From women to people of color to those struggling with addiction, the series often feels like it is playing Whack-a-Mole with different groups to whom it could punch down. That being said, its final completed episode, “Clown Time is Over” (which went unaired during its initial run), failed for a different reason—its jokes are simply dull.
Too often, Lucky Louie has come across as a great concept with poor execution. The idea of one of the funniest living comedians showing the contemporary relevance of a seemingly dated storytelling style by featuring modern language and topics of conversation is the sort of of thing which, hypothetically, I’d be very much on board with. Unfortunately, Louis C.K. too often forgets to update the attitudes associated with the form, leaving Lucky Louie often feeling like an ugly excuse to retread perspectives which television should’ve left behind long ago.
Maybe Lucky Louie has just been searching for the right material for its jokes. Over the past few weeks, I’ve derided the show for being racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and using subjects such as rape and alcoholism for comedic material. For too much of the season, Lucky Louie has come across as a way for a white man to crack jokes at the expense of those less fortunate than him.
Welcome to the latest in the series of weekly complaints about offensive jokes in Louis C.K.’s oeuvre, or as Sound on Sight calls them, reviews of the first and only season of Lucky Louie. In all seriousness, just when it seems like the show’s humor can’t get any more tasteless, it finds subjects now (ten years after Lucky Louie premiered, but still) universally considered to be taboo to mock.
Lucky Louie tackles some fairly dark subjects in its first season. Racism, misogyny, and homophobia are just a few topics the show uses as sources of humor (and for which I’ve called it out in this space for handling poorly). That being said, it’s at least had the decency to avoid rape, which it was hard to imagine the series being any more deft at handling.
While the attempts to tackle the other subjects have tended to reek of misplaced white male intentions, C.K. uses his experience as a parent to deliver a clever and touching take on parent-child power dynamics in the age of contemporary parenting techniques.
Throughout Lucky Louie’s prior episodes, the show has struggled to toe the line between using a dated style to express contemporary ideas and genuinely espousing a retrograde attitude. Although some moments, like Rich’s misogynistic jokes, have at least had the awareness not to directly align the viewer with the sentiments being conveyed, others, like the racist caricature in “A Mugging Story,” have seemed flat-out backwards.
If nothing else, “Control” makes for a very focused episode of Lucky Louie. In a series crammed full of B plots and skits which feel forced in only because Louis C.K. didn’t know where else 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.
Throughout Louis C.K.’s career, although he often bears a strong resemblance to the characters he plays (I count his stand-up persona among these), he almost never seems to intend for the audience to wholly identify with them.
From the beginning of Lucky Louie, the main impetus behind the project has always seemed to be to address issues which its stylistic progenitors couldn’t discuss.
Whereas “Pilot” suffered for being too focused on the boorishness of Louie and his friends (even if it mocked their perspective), “Kim’s O” succeeds by making her unhappiness the episode’s focal point rather than depicting her as unfortunate (but comical) collateral damage.