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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Louie Season One

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 3:29 PM

As Steve mentioned this morning when he was torturing us with Jay Leno clips (what'd we ever do to you, Steve?), season two of Louie starts tonight. I am of the fairly uncontroversial opinion that Louis CK is a genius, and that Louie is one of the best shows on television. (I even liked Louis CK's previous show, the sitcom Lucky Louie, which IS a controversial opinion.) The DVD/Blu-ray (it's reversible!) of Louie's first season came out on Monday, and I absolutely recommend picking it up—it's one of the few shows I feel the need to physically own, so no one can take it away from me, so I can always, always watch the episode "God" whenever I want to. (Genius. Sheer fucking genius.) The standard-issue special features are limited to deleted scenes and commentary, but the commentary alone is worth the price of admission. CK clearly didn't try particularly hard to prepare for the commentary recording—he's forgotten a few of the bit actors' names; he takes a couple of phone calls; you can hear him eating what sounds like chips, at one point. But despite all that, CK offers plenty of insight into his show, and his writing/directing process, from geeking out over how certain scenes are shot to the carefully selected music (he originally cut it with jazz tracks from the likes of Mingus and Louis Armstrong, but when he couldn't license that, he brought in Reggie Watts—who is playing Helium in August, BTW. Highly recommended, if you've not seen him). He also sheds some light on what is autobiographical and what is fictionalized: The school bus trip in the pilot actually happened, down to taking the bus on the wrong road and scraping it on an overpass, but the bus driver didn't actually abandon them in Harlem.

What comes through in the commentary as well as the show is CK's willingness to make himself the fall guy, whether it's shooting his standup scenes in unflattering close-ups or putting his character in situations that reflect badly on him. "What an asshole," he mutters several times, watching his character's bumbling. He notes, too, that the way the standup sequences are filmed is deliberate—that he wanted to show what it's like to be a working comedian, night after night in front of a non-necessarily-supportive audience, trying out material that doesn't always work. It's good, insightful stuff.

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