Format: Blu-ray/DVD 2-Disc Set
Created by: Louis C.K.
Starring: Louis C.K., Hadley Delany, Nick DiPaolo
Studio: FX Network, 20th Century Fox
Review by: Bill Jones
As FX Network has risen in notoriety with a host of ballsy original programming for cable television, it both got lucky in scoring and helped to make Louis C.K. one of the biggest stars in comedy today. And though his debut season of Louie gets off to a slightly slow start, it quickly becomes a fascinating piece of not only comedy, but a serious expression of controversial ideas on television. And it’s hard not to see it as a sort of perfect blend of what Louis C.K. has to offer in the television format.
Throughout The Complete First Season, Louis C.K. splices together stage spots and sketches, though this reviewer would hesitate to call it all stand-up and sketch comedy. For much of the first season of Louie, the show can be hilariously funny, but it’s not all jokes. Louis C.K. tells some jokes and creates some comedic moments for sure, but he also takes time to develop his thoughts about issues such as the use of homosexual terminology in comedy, being middle aged and a divorced father, religion, dealing with opposing political beliefs, dating, and what it’s like to be a performer and actor.
Some may be turned off by the show’s tendency to go serious on occasion, but it’s very smartly done. Louie offers (if the commentary is any indication) a fairly open window into what Louis C.K. thinks about, how he lives his life and what he finds funny. So as a stand-up comic, that often means the results are funny. But viewers also get to go deeper to learn more about the man behind the laughs and how he views the world.
It’s a totally rare, totally beautiful piece of television that mines some classic formulas, but creates something wholly original in the process. Louie is ultimately a show that could not have been created by anyone other than Louis C.K., and that speaks of it highly as an art form, not just a funny television show. Season One also features some great guest appearances by the likes of Ricky Gervais (who makes his episode as Dr. Ben) and several other comedians.
The Blu-ray actually comes on two double-sided discs, on which viewers get the high-definition format on one side of each disc, and identical content on DVD on the other side of the discs. Though I’ve never been particularly fond of double-sided discs, it’s a nice way to offer both formats without the clutter of a huge set.
One may not think Louie is the type of show that really warrants a high-definition release (and it’s really not), but as viewers will learn through the commentary, Louis C.K. is a bit of a cinematography buff and worked hard on camera and lens choices throughout the season to create very distinct moving images. So having a crystal clear version of his vision definitely doesn’t hurt, and though it may not be entirely necessary considering the content, it’s nice to have the option.
It’s hard to be fond of the packaging, though. The episode and extra features info is presented the back of the cover slip, but with the blue case and the decision to go with the eco-friendly packaging (cutouts of the plastic are missing), it’s kind of hard and awkward to read the info. And simply in terms of aesthetics, the double-sided discs don’t leave any room for art, so they aren’t particularly presentable.
But that’s all of the ancillary stuff, and Season One of Louie shines when it comes to its extras, packed onto both formats. First and foremost, Louis C.K. offers commentary on almost every episode of the season. It’s particularly worth listening to because it allows him to discuss how much more there is to the show than the casual fan who approaches it just looking for the lulz may realize. He talks about where he is coming from with different ideas, what he set out to do with the show, the process of making it and his interest in cinematography. It’s interesting material, all around.
It is complemented by “Fox Movie Channel presents Writer’s Draft,” a relatively short featurette on Louis C.K. and his show. More interesting are the deleted and extra scenes, some with introductions by Louis C.K., delving into deleted story threads. Some are very amusing, simply cut for time or other reasons, and all are fun to see. All-in-all, it’s a great set for The Complete First Season of Louie, and a fantastic primer for the second season, which begins this month.
For more info, fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/louie
Pads & Panels received a copy of the Blu-ray courtesy of the studio for review purposes.