Dearest Lili, Phil, and Evan,
I left off last time on the topic of vehicles, and particularly that bus in “Looking for Liz/Lily Changes.” Since then, I’ve been waxing symbolic on all the possibilities in choosing bus over car, but I’ll spare you. Here’s just one thing I liked about that directorial decision:
- When I wonder why Louie brings his daughters home on the bus (instead of the car we know he owns), I remember that broken car window from last week’s episode
- Then I remember that the wrecked car was a rented one.
This kind of slant continuity—punctured narrative logic—seems, whether C.K. means it to be, representative of his show.
There has been greater continuity in Louie this season. Does this account for why some of us have reservations about it (to glance at the off-screen dialogue surrounding Dear Television)? Prior seasons were more episodic and disjointed, while this one carries single narratives not just across an entire episode, but two, and now apparently three. Could hesitations about this season be a product of its increased continuity and lengthier storylines? If so, these hesitations are also contingent on the continuous storyline’s resistance to commit all the way. As Lili mentioned, sometimes an episode’s ending just takes it a few vehicles too far.
Premises and characters reappear across this season, but they might as well be different people. Posey’s character has popped up in three separate episodes thus far, but in each she possesses an entirely different character. Yes, it’s important that Liz continues to haunt Louie, but it does seem that her role mostly serves to give him greater—not less—room to develop his own narcissistic and increasingly claustrophobic perspective. Is he really growing then? We can logic away Liz’s incongruous characteristics by diagnosing her as bi-polar, but as Lili queried: what about Louie? Sometimes a storyteller can only push so far until his audience grows suspicious, and then even weary, of him.
Jeanie, Chloë Sevigny’s character, tells Louie: “Make it meant to be.” What a thought! Since that is summarily what C.K. does with his show all the time. Riding a stolen motorbike followed by a stolen boat? Don’t mind if I do! I loved all of Sevigny’s lines, which could alternately read as Creative Writing How-Tos:
- “’It wasn’t meant to be’ is bullshit.”
- “You have to go through something to get what you want.”
Finally it does seem like she’s encouraging herself more than her interlocutor, especially since Louie (or is it Louis?) already knows all that.
I’m nit-picking. Why can’t I just relax and enjoy the show? At night, I lose sleep, worrying it’s my “Asian suffering.” It’s funny when entire ethnicities function as throwaways in a punch-line about white privilege. Funny-funny, actually. But beside the point.
On stage—dolling out joke after joke—Louie appears as his most reliably “continuous” character. There, his job literally is to remain funny, confident, and in control—all of which he very much is. To make the jokes “meant to be.” Walking backstage after his opening routine in “Late Show: Part 1,” Louie meets Ross Mark (a producer from The Tonight Show), who praises him for his controlled storytelling:
The order’s terrific, […] But the great thing is also that it timed in at four minutes and thirty seconds, which is the perfect—the perfect—amount of time. I mean with the audience reaction and everything else, for our studio, it’s the time we’re looking for.
As we find out throughout the episode, such seemingly undetected timing can go a long way. Back stage, Louie is confronted and controlled by make-up and wardrobe, schedulers and show-runners, like clockwork. On stage, he is a viral success. Thanks to Tom Cruise for ducking out at the eleventh hour. Let’s not forget, as well, C.K.’s own control of his environment, filled with personal touches, such as the imagined TV posters (The Big House) in the CBS office.
“Late Show: Part 1” gestures at how media manufactures what looks like luck and timing to bring us celebrities, successful shows, or even simply a successful stand-up routine. In his “behind the scenes” meeting with Louie, Gerry Marshall lays out the potential plots that could follow Louie’s acceptance of his offer to host late night. They don’t sound like predictions so much as promises, or threats. The music in this scene is particularly dramatic (one can’t help but notice!), as though emphasizing the codes of media manipulation it accompanies. These exaggerated dramatic effects work to bolster the scene’s artificiality. Simultaneously, they drive home Louie’s own unmanufacturedness. He didn’t bring a jacket to Leno! He’s a late riser! Totally blind-sided by his overnight success! Even in an episode with such a narrative through-line, one can feel jerked about.
Is it working for you guys? Can Louie have it both ways? Can it spotlight Louie as a naturally lucky natural, even while reminding us that Louis is working overtime, meticulous and editorial, behind it all?
That out-take of Ed Gelbin at the end isn’t just there for kicks; it’s not just some quirky leftover. These closing “marginal” shots are very much centred and placed—as much so as the close of “Hecker/Cop Movie,” which assures viewers C.K. is the good guy, and Louie the bad.