New Television — From the September 2015 issue

New Television

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Louie’s very presence precipitates expressions of weakness and longing. In one episode, he has nightmares — a gooey shirtless man pursues him, then he’s onstage naked from the waist down and unable to speak — that recur until a friend asks him to think about what happened just before the dreams began. Louie remembers that he’d failed to help a woman in need: the mother of a friend of his daughter’s asked for help moving a large fish tank, but Louie refused. When she started crying, Louie said, “I don’t really know you. So I feel like this is a private thing.” He then placed a blanket over her head, and left. Near the end of the episode, we see Louie arrive at her apartment with a bucket and a net.

The show returns again and again to moments when Louie the superhero is unfairly expected to save the day. On tour in Cincinnati, he rides with a driver who is chatty, socially and emotionally needy, and unresponsive to Louie’s cues about wanting to sit quietly. “I hope I’m not being rude,” Louie finally says. “I just don’t feel like talking.” He is too sensitive not to notice that the man, who keeps bringing up how friendly other visiting comedians were, wants to hang out. Louie tells him, “I’m forty-seven years old, I’ve been doing this for I don’t even know how long anymore. . . . So for me, now, the road, it’s not like an adventure. It’s like going to the toilet; it’s something I have to do. I don’t have a lot of choices out here, but one choice that I need to be able to make is that I can be by myself and not talk to everybody. And I don’t mean that to be insulting or unfriendly, that’s just what I need. . . . So I’m sorry if that’s a bummer for you, or if it’s disappointing. But it’s what works for me.” The driver cries. In the airport on the way to the next stop on his tour, Louie tries to help a lost Muslim girl, but she runs away before he can reunite her with her family.

Louie is ill at ease with his superpowers and nostalgic for his secret identity as an ordinary man, a disappointment. In the final episode of the season, he plays a weeklong run in Oklahoma City. Here he almost finds the hell he needs. He doesn’t like the club’s owner, the audience, or the comedian he is paired with, and they don’t like him. Oklahoma, apparently, is beyond even Louie’s capacities for love, and when he tries to make a connection with the other comedian — they agree that fart jokes are funny and try to bond over a bottle of whiskey — the man ends up dying from a drunken fall.

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