Tuned In

Louie Watch: Pregnant Pause

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FX

Spoilers for last night’s Louie below:

Since I’m stepping back from weekly Watches on the blog, I don’t expect to be writing about Louie every week, though I’ll certainly be watching. But because I visited the set for the shooting of “Pregnant,” because it gives some suggestions as to the direction of the second season, and Louis CK talked to me a bit about the writing and motivation of it, here’s one writeup, and then I’d love to hear what you all thought.

First, structurally, the episode told one story beginning to end (with pauses for standup, including Louis CK’s gut-busting riff on the albatross that is a five-year-old child). This isn’t a complete departure from last season (see “God,” e.g.), and at least one upcoming episode is divided into two segments as many were last season. But the star does seem to be interested in telling more stories that play out at greater length, as opposed to the many episodes last year that included a shorter story, a long story, some standup, and maybe a vignette or two like the ones with Louie at his therapist’s.

Thematically, the episode shows the character Louie growing as a single father, though still struggling with it—not just the demands of responsibility, but the challenge of his own personality. (Which, for instance, has kept him from getting to know his neighbors, not just a nice thing but a useful thing to do as a solo dad with two young girls.) Louie is neither comically inept nor suddenly unflappable: the painfully funny “I love mom more” / flipping the bird scene is followed by the deft montage of him cooking dinner, then by his earnest failure to teach his youngest daughter a lesson about envy and finally his freaking out over, and eventually grappling with, his sister’s gas-based “emergency.”

You might have noticed a disclaimer at the end that stresses that these are fictional characters, resemblances to actual persons are unintentional, &c. &c. This is obviously a concern to someone who is writing a scathingly observed comedy about a divorced guy with the same name as himself, and Louis CK elaborated on that in a followup interview after the longer one I published here.

The comedian has always stressed that—while the events are obviously inspired by his life—the people in it are not his family, to the extent that he had two (very different in personality) mothers on the show last season. Last year he had a brother on the show (he does not in real life); this year he has two sisters (in real life he has three). And of course, when you’re dealing with the aftermath of divorce when you’re divorced in real life, that’s a whole new world of potential for trouble. “The balancing act of the show and my real life has gotten a little complicated,” he told me. “I’ve tried to make a bigger deal this year about how this is really fiction.”

Last year too, Louis CK steered clear of representing the ex-wife; we only saw the door of her building at a child handoff, and he says we’ll never see Louie’s ex on the show. And since this episode involved Louie’s sister ranting angrily about his ex-wife, it was even more important to him to emphasize that these are riffs on the idea of family, not his real-life family itself. (In his sister’s speech, for instance, he made a point of changing key identifying details about his actual ex-wife.)

About that rant, by the way, an interesting tidbit. When Gretchen (Rusty Schwimmer) says, “Eff her!” it probably sounds like a concession to the standards and practices department. It was actually just the opposite. FX allows any number of bleeped “fucks” on Louie, but the policy is against using an unbleeped “eff” to represent the word (on the argument that the “eff” in itself is a word used as an obscene verb, or something like that). Louis CK said he actually fought for Gretchen not to say “fuck” but to use “eff” instead: it was important to her character, he said, that we see her “attempt to back off from using that word.” It underscores the larger point that Louie has come to peace with his divorce more than some of his family has. “There’s a lot of anger in divorces,” he said, “and when your relatives bluster at your ex, it’s painful.”

Anyway, a very funny and very deeply felt episode, capped off with a fart joke, to start off the season. I enjoyed the eff out of it. You?

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