Lucky Louie, Season 1, Episode 5, “Long Weekend”
Written by Dino Stamatopoulos
Directed by Andrew D. Weyman
Aired on July 10th, 2006 on HBO
If nothing else, “Control” makes for a very focused episode of Lucky Louie. In a series crammed full of B plots and skits that feel forced in because Louis C.K. didn’t know where to put them (i.e. the “Why” sketch from the cold open in “Pilot”), it’s refreshing to see an episode which clearly develops a single idea. Whereas other half-hours have felt trapped between half-baked gags, there’s something enjoyable about seeing an episode which devotes its running time to exploring a specific concept and how it affects various members of the ensemble.
It’s too bad, though, that writer Dino Stamatopoulos doesn’t use the focus of the episode to examine a fresher topic. By looking at dieting, and specifically Louie’s desire to eat as much as possible while Kim wants to restrict him, “Control” stays firmly within territory which The Simpsons (and many others) have already explored thoroughly. The concept of a husband wanting to do as he pleases and a nagging wife holding him back feels tired and sexist on its own, and examining it through the lens of Louie’s eating habits feels even more old hat.
Still, the theme allows for some hilarious sight gags, beginning in the teaser. Although Rich’s crude shtick isn’t getting any funnier, the shot of Louie shoving donuts down his throat makes for an easy, but funny, joke. Even if the framing of him acting as he does to avoid Kim feels lazy (as do Rich’s comments), the visual depiction of Louie’s gluttony can be consistently mined for laughs.
The funny visual jokes bogged down by boring writing continue after the credits, where Louie and Kim struggle through an unfair card game with Mike and Tina. Mike and Tina’s cheating is simply too obvious to be funny—it’s difficult to believe that Kim and Louie don’t pick up on her boob-scratching tactic earlier, and the implausibility ruins whatever potential the joke has. The idea of the couple cheating in a friendly game of cards is a good one, but it’s not played with enough subtlety to be funny.
On the plus side, it sets up the shot of Mike and Louie fighting over the money, which is a far more effective gag. In the simple (but hilarious) fashion of the naked wrestling scene from Borat, Louie and Mike struggling to attack each other just works. As with the Borat scene, it’s hardly the most sophisticated brand of humor, but Mike and Louie fighting will always be good for at least a chuckle. It’s certainly funnier than Tina’s reaction, which Laura Kightlinger’s unconvincing performance doesn’t quite sell.
Despite that flaw, it does introduce the episode’s main plot, which concerns Louie’s eating habits and Kim’s feelings about them. Mike’s heart attack sends her into a frenzy, and she fears Louie suffering the same fate. Her fear leads her to attempt to impose the “control” of the episode’s title, and her efforts make up the bulk of the rest of its conflict.
The funniest of these efforts is Louie’s exercise with Jerry, which includes the shot of the two men attacking one another. Between this scene and the shot of Louie wrestling Mike, “Control” is a good episode for teasing the humor out of grown men being physically aggressive. Jerry’s gratuitous nudity is no funnier than it was during “A Mugging Story,” but the “workout” which follows it is hard to resist.
The same is true of the scene of Louie pigging out on fast food near the end of the episode, which feels like the precursor to the unforgettable “bang bang” scene from Louie’s “So Did the Fat Lady?”. Seeing C.K. put away the Big Mac and fries is hilarious on its own, and the image is perfectly paced with him drizzling the icing on the Cinnabon. As with the scenes of Louie struggling to fight other out-of-shape men, it’s hardly the most sophisticated joke, but it certainly works.
It’s gags like these that let the tired sitcom plot feel enjoyable, rather than too recycled. Although the idea of a wife restricting her husband’s eating feels downright atavistic, a few of the jokes it inspires are good enough to keep the viewer engaged. If Lucky Louie could mesh gags of a similar caliber with a less tired theme, the show could be something special.