Several weeks ago, I wrote a review of HBO’s new sitcom, Lucky Louie, which got yanked at the last minute from the print edition of Time, to make room for so-called breaking news. (Apparently they blew up some guy in Iraq. Priorities, people, priorities!) In it, I argued that the laugh-track comedy, dissonantly conventional except for its nudity and swearing, betrayed HBO’s raison d’etre of doing what the rest of TV can’t.
"At heart," I wrote, "Louie works from the same playbook as the first cavemen who storyboarded a domestic sitcom on the walls of Lascaux: misunderstandings, cartoony second bananas, forced setup-zinger jokes. Itâ€™s as if HBO has bought into the misconception that the only difference between it and the networks is dirtiness. The real differences areâ€”or should beâ€”risk taking, nuance, intelligence, resistance to clichÃ©. Would According to Jim be a radical innovation if you could see Jim Belushiâ€™s butt?"
It’s just as well Time never ran the review, because a collective of YouTubers by the handle of recidocast have made the point better than I could in mere words, turning Lucky Louie’s own laugh track against it. In this brilliant video mashup (link thanks to tvtattle.com), the online auteurs play scenes from the exceptional Deadwood, with the guffaws of Louie’s studio audience played over it. Catch it now, lest HBO’s lawyers have it yanked: I laughed harder at these four minutes than at all three episodes of Louie I reviewed. The audience yuks it up over a tense scene between Sheriff Bullock and his wife; howls at an exchange between Al Swearengen and his minions; and gives a sassy one-liner from ex-hooker Trixie a hearty "Who-o-o-o-oa!" For a few shining minutes, Deadwood becomes Dirty Petticoat Junction.
There’s a serious point to the joke, as recidocast’s annotation of the video says: "Each Sunday now, my
brain struggles to adjust to the pressure drop that takes place on HBO
from the consistently brilliant Deadwood to the much anticipated but
consistently…um…less brilliant Lucky Louie. Despite mad props for
Louis C.K., one of the R collective’s favorite comedians, his stand up
act has yet to translate on screen to any comparable degree of hilarity." (The video, by the way, also demonstrates that Deadwood is a hilarious show, as well as a great drama.)
It’s not TV, it’s YouTube. Let’s hope the folks at HBO are watching.