Wednesday, May 25, 2016


First, let me say I’m a huge admirer of Louis CK. I love his comedy, think he’s a terrific actor, and love that creatively he’s willing to take big chances. If I’m being honest, I have mixed feelings about LOUIE. There are episodes that are brilliant and others that feel very self indulgent to me.

Recently he took his biggest risk (so far). He completely wrote, directed, stars, and financed a ten episode limited series called HORACE AND PETE. It’s not on any network. You plunk your $5 down per episode and screen it on his website. Now that’s a way to get around ABC network notes.

HORACE AND PETE is a dramedy set in a Brooklyn bar and features an astounding cast. Alan Alda, Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange, Rebecca Hall, and a host of the best character actors you see every night on LAW & ORDER reruns.

For weeks you readers have asked what I thought of it.

There’s a lot I applaud. It’s ambitious, it’s out of the box, Edie Falco is sensational, and Alan Alda’s foul-mouth angry character is the best thing he’s done since Hawkeye.  (I missed a golden opportunity not writing in seven "fucks" in his dialogue every week.)

But Jesus, it's a grim show.

Imagine CHEERS with Eugene O’Neill as the showrunner.

There are parts of HORACE AND PETE that are fascinating (although I’m totally confused by all the generations of Horace and Pete’s over the last hundred years and who’s related to who), and other parts that have me scratching my head.

And part one had an intermission.  An intermission?  I'm sorry but how fucking pretentious is that???

The most remarkable achievement is that Louis CK managed to produce a whole star-studded television series in secret. How does that happen in this day and age when Jennifer Lawrence peeing makes social network headlines?

The second most remarkable achievement is getting Alan Alda and Jessica Lange to drop C-bombs at will.

Louis CK has announced that he has lost millions on this show. (Of course he can just go out on tour for three months and make it all back. It’s not like he mortgaged and lost Downton Abbey.) But still, that’s a considerable amount of money and creative commitment. The sense I get from seeing him on interview shows is that he’s somewhat disappointed in the results.

To me the problem is that it’s not a comedy, which is fine, but his fan base – the ones who would shell out $5 – want to pay for a comedy. That’s his “brand.” When he put a concert on line and charged for it he got a lot of takers. They paid to see his stand-up act. But this is like Woody Allen, after ANNIE HALL and a host of inspired comedies, charged people to see INTERIORS.

Still, what excites me about Louis CK is that he’s always willing to take a big swing at bat. So who knows what brilliant, groundbreaking, or even really funny projects are yet to come? Give me that over the next Seth Rogen NEIGHBORS film any day.  But don't have an intermission.  An intermission???


dandy_lio said...

I was really curious what your thoughts were, actually, as it was a very grim version of Cheers with Alan Alda in it.

Agree hands-down that this is the best Alan Alda's been since MASH - I adore Alda, but he doesn't always seems o bite into a role as sharply as he did with Hawkeye (or this role).

I'm curious about your comment, though, 'To me the problem is that it’s not a comedy, which is fine, but his fan base – the ones who would shell out $5 – want to pay for a comedy. That’s his “brand.”' I've always thought because his comedy can occasionally touch on the gallows humour, that this was actually just a perfect extension of that. MASH did that -- which is why I thought it was perfect that Alda was cast (I know he wasn't the first choice, but he fit so perfectly for me). I write on how MASH uses Gothic tropes and comedy together for pretentious academic articles.

Anyway, I can see why you struggled with the comedy element, but It made total sense to me that Louis would bring out a project like this - you know yourself, comedy (even the lightest comedy) usually has a darker underbelly.

Anyway, glad you saw it. Cheers for the blog, I always enjoy them.

Elf said...

I thought the intermission was a nice touch actually. It seemed a simple way to remind the viewers that they're watching what's essentially a serialized stage play, not a typical TV series.

Anonymous said...

Actually, when I saw Louie in "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" where he took Jerry out on his new river boat yacht, and before that, he was traveling in a private jet with Ricky Gervais, I thought, "Louie is fucked."

How can you make such a big switch in lifestyle without getting confused about who you are, and what you're about?

So that's why I thought "Louie" was DOA–and it was. The last few episodes were relatively disconnected from the original voice of the author. He had nothing to say anymore because he's not close to the struggling "Louie" anymore.

Kind of like when Rosanne Barr started rolling in the dough. She didn't relate to "poor Rosanne" anymore, so she turned her in to "aimless rich Rosanne."

As far as his new show, it's quite an achievement to write a 10-hour long "Long Days Journey into Cheers." I've gotten thru the 4th episode, and I don't know if I can take much more. Also, since Louie gave away HUGE spoilers when he was trying to defend his show on podcasts, I don't know why I should plow thru it just to see something horrible happen to one of the main characters.

To summarize, Louis CK is probably a little crazy, but I always will applaud his creative tenacity, and I'll still take a whirl at anything he decides to drop on us, so long as the material doesn't try to inspire me to slit my wrists for TEN FUCKING HOURS.

Also, DON'T DROP HUGE SPOILERS ON YOUR OWN FREAKING SHOW WITH NO WARNING I can't invest myself in a character I know is gonna eat it, and HOW he's gonna eat it! Why would you dump that on your audience during not one, but a few podcasts?

Blanche Dubois gets raped! Enjoy the show!

Bruce Willis is a ghost! Now go see the movie!!

I was going to end with a spoiler on Harrison Ford in the newest Star Wars, but unlike Louie, I don't want to fuck it up for people who've not yet seen it.

- Annoyed Eric

Anonymous said...

I've gotta think he will sell it to Netflix or Hulu, he couldn't possibly be willing to take that kind of loss. Not anonymous...Diane

J. Allison said...

I heard Louis on Bill Simmons's podcast and they talked about the "losing millions" thing. Since Louis financed the show himself, he's clearly in debt now since the show hasn't been around very long and hasn't had much fanfare. Now it's in the can and he owns all the rights to the content, so he could sell it to Netflix or the like and probably make all his money back. It'll be available forever, so it's not like his chance to profit off of it has ended or anything.

As far as the show itself goes I can't muster up much desire to watch it. Alan Sepinwall has gushed over it, but the idea of investing that much time in a gut-wrenching drama about horrible people doesn't really appeal to me at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that the Beatles movie "Help!" had an intermission. It's not always bad :)

Elf said...

@J. Allison: "...but the idea of investing that much time in a gut-wrenching drama about horrible people doesn't really appeal to me at the moment."

That didn't stop millions of people from watching The People vs. O.J. Simpson...

Breadbaker said...

Am I missing something? Didn't Woody Allen charge people to see "Interiors" when it was in first run theaters? I know it's on free TV these days, but I do remember they wouldn't let you into those theaters without plunking down what was probably less than $5 then but would be $10 now.

Ken Levine said...

Yes, he did, and people were PISSED when they realized what they paid for.

BA said...

Annoyed Eric said it better than I could, (though I never saw the "Comedians In Cars..." show).

stephen catron said...

Just don't get the love for Louis CK. I've tried to watch his stand up and don't find him funny. Funny today just seems to be cursing without the cleverness of Richard Pryor. I guess I'm old.

flurb said...

INTERIORS was self-consciously non-comedic, but Allen was deliberately trying for something different, and though he was praised by some critics for it at the time, he's been drubbed for it ever since. Contrary to most commenting here and to received knowledge, I found it engrossing at the time of its release, and still pretty damn good years later. Yes, it's about well-off white people's problems, but it's beautifully shot, features several great actors of the era going all the way - Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, E. G. Marshall among them - and if there are no jokes, well, sometimes life isn't all that funny.

I intend to see Louie's new piece, Ken, and thank you for calling attention to it. (Your mention of O'Neill, however pejorative, made me a little sad, though, because scarcely anyone I know is familiar with even one play of that great writer's output.)

Roger Owen Green said...

Louis won on JEOPARDY! last week.

Peter said...

Neighbors 2, or Bad Neighbours 2 as it's called here in the UK, is actually quite funny, though not as good as the first. It also has a funny uncredited cameo by a former regular at a certain Boston bar.

Neumms said...

This isn't like paying $5 for a movie, it's $5 for a chapter of something. The marketing is whacked. Roots wouldn't work for $5 per episode, although that was kind of short on jokes, too.

Elf said...

Just to clarify, the first episode was $5, the second was $2 and episodes 3-10 were $3 each. So the entire season can be had for $31, not $50.

Anonymous said...

"Louis won on JEOPARDY! last week."

It was "charity jeopardy," so the questions weren't too challenging, but I LOVED watching Louis kick those news pundits asses sideways. I was hoping he would, and then he DID!
Especially the cute sassy blonde lady. She was so full of piss and vinegar at the beginning, and so disgusted at the end. It was almost like watching a good Louie episode.

– Entertained Eric

Charles H. Bryan said...

I haven't watched the show, but I did hear Louis on Marc Maron's podcast and I thought he seemed pretty satisfied with, and proud of, the experience. At the very least, he was glad that he did it, just for the experience.

While a little curious about this show, I'm not drawn to it. I watched the first few episodes of his FX show and didn't feel compelled to stick with that one. I didn't hate it, but didn't love it.

Mike said...

Is this one of those millenial comedies without jokes that Ken's always complaining about? Is this an edgy comedy for disaffected white middle-aged males - Girls for Trump supporters? No, it's what happens when those network suits aren't there to helpfully guide you with their supportive management & notes into making a decent programme. And then to pay to make it & broadcast it. Poor network suits - always the scapegoats.

Sophie Sardi said...

Hands Down ~ This is a wonderful show. On all levels. Acting, Writing, Producing ... and Louis did all three along with a brilliant cast, not to mention the minor characters ALL of who are brilliant. I can't speak highly enough about "Horace & Pete." Respect and admiration to you ~ LOUIS Albert ~ melbourne Australia!