Lucky Louie, Season 1, Episode 12: “Kim Moves Out”
Written by Louis C.K.
Directed by Andrew D. Weyman
Aired on August 27th, 2006 on HBO
“Kim Moves Out” is the final episode of Lucky Louie aired by HBO during the show’s initial run (there’s an unaired episode released with the DVD set which I’ll review next week), and it was a fitting way for the sitcom to go out. Lucky Louie had a remarkably inconsistent first and only season, and “Kim Moves Out” comes across as the perfect ending due to the light it sheds on both what made the show so good and what made it so bad. As harsh as I’ve been on Lucky Louie, it’s hard not to see any potential in its concept, and this episode features some perfect examples of the style realized at its finest. On the other hand, Lucky Louie was also plagued by debilitating flaws, and “Kim Moves Out” showcases those as well.
First, for a change, comes the good. The cold open features the funniest moment of the show to date, as Rich tells a “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke for the ages. The Rich segments have been possibly my least favorite parts of the show, due to the advantage they attempt to take of the misfortune of underprivileged demographics, but this gag soars thanks to its sheer silliness. For once, it’s clear that no one but Rich himself is the butt of his joke, and the clarity triggered my loudest laughs while watching Lucky Louie. The scene provides a perfect template for how the show could’ve worked better: by keeping things silly, light, and aimed to laugh at no one other than the buffoons who merit our mockery.
Instead, Lucky Louie too often chose to cover “darker” (i.e. more offensive and less funny) material, and the opening of the first act finds the show in that territory once again. We’ve seen Louie and Kim fight repeatedly, and there’s nothing in their exchanges here that Lucky Louie hasn’t shown already. Even worse, when he threatens her with violence, the scene moves towards laughing at domestic abuse, showcasing yet another attempt to find humor in a subject which doesn’t easily yield it. The audience laughs, and it’s hard to figure out whether they’re laughing at Louie for making the threat or at Kim for being threatened. Obviously, the latter is more painfully unfunny, but the topic hardly seems like fertile comedic ground either way (particularly for a male writer).
The next scene does move to a new subject for the show, but only for the purposes of Rich mocking yet another group. As with all of my complaints about affronts on political correctness in Lucky Louie, one has to bear in mind that it’s been nearly ten years since the show first aired, but it’s hard to imagine the word “he-she” being widely considered acceptable even then. Rather, it’s more likely that the joke is intended to function as most of his humor is: we’re supposed to laugh at his ignorance, which also makes for a convenient place to put derogatory terms on TV. The same is true of his bizarre declaration that “faggots have it easy;” and, as in the case of the audience laughing at Louie’s violent threat, it’s unclear whether they’re clapping because of the absurdity of his statement or because they agree with it. Once again, it’s a lame attempt at humor either way. Kim’s threat at the end of the scene functions as a way for her to reclaim her authority, but his inner weakness has felt too obvious throughout the show for it to be surprising or even funny as a punchline.
It’s obviousness which also weighs down the exchanges between Kim and Louie throughout “Kim Moves Out,” and ultimately keep the relationship from feeling believable. When they compare their lives since she’s left, having him watching action movies and her read books makes for too obvious of a dichotomy to bring much reality to their dynamic. He’s boorish, she’s an angel, and both archetypes are too removed from the way real people live their lives to register any feelings of truth. The joke doesn’t have the nasty tinge of Rich’s Seth MacFarlane-esque swipes, but it’s ultimately just as boring.
It recurs in the final scene, marking an unfortunate ending to Lucky Louie’s initially televised tenure. Making the vegetables and the burger as Louie’s potential meal options doesn’t just lack subtlety, it practically screams at the viewer that Louie is Homer and Kim is Marge. Lucky Louie takes a break from being offensive to commit a televisual sin arguably just as egregious: being dull.