Review: Louie "Late Show" (Part 3)
“This is as good as Louie gets. It might be as good as television gets too.”
Louie is a good show. Heck, I’d even say it’s a great show. It has a versatility to it that you really can’t find anywhere else. One week the show could be a poignant exploration of Catholic guilt, the next, an elaborate fart joke. In spite of that flexibility within its format though, Louie is rarely an exciting show. However easy it is for the show to switch between poignancy and hilarity, it’s never quite exhilarating. Or at least it wasn’t until this week’s episode, “Late Show (Part 3)”. This week, Louie was exciting.
And man, was that ending great.
For the most part, I had been enjoying the trilogy of episodes regarding Louie’s attempt to take over for Letterman. Part 1 was something different. Part 2 was sobering and surrealistic. I didn’t really love it though, until “Late Show (Part 3)”. With this final installment now in place, it’s easy to see why C.K. felt the need to devote so much time to this story. By this point in the arc, the stakes hadbeen established. Louie needs this, or at least he thinks he needs this. His career might be on the line. His ex-wife is worried about what might happen to him if he doesn’t get it. If Louie doesn’t get the Late Show, he doesn’t know what comes next for him.
It speaks to how unpredictable this show is that for a minute, I thought Louie might actually get the job. Now that’s ridiculous of course. Louie doesn’t have much of a status quo to it, but giving our protagonist such a time consuming day job would be too much of a change, even for this show. There was one moment in particular though, that I thought Louie might actually get the job. That moment came about midway through the episode: Louie is in the dressing room preparing for his test show and Jack has just said his goodbye to him. Jack leaves Louie with three tips for show business. The first two aren’t all that relevant, at least immediately, (But here they are anyways: “Look ‘em in the eye and speak from the heart”, and “you have to go away to come back.”) but the third holds the key not only to this episode but to this three act story as a whole: “If someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie.” A few minutes later, Seinfeld comes into the dressing room to tell Louie that he’s sorry, but it’s over, CBS is giving him the job. He wishes Louie the best of luck and asks Louie to keep it between the two of them. Louie seems disappointed but understanding.
“How great was David Lynch in these two episodes? I think I need to go watch Twin Peaks again.”
But then after Seinfeld leaves, Louie and his prepubescent agent look each other in the eye and Jack’s words come back to them. “If someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie.” Watching this moment, I felt a genuine flood of adrenaline, as excited by this development as I had been by anything I’ve seen on television in a while. Louie goes out on stage and kills. He’s natural. He’s funny. He reveals way too much about his adolescent sexual discovery to guest Susan Sarandon. It’s all great. And for a moment, it appears he has done it. It looks like he has the job.
Unfortunately for Louie, Jack’s advice to him about secrets runs back farther than he could have imagined. When he was first approached by CBS, he was told not only that Letterman was retiring, but that it was a secret and to please keep it as such. As it turns out, Letterman had no intention of retiring. Rather, Louie was just a pawn by the network, used maliciously to get Letterman to sign another contract for a significantly lower asking price. More than that, Letterman is furious at him, and informs Louie’s agent that Louie is dead, professionally, that he’ll never be on the Late Show again, that his career is over. For a moment, things seem bleak.
But then there’s that glorious final shot of Louie leaving the bar and running through the streets of New York to the theater where the Late Show is filmed. He’s out of breath, he’s sweating like a mad man and he has the biggest smile in the world on his face. The music swells and Louie begins shouting obscenities at the theater and at Letterman. He’s not angry though. Rather, he’s ecstatic. “I did it!” He screams at the studio. It’s an exciting, glorious moment of triumph for our disheveled hero. As the credits roll, we see that as a result of his experience, Louie is still trying to better himself, actually putting up something of a fight in the boxing ring. On any other show, being used as a pawn by a major television network would have been a crushing blow, but on this show, for this protagonist, it’s a revelation. This is as good as Louie gets. It might be as good as television gets too.
As for Louie’s career: Letterman might say that it’s dead, but as Jack told Louie, “You have to go away to come back”.
I was sort of surprised that there was no follow through on Chris Rock vying for the job. Did that seem weird to anyone else?
How great was David Lynch in these two episodes? I think I need to go watch Twin Peaks again.
Louie’s attempt to prove to Jack that he can be funny was both hilarious and horrifically awkward. Somehow, the weird, flailing display of insults bought him another week.
“Tune in every night folks, it’s the crying cleaning lady show!”
My goodness, does Louie C.K. look awkward in a suit.
Hey! Seinfeld finally showed up!
What did you all think of Late Show (Part 3)?
By Chris Vanjonack