Three cameras, on spartan sets, filmed in front of a live studio audience. And the set-up of the show is pretty traditional as well. Louis plays Louie, Pamela Adlon plays his wife, Kim, and they live together in a small apartment with their little 4-year old daughter, Lucy (played by the adorable Kelly Gould). They’re always broke, Louie works part-time at a muffler shop, while Kim is a nurse (one episode has them cashing their checks together, and they say Kim has $1200, while Louie has $118, and after paying all their bills they only have 5 cents left), and so the show deals with them trying to handle their finances and raise their daughter, while also following the antics of their friends and their families.
Rounding out the regular cast is Jerry Minor and Kim Hawthorne as Walter and Ellen, a married couple who live across the hall with their young daughter Lisa (Blesst Bowden). Jim Norton plays Rich, Louie’s perverted friend who lives with his mom, sells weed, and frequents prostitutes. Rick Shapiro as Kim’s good-natured by dim-witted brother, Jerry. And Michael G. Hagerty plays Mike, Louie’s boss & friend, and Laura Kightlinger is Mike’s wife is Mike’s wife, Tina, who is friends with Kim.
So on the surface it’s a traditional sitcom. Episode plots revolve around things like Kim wanting to have another baby although Louie insists that they can’t afford it, Louie and Kim struggling to discipline Lucy when Lucy starts acting up, Louie trying to hide the fact that he spent their rent money on an expensive Frankenstein doll that he bought off the internet, Kim putting Louie on a strict diet because he’s unhealthy, and Louie impulsively quitting his job after he finds out that Mike only hired him in the first place because Kim asked him to.
But what makes the show so unique is that is allows foul language, subject matter, and even nudity (but only male nudity, both Louis and Shapiro show full frontal nudity in a couple of episodes). Cursing is frequent, but it doesn’t feel forced. It’s just how many adults talk to each other. But because of the way the show is presented, looking like a network sitcom, the inclusion of the adult language just makes it a little funnier. And that also includes the adult topics the characters talk about. For example, here’s the opening scene of one episode:
See? Nothing really dirty there, but it’s funny. Another episode deals with Kim having her first real orgasm during sex with Louie, and then Louie trying to make it happen again, but he doesn’t know how. During that episode there’s a subplot where Louie keeps hearing Ellen having loud orgasms through the walls of their apartment, which turns out to be because of her use of a vibrator (which is shown on-camera). An early running subplot in the series is Louie’s awkward attempts to become friendly with Walter, just because Walter is Black and Louie wants to be able to say he has a Black friend. In contrast to Louie and Kim, Mike and Tina seem to be blissfully happy despite being obviously dysfunctional. Tina indulges all of Mike’s bad habits. He’s grossly overweight and after he has a minor heart attack she continues to buy him pizza and milkshakes. During a conversation with Kim about sex Tina says that if Mike hasn’t showered “I just hold my nose and fuck him.” Emma Stone guest-stars in one episode as Shannon, Tina’s rebellious 16 year old daughter from a previous marriage, who runs away from home to move in with a much older man, and it’s Kim who tries to help the girl to get her life together (to no avail).
Everyone in the cast is great in their roles, Louis plays Louis as a loveable loser who is resigned to his lot in life, and is simply trying to make the best of it, while Pamela Adlon’s Kim clearly loves her husband regardless of his many personal flaws. They’re the heart of the show, that makes it work, but all of the other actors also do great jobs. It’s a wonderful ensemble, and I would have loved to have seen more seasons of this show.
The DVD includes the 12 episodes that aired on HBO, plus an extra 13th episode, where Louie abruptly fills-in for a clown at Lucy’s birthday party, and is such a big hit that other parents start hiring him to perform at their children’s parties.
Available on Amazon.com