HBO // 2006 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 30th, 2007
"I've got to go, there's something wrong with me."
-- Louie, "Drinking"
It's your typical family sitcom...just a lot dirtier and with more exposed male genitalia.
From the comedy of Louis CK, Lucky Louie tells the story of a lower-middle class family and the different challenges they face in their dreary, barely-making-it-by lives. CK plays the titular character Louie, a clueless schlub who works part-time in a muffler shop and watches his daughter Lucy the rest of the day. He's married to Kim (Pamela Adlon), the real bread-winner of the family and the first to tell him when he's screwed up.
Louie splits his time between trying to navigate the treacherous straits of family life and hanging out with his idiot friends (Michael Hagerty and Jim Norton). Life's not easy for Louie, and it's made all the harder because he's an idiot.
Before HBO pulled the plug on the series, 12 episodes ran, all of which are present and accounted for, including the unaired 13th episode, "Clowntime is Over."
* "Kim's O"
* "A Mugging Story"
* "Long Weekend"
* "Flowers for Kim"
* "Get Out"
* "Louie Quits"
* "Kim moves Out"
This is an interesting show, and received a lot of mixed reviews when it ran on HBO. People loved it, people hated it, but rarely did it seem there was ambivalence towards Louis CK's spin on the traditional sitcom. I'm actually kind of split towards it myself. For one, I can appreciate what CK and his writers were attempting to do, and beneath the envelope-pushing potty language is a real, beating heart. On the other hand, I just didn't laugh that much.
That latter is a real doozy, and may have sounded the death knell for the series. Filmed before a live studio audience (the first ever for an HBO sitcom), Lucky Louie benefits from a boisterous crowd, but the warm-up guy must have been really good because, frankly, I didn't respond to the humor the way they did. The dialogue is raw and profanity-driven and draws out the laughs through shock and aww (as in "Aww, I think I just saw that dude's junk!"). The jokes are locker-room funny, and while I've got no problem with that, douchebag one-liners can only take you so far. The simple truth is, save for a few money gags here and there, the wit never grabbed me.
As for the acting, the cast does a good job. For a comedian, Louis CK comes across as sincere and sympathetically moronic. His Louie is a deeply flawed father and husband, but not a full-on a-hole; he tries, fails a lot, but is ultimately committed to make his marriage work. Pamela Adlon does most of the heavy-lifting performance-wise, playing the firecracker Kim. Often the writing lays it on pretty thick for her, forcing her character to overdo the spunk and wander into irritating territory, but for the most part, she does the frustrated-wife-with-an-attitude very well. What's refreshing about her is that, contrary to the dopey-husband-always-right-wife formula, Kim is stumbling through the whole family thing as much as Louie.
The supporting characters are largely disposable, the highlights being comedians Jim Norton, a guy whose comedy I really enjoy (both his stand-up work and on his daily gig on The Opie and Anthony Show) who's tasked with spouting the most filth of the show, and usually ends up snagging the biggest laughs of the show and the fearless and inhibition-free Rick Shapiro, who play's Kim's eccentric brother.
The best thing this series has (had) going for it is the "realness" it was aiming for. I've read comments criticizing the show because it paints the blue-collar characters as too rough around the edges, but that perspective is even more offensive than any perceived injustice to the "salt-of-the-earth" middle class; I think most folks in their position talk like Louis and Kim and haven't gotten the parenting or life thing figured out and to say they have to carry themselves in some kind of fake, cultured way is ludicrous. For my money, Louis CK and the writers got it right, and it's the series' biggest selling point.
The DVD benefits from some solid features. "A Week in the Life of Lucky Louie" walks you through the shooting process, from script readings to filming, culling together behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the cast and crew. Four commentaries accompany and they're great, honest tracks delivered by people who loved the show they were making and are pissed it got cancelled. Norton and Shapiro's track, specifically, is acidic -- and hilarious.
I like the raw honesty of the show and some laughs hit, but overall Lucky Louie just isn't funny enough to earn a full-blown recommendation.
The bench didn't really dig this series, yet thinks it could have blossomed into something noteworthy had it been given more time. So a kick to the balls of HBO.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Unaired Episode "Clowntime Is Over"
* Four Audio Commentaries
* "A Week in the life of Lucky Louie"