Wilfred and Louie just blew my mind and broke my heart. Those shows are soul shattering, skull f*cking and sensory overloads. On the surface, they’re funny, peculiar and at times, outrageous. But, when you pay attention, there’s so much depth to each character, so much meaning providing through-lines in each episode. I just teared up at the season finale of Louie. That may sound ridiculous and even sad to you, that I’d invest so much in a piece of fiction, but that’s what art does. It is evocative and provocative. It’s inspires pondering and conversation. Like food, good TV brings people together. This is why I find it difficult to be friends with people who claim not to watch TV or like going to the movies? What? Are you some neo-nazi war criminal? Or chronically depressed? Boring? Dull? Probably. Do yourself a favor, too cool for TV peeps (I’m excluding the homeless and my friends who are too cheap to pay for cable), Netflix or torrent these shows, now. They are sure to change your life. I know it seems a hyperbolic statement, but I stand confident in my claim. FX is slewing out some home fricken runs. I’m not mad at them. I’m not mad at AMC either. There will be a love/lust letter for Mad Men and Breaking Bad and all other alliterated titles on that brilliant channel, in due time. Patience, young ones. (No ones asking, or cares? Right.)
Louie and Wilfred are too complex to even dissect or recollect for you now. Plus, I’d be an asshole to suggest a show, and implore you to watch, and then tell you important details that are fun surprises as a new viewer. So I will not do that. I’ll provide you with details you should already know, if you’re a semi-modern human being. If not, you’re most certainly not reading my blog. And if you are, please write me and explain yourself.
Louie is written, produced, directed and acted by the capital B Brilliant Louis. C. MothafucKin K. He deserves the title. He is the quintessential, ultimate New York City comic. A regular, still, at the Comedy Cellar, Louis was born to be a stand-up. He never went to college, at 19 started with 90 second sets, bombed, and just kept going. He had the same hour-long act (discussed in the moving tribute to George Carlin below) for 15 years until he took the late, great George Carlin’s advice and kept his material fresh every single year thereafter; every single special, no matter what. I know Louie’s Comedy Central Presents from 2001 by heart, along with Shameless, Chewed Up, and Hilarious. We recently saw him in the Chicago Theatre and he was beyond brilliant, as always, some of the material taking residence in my nerve-endings, I’m still quoting it.
Back on track, the show. After an unsuccessful, and bizarre first sitcom on HBO, called Lucky Louie, Louis took a break, got back to his act, did a few movies and then landed the deal of the century with FX. What seems to happen on this network is artists are given cart-blanche to do whatever the hell they want, as long as it’s high quality and gets decent ratings. Louis came in with a cult comedy following and his previous notoriety (the infamous beef with Dane Cook, brilliantly covered on this season’s Louie), and with amazing guest-stars like one of my top five favorite human beings, Ricky Gervais, good ratings on a cable show were cake.
The show is an artistic interpretation of Louis’ life. He’s divorced, with two girls, a fairly famous comedian with famous comic friends, living in New York City. The beautiful stories told in each episode provide insight into Louis as a man, as a comedian, as a father, and a non-melodramatic, humorous take on how shitty life can be. It’s so relatable and yet so extraordinary and unusual. It’s unlike anything else on television. Dare I say it’s better than Seinfeld, Roseanne, Mad About You, Ellen, Home Improvement, Full House, or any other stand-up comic show starring a popular 80’s comic that didn’t make it to Eddie Murphy status. Those are great and have their place, I still love them, keep your panties on, I’m just saying Louie, pound for pound, is better.
Two of my favorite men, doing what they do best. Don't mind Louie's ass.
Wilfred is wacktastically different and incredible and beautiful and simple and complex and daring and heavy and light-hearted and deeply amazing. This show has impacted my life. It has inspired me to think outside of the box, as a person and as an aspiring artist. It’s such a far-cry from my current life situation and yet, somehow it resonates with me. The most commonly experienced human emotions are the focal points in each episode and through their strange and interesting struggle, you understand your own. You must buy into the implausibility of the premise, like most movies and TV shows (and I’m including reality shows, those people never really love/like each other). It’s worth buying in for the ride.
What is it really about? I shan’t provide too many details of course but essentially, Ryan, played impeccably by the adorably big-eyed Elijah Wood (one of the lone child-star survivors from the 90’s), is a deeply depressed man who swallows dozens of pills expecting to die and instead, he survives and now sees his neighbor crush’s dog as a human dressed in a dog suit named Wilfred. Make sense? It’s somewhat convoluted as it reveals itself but also tremendously poetic. Wilfred is played by an unknown (to Americans) Australian (the very talented Jason Gann), but man I want to see him outside that suit. He happens to be the writer, creator and star of the Aussie version. He’s so brilliantly funny and convincing that he's magnetic. I’m drawn to him.
Anyway, Wilfred is as insightful and wise as he is simple and primal. The mere placement of a hump-able animal (stuffed or live), or bubbles, is enough of a distraction from his otherwise mature, helpful advice. He also smokes a lot of pot, drinks alcohol, has a dirty mouth and mind, and is slinging out some of the most clever, well delivered comedy on any screen. This may sound too bizarre or complicated but give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You’re probably smart enough to follow it, and if not, you don’t know it so no harm no foul. Just give it a shot, okay? You will not regret it. I do think it helps to know or love dogs, so if you don't, not sure how you'll react. Also not sure if I trust you regardless, gotta love animals to enjoy this crazy world. For my time and energy, along with other critical minds I respect, it's the best new show on TV.
Please enjoy this quick compilation of Wilfred's moments from both versions of the show.
What both of these shows generously give in buckets is a swift kick in the inner workings of your solar plexus, where your semblance of a soul resides. You feel so deeply for these people and somehow their scripted pain is more real than seemingly fake problems/complaints from people you know. They’re gut-wrenching, heart-pounding and soul-stirring, to provide some phrases. They’re fitness regimes for your head and heart. Give your entire body a once over by doing yoga poses during the commercials or something. Triple whammy. You’re welcome.
What have I said a million times? Either in my head or outwardly, it’s quality over quantity. Have some standards. You’re losing brain cells at a constant rate, some of you quicker than others, so don’t waste what you’re currently destroying on mindless, dull television. Watch what your brain and heart need, well written, directed, acted pieces of art. You deserve it. Enjoy.