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Josh Reviews Better Things Season Two!

I loved the first season of Pamela Adlon’s show Better Things, and the recently-concluded second season was every bit as fantastic.  I feel like this show has been flying under the radar for many people, and that’s a shame.  It’s one of the best currently-running TV shows out there.

Pamela Adlon plays Sam Fox, a working but not super-famous actress, raising three girls on her own.  Better Things is fictional, but it draws heavily from Ms. Adlon’s real-life as a working but not super-famous actress raising three girls on her own.  The show is incredibly rich, focusing deeply on exploring the lives of Pam, her three daughters, and also Pam’s mother Phil who lives next-door to them.  Better Things can be very funny, and also absolutely heartbreaking.  It’s a marvelously heartfelt, idiosyncratic show that is truly unlike anything else on TV these days.

As I discussed in my review of season one, the show has a remarkably playful approach to narrative.  Better Things rejects all the usual ways that you would expect stories to play out on a TV show, both within a single episode and over the course of the season.  Some episodes explore a single story over the course of a half-hour episode, while other episodes are composed of a series of vignettes (that might be connected thematically or emotionally, but whose stories have little to do with one another).  Some episodes are plot-heavy, while others feel more like a “slice of life” exploration without much significant plot.  Several episodes early-on this season focus on Sam’s beginning a new romantic relationship.  I expected this to be a story that would run through the entire season, but after a few episodes that focused on this new man in Sam’s life, this story was completely pushed aside, with most of the major subsequent developments in the relationship happening off-screen.  It’s a fascinating approach, one that in less-skilled hands might have been frustrating.  But part of the greatness of Better Things is the way it explores aspects of people’s lives that TV shows usually skip over or ignore.  (I will never forget the extended sequence in season one of Sam silently walking around her house, starting up at her smoke alarms trying to determine which one is beeping because its battery needs to be changed.  Who hasn’t done that??  And yet, that’s not something I have ever before seen on a TV show!)

I love that Better Things features so many fascinating, strong but flawed female characters.  I love that the show is more interested in getting inside what makes each of them tick than it is in following usual TV-show story-arcs.  Each of the main women in this show … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Better Things Season One!

September 18th, 2017
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Why did I wait a year to watch this amazing show???  I loved Pamela Adlon’s appearances on Louie C.K.’s wonderful show Louie (in many of my reviews of Louie I have written about how I have wanted their two characters to get together on the show, because I loved their dynamic so much) and I knew from watching the credits that she was involved as a writer and a producer.  So when I read last year that she would be leading her own show, Better Things, which she co-created with Louis C.K., I was immediately interested!  But for some reason the ten episodes have sat unwatched in my DVR for the past year.  (Season two actually just began last week!!)  Finally, my wife and I decided to watch the first episode, and we immediately fell head over heels in love with this amazing show, and we devoured the ten first-season episodes in just a few days.

Pamela Adlon stars as Sam, a divorced mom working in Hollywood as an actress and raising her three kids: the sixteen-year-old Max, the twelve-year-old Frankie, and the eight (I think!)- year-old Duke.

Better Things is a phenomenal showcase for Ms. Adlon.  As I wrote above, she co-created the show with Louie C.K. and she plays the lead character.  Additionally, she wrote or co-wrote eight out of the ten episodes, and she directed two of them.  Wow!!

When I DVRed this show a year ago, my hope was that, due to Louie C.K.’s involvement, Better Things would sort of be like a sixth season of Louie.  And, indeed, Mr. C.K. was very deeply involved with the show.  He directed the pilot, and wrote or co-wrote nine of the ten episodes.  There are certainly surface similarities between Louie and Better Things.  Both shows are very funny and also unafraid to get very dramatic and very real.  Both shows strive for verisimilitude, in terms of presenting the realities of their lead characters’ everyday lives, without applying the usual TV sugar-coating.  And both shows demonstrate a similar playfulness with the narrative of their episodes, eschewing the usual half-hour TV episode structure for a shifting, often stream-of-consciousness feeling in which an episode might consist of multiple short vignettes rather than a single story that runs straight through the half-hour.

And yet, don’t be mistaken: Better Things is not just Louie by any other name.  This is an incredibly unique show that feels extraordinarily personal for Ms. Adlon, who plays a character whose life situation is very similar to Ms. Adlon’s own.  Both Sam on the show and Ms. Adlon are divorced mothers of three, who have had a long career in Hollywood filled with a lot of small parts … [continued]

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Rogue One and News Around the Net! UPDATED with Doctor Strange Trailer!

I suspect by now you’ve all watched the first teaser trailer for Rogue One, perhaps (like me!) several times:

That’s a pretty terrific trailer.  Not as instantly iconic as any of the magnificent trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but still pretty great.  It’s a far more substantial look at the movie than I had expected for a first teaser trailer.

My main question is: why the heck isn’t this film called Star Wars: Rogue One?  Because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a heck of a mouthful.  I guess we’re going to be saddled with this “A Star Wars Story” business for all of the non-official-“Episode” spin-off Star Wars films to come.  I think that’s a big mistake.  Just call all of these films Star Wars: Whatever You Want Your Title To Be.  Isn’t that much more simple and direct?

As for the peek at the content of the film itself: well, I am on-record as hating prequels, but while I am absolutely DREADING the in-the-works “young Han Solo” movie, I am sort of taken with the idea of telling the story of the secret mission to steal the Death Star plans that must have happened right before the events of the first Star Wars.  That’s a pretty big piece of Star Wars back-story about which we know nothing at all, and it seems like a cool idea for a movie.

And while we all know that you can’t judge a film by its trailer, this first trailer is pretty terrific.  I love that, like The Force Awakens, this Star Wars film seems to be anchored by a strong female character in the lead.  I really enjoyed Felicity Jones’ work in Like Crazy, and she looks terrific here in the lead as Jyn Erso (I had to look that up on-line).  I like the Seven Samurai type feel to the film, of a motley crew of criminals and scum gathered together for a mission.  (It’s interesting that Warner Brothers’ next big DC Universe movie, Suicide Squad, is also based on a similar premise.  I am curious to see how similar those two films wind up being.)

It’s pretty cool to see those shots of Star Destroyers and the Death Star being assembled.  I’ve heard rumors that Darth Vader will be appearing in this film (which would be awesome if done right), but so far they have kept him hidden in this trailer.  (There is a shot of a figure in black kneeling before a pillar of light which resembles how Vader would communicate with the Emperor but that figure doesn’t look like Vader to me.)

I’m eager to learn more about the many new characters … [continued]

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The Top Fifteen Episodes of TV in 2015 — Part One!

Last week I listed by Top Twenty Movies of 2015.  (Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteen.  Click here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.  Click here for part four of my list, numbers five through one.)

Now I am excited to look back all of the great TV we were blessed with in 2015.  This was a tremendous year for TV.  I watched a LOT of great TV.  And yet, as always, there was a lot of great TV that I didn’t get to.  More than ever, it felt like!  Our current age of “Peak TV” (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about) is a blessing and a curse.  2015 TV series that I didn’t have time to watch include: Fargo season two, Better Caul Saul season one, The Americans season three (I’m still catching up with season two, only a few episodes to go), Transparent, Justified, The Man in the High Castle, Review, Documentary Now!, Halt and Catch Fire, The Leftovers, Red Oaks, Silicon Valley, The Knick, The Last Man on Earth, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, and more.  That’s a lot of amazing TV that I didn’t get to see!  All of those are shows that I hope to catch up with, one of these days.

But enough lamenting the TV I didn’t get to watch.  Let’s bask in the glow of my Fifteen Favorite Episodes of TV in 2015!

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Honorable Mention: Robot Chicken DC Comics Special 3: Magical Friendship (aired on 10/8/15) — I’ve loved Robot Chicken’s two previous DC Comics specials and his third one did not disappoint.  While there are several of the expected random skits, this special has a more distinct than usual for Robot Chicken story that carries through the episode, a focus on the very funny friendship/rivalry between Batman and Superman that was introduced in the previous two specials.  Robot Chicken co-creators and show-runners Breckin Meyer and Seth Green voice Superman and Batman, respectively, and they are magnificent.  In this installment, Superman and Batman’s escalating rivalry builds to a spot-on spoof of DC’s regular “Crisis” events, one that allows the Robot Chicken gang to jam in all sorts of wonderfully obscure jokes and references, including great appearances by the Batman and Robin of the 1960’s TV show, with both Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles.  Great fun.

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15. Show Me a Hero: “Parts 1 & 2” (aired on 8/16/15) –The Wire’s David Simon returned to TV with this gripping miniseries, telling the story of the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Louie Season Five!

November 20th, 2015
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Last month I had the pleasure of catching up with the fifth season of Louie C.K.’s fantastic FX show, Louie.  I’ve been a fan since the beginning of Louie.  It’s such a unique show, one that feels like a very personal expression of Louie C.K.’s very particular voice and sense of humor.

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While season four experimented with longer story-telling arcs, with stories that ran across multiple episodes, season five returns more closely to something approaching the flavor of season one, with each episode feeling entirely like it’s own thing, a stand-alone loony adventure in Louie’s life.  I loved the ambition of season four, but in my heart I think that this is the flavor of Louie that I love best.  Each episode feels like its own weird little flight of fancy.

Season five is far shorter than the previous seasons, clocking in at only eight episodes.  I’m not sure why there were so few episodes this time around, but I’m thankful for what we got.

After the disappearance of the great opening credits and theme song in season four, I was happy to see them return here in season five (albeit occasionally in a somewhat truncated form, presumably to make room for everything else that Louie wanted to fit into the episode).

Once again Louie C.K. wrote, directed, and starred in every episode.  The show continues to be a tour de force work for Louie, a hugely original piece of work that feels like a direct conduit into his mind.  I love that about the show.  It continues to be quite unlike anything else on TV.  The show rigorously refuses to be pinned down to a certain style or tone.  The show can veer from hilarious to serious to out-of-left-field loony, often within minutes.

The premiere, “Potluck,” feels like a classic Louie idea: Louie goes to a potluck dinner at the home of a parent of one of the girls in one of his daughter’s class.  But he mistakenly goes to the wrong apartment and a potluck dinner of a group of an entirely different sort, something that Louie (and we the audience) only gradually realizes.  This is a great set-up, but also in classic Louie style, while Louie finds a lot of humor for the situation, he doesn’t solely mine the situation for jokes.  The episode goes to places I didn’t expect.

My favorite episode of the season was “Sleepover,” in which Louie hosts a sleepover birthday party for all of his daughter Jane’s friends.  Watching Louie navigate a hyper group of tween girls is hilarious, but the episode goes to far crazier places when Louie gets a frantic call from his brother Booby, who is in jail and … [continued]

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The Top 15 Episodes of TV in 2014 — Part Two!

I have expanded my usual end-of-the-year list of the Top Ten Episodes of TV to a Top Fifteen list for 2014!  Yesterday I wrote about numbers fifteen through eleven, discussing stellar episodes of Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Fargo, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Black Mirror.

And now, let’s continue!

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10. Family Guy: “The Simpsons Guy” (season 13, episode 1, aired on 9/28/14) — In this hour-long special, the Griffins leave Quahog and travel to Springfield, where cartoon universes collide.  I never ever thought that a) I would actually see a Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, or that b) it would be made with such obvious love for both shows.  This crossover was made by the Family Guy team, and the first few minutes (in which Peter gets into trouble for his controversial political cartoons) are pure Family Guy.  But once the show heads to Springfield, I was delighted by the clear love and respect on display for The Simpsons, and also by the depth of attention which the Family Guy creators brought to their exploration of the Simpsons universe.  There are obvious pairings that are mined for a lot of fun (seeing Homer and Peter drinking together, and comparing Duff Beer to Pawtucket Patriot Ale, is of course a hoot), but we also get to dig deeper into both cartoon universes as, for example, Carl meets Cleveland and Mayor Quimby meets Mayor Adam West, and the Simpsons version of James Woods meets the Family Guy version of James Woods.  Is the epic Homer/Peter Chicken Fight way longer and more violent than it needs to be?  I suppose it is, but that’s part of the joke, isn’t it?  It certainly worked for me.  Throw in Kang and Kodos in a rare non-Halloween episode appearance and a callback to Homer’s skateboarding over the Springfield Gorge (a classic early Simpsons gag) and you have a terrific love-letter to both of these animated shows.  (Click here for my original review of “The Simpsons Guy.”)

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9. Mad Men: “Waterloo” (season 7, episode 7, aired on 5/25/14) — What a powerhouse of an episode.  The political machinations in the office run thick as Don receives a letter stating he is being fired for breach of contract, only for Don to call a meeting that turns the tables on Jim Cutler and Lou Avery.  Roger then negotiates with another agency, McCann Erickson, to buy SC&P as an independent subsidiary of McCann, but has to get Don and an increasingly depressed Ted Chaough to agree.  The show finally arrives at the dramatic events of July 20th, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.  At the last minute, Don decides that Peggy should give the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Louie Season 4

December 24th, 2014
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After so thoroughly enjoying the second and third seasons of Louis C.K.’s amazing FX show, Louie, when I watched them this fall, I was excited to continue and to dive into season four.  It’s a pleasure to finally be caught up with this phenomenally entertaining and clever show!

One of the unique aspects of the very first season of Louie was the show’s stubborn disinterest in continuity or anything resembling the usual narrative flow of a TV show.  Louis C.K. would craft stories that would last exactly as long as he wanted them to, in order for him to make a point or get to a punchline.  Each episode was a stand-alone story, and often within an episode there might be two, even three, entirely separate stories or sequences that had nothing whatsoever to do with one another.  I loved this about the show.  It gave the series a rapid-fire energy, and a very unique feel.

What’s fascinating about Louie season four is how far the show has now gone in the other direction.  Here in season four, Louis C.K. has embraced longer-form story-telling.  The first three episodes of the season are stand-alone installments, but even those three episodes begin some character-arcs and story-lines that will be carried through the season (most notably the issues facing Louie’s youngest daughter Jane).  Then follows a six (!) part story, “Elevator,” that forms the centerpiece of the season.  This is followed by two three-part episodes.  “Pamela” is three separate episodes, interrupted (between parts 1 & 2) by “In the Woods,” which is a triple-length episode that was shown all in one night (sort of like a Louie feature film!).

I love both versions of Louie — the staccato pace of season one and this more complex, more in-depth version of season four.  Both versions have their charm.  Here in season four, it’s fascinating to see Louis C.K. take his time with the storytelling, developing his scenarios across multiple episodes.  The show remains as weird and idiosyncratic as ever, but now the show feels more leisurely, more relaxed as the stories unfold.  It’s an interesting spin on the show that I already loved so much.  I applaud Mr. C.K.’s creativity in not resting on his laurels, instead pushing himself to experiment, to be bold and to continue to try new things with the structure of his show.

The season’s first episode, “Back,” is solid, but episode two, “Model,” is terrific.  The Seinfeld stuff is fun (it’s funny seeing Jerry as such a cold prick) although I didn’t love this depiction of a more hapless than usual Louie.  But then we are presented with the bizarre, almost Twilight Zone-esque scenario in which Louie … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Louie Season Three

I loved the first season of Louis C.K.’s FX show, Louie, but it took me a while to track down and then find the time to watch season two.  But after tearing through season two in just a few days (click here for my review), my wife and I didn’t waste much time before moving on to season three.

The show has not dipped one iota in quality.  Season three is just as funny and weird and unique as the first two seasons.

Thinking back on this season, I am immediately struck by three scenes that rank among the funniest things I have ever seen on television:

First there is Louie’s long, rambling, neurotic monologue that he delivers when asking out Parker Posey’s character in “Daddy’s Boyfriend” part 1.  This is a classic comedy moment, and something that would have felt at home in the middle of a classic Woody Allen film.  Genius.

Then there is the reaction of the women in the strip club in “Barney/Never” to learning of the death of comedy club owner Barney.  I won’t spoil it here, of course, but I almost fell out of my chair.

Then there is Louie’s crazy lunch with his uncle (played by F. Murray Abraham) in “Dad.”  It’s great seeing F. Murray Abraham back on the show (he played the swinger’s husband in the season two finale), and once again I love Louis C.K.’s willingness to cast the same actor in multiple roles, without worrying about the continuity of the show.  This scene is laugh out loud hysterical, so crazy.  Mr. Abraham creates such a wonderfully unique, memorable character.  I can’t believe he’s just in that one scene!!

Other thoughts on the season:

The great opening credits sequence is still here, though Louie gets a little more creative with how he uses it, sometimes using a shortened version and sometimes eliminating it altogether and just starting the episode.  The other new story-telling device is that for the first time Louie occasionally stretches a story out over multiple episodes.  In the two-part “Daddy’s Boyfriend,” Louie asks out an attractive woman (played by Parker Posey) who works at a bookstore he visits.  Parker Posey is spectacular in this guest role, and the long weird date that she and Louie spend together in the second episode is extremely memorable.  Then there is the three-part “Late Show,” in which Louie is tapped by CBS to potentially replace a retiring David Letterman as host of The Late Show.  That three-parter is a gold-mine of inside-Hollywood stories, and I loved the depiction of everyone lying and scheming to get Letterman’s spot (including Louie’s two “friends” Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, who both … [continued]

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Late to the Party: Josh Reviews Louie Season Two

October 3rd, 2014
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I am a huge fan of comedian Louis C.K.’s stand-up work.  I think his recent stand-up films: Hilarious, Live at the Beacon Theater, and Oh My God, are among the finest stand-up performances I have ever seen.  I really dug the first season of his FX show, Louie (click here for my review), but it took me a while to get to season two.

I can’t believe I waited so long, because season two is amazing, and my wife and I tore through it in just a few days.  (The season is just twelve short 21-ish-minute episodes, so it’s easy to watch very quickly.)

For season two, Louis C.K. has stuck with the show’s great opening credits sequence (the plotless sequence in which we see Louie walk through the streets of NY, scarf down some pizza, then head into the Comedy Cellar, all while the great song “Brother Louie” by Stories plays on the soundtrack) as well as the show’s basic structure.  Just like Seinfeld, the show is a mix of Louie’s raucous, ribald stand-up and a depiction of his day-to-day adventures as a working comedian.  But any similarities to Seinfeld end there (other than both shows being great).

Louie often lets his stand-up bits go on for far longer than ever happened on Seinfeld, when they’d be used more as zippy zingers.  Louie often lets us get far deeper into his bits.  And whereas Seinfeld was a very tightly-plotted show, with intricate inter-weaving story-lines, Louie is the exact opposite.  The show has a dreamy, almost stream-of-consciousness feel.  It’s boldly unconcerned about any sort of continuity, either between episodes (in one notable example, Louie has to take custody of his niece at the end of episode 12, “Niece,” but then the girl is never seen or heard from again) or even within an episode (in which the episode’s first half often has nothing whatsoever to do with the story of its second half).  I love this about the show.  It’s as if we stay with the stories for exactly as long as Louie felt they’d be interesting, and not a moment longer.  It’s like the “best parts” version of a TV show.

The show also has something of a fantasy feel, as if we’re watching Louie’s dreams more than his actual life.  Episode 5, “Country Drive.” really nails this point home, and shows the way the show can dig deeply into the minutiae of life that most shows would ignore, and then veer into the wildest of fantasies.  In that episode, Louie takes his two daughters on a long car-trip to meet his great aunt Ellen.  As the drive goes on, there is an amazing sequence in which … [continued]

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The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013 — Part One!

I hope everyone enjoyed my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2013!  Click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

And now, on to my list of the Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013!

As always, a caveat that, while I watched a decent amount of TV in 2013, there are a few shows that I am either way behind on or haven’t gotten to see any of yet.  I’m only in season 2 of Breaking Bad and season 1 of Boardwalk Empire, and while I hope to dive into them soon, so far I haven’t seen a single episode of either Community or Justified or House of Cards.  So if you’re wondering why those shows are not represented on this list, well, now you know!  OK, here we go:

Honorable Mention: Louis C.K. “Oh My God” — The great Louis C.K.’s hour-long HBO special was, as expected, a hilarious, genius-level comedy performance.  For the last few years, C.K. has been in an amazing groove, and I think he is the most consistently funny — and clever — comedian working today.  This special had several stand-out moments, most particularly the outrageous, good-taste-testing “oh course… but maybe” routine at the very end.  If you haven’t seen this, go visit Louis C.K.’s web-site and, for five measly dollars, download the extended version of the special.  You can thank me later.

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10. The Office: “Finale” Pt. 1 & 2 (season 9, episodes 24 & 25, aired on 5/16/13) — In its last few seasons, The Office had become a sad, unfunny shadow of its former self.  (I think seasons 2-4 of the American version of The Office rank among the best seasons of a comedic TV show ever.)  But I was lured back for the final season, and I quite enjoyed the sweet series finale, which provided a very satisfying wrap-up for all of these characters I had come to love over the almost-decade the show had been on the air.  (Even Mose made an appearance!!)  I was delighted (and very pleasantly surprised!) by the return of Steve Carell, and his final “that’s what she said” moment was absolute perfection.  (Click here for my original review of the series finale of The Office.)

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9.  30 Rock: “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” (season 7, episodes 12 & 13, aired on 1/31/13) — The Office wasn’t the only long-running NBC comedy to take it’s final bow in 2013, and this hour-long finale to 30 Rock was also a strong ending to a great series.  We got some great call-backs to earlier episodes (“The Rural Juror,” the strip club Liz and Tracy visited in … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Louie Season One

February 13th, 2012
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I discovered the comedian Louis C.K. when he appeared in a recurring role during the second season of Parks and Recreation, and I fell in love with his work after watching his concert film, Hilarious. I’ve subsequently devoured all of his stand-up comedy CDs that I could get my hands on.  I knew that Louis C.K. had a show on FX, as well, and as as I started reading the rave reviews for the show’s second season over the past few months, I knew that this was something I had to track down.  I’m so pleased that I did!

The structure of Louie resembles that of early Seinfeld episodes.  Louis C.K. plays Louie, a fictionalized version of himself: a divorced stand-up comedian with two kids.  The narrative of each episode is punctuated with several clips from Louie’s stand-up routines, which usually have a tangential connection to the stories being told.

But Louie is a far weirder concoction than Seinfeld, and I love it for that.  For one thing, whereas Seinfeld became known for it’s densely plotted, clockwork-like stories, many episodes of Louie barely have any plot to speak of.  Episodes often consist of two or three extended vignettes that have entirely nothing to do with one another.  It’s bizarre, and quite off-putting to anyone weaned on the familiar rhythms of the sitcom.  But the technique is so determinedly idiosyncratic that I find it makes the show extremely endearing.

Louie is, often, extremely hilarious.  In particular, I find Louis C.K.’s stand-up bits to be phenomenal.  These stand-up routines (and they’re usually lengthier, meatier bits than the short snippets of stand-up seen in Seinfeld episodes) tend to be the highlight of the episodes for me.  But the show is unafraid to have extended sequences that are not funny at all.  Sometimes that’s because we’re watching something serious (such as the lengthy conversation, right at the start of the second episode, between Louie and his friends as to whether it’s OK for him to use the word “faggot” in his stand-up routine).  Sometimes it’s because we’re watching something teeth-grindingly awkward (such as some of Louie’s failed dating experiences).

The show doesn’t shy away from digging deeply into serious issues.  The episode “God” is a notable example, in which we watch an extended flashback of a brutally unpleasant experience young Louie had at a Catholic religious school.  By the way, this episode is particularly notable for the way in which we see the real Louis C.K. throwing traditional notions of structure right out the window.  The flashback sequence takes up almost the entire run-time of the episode, which is a surprising and unusual choice.  The episode also raised some eyebrows for Louis’ casting of … [continued]

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The Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011!

Click here for my list of the Top 15 Movies of 2011: part one, part two, and part three, and here for my list of the Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2011: part one, and part two.

Now let’s dig into my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2011!

10.  The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: Series One As a huge fan of Arrested Development, this six-episode IFC series that reunited Will Arnett (Gob Bluth) and David Cross (Tobias Funke) was something of a disappointment.  More agonizingly awkward than actually funny, it’s on this list because that fact that this weird, short little series exists at all on DVD is one of the reasons that I love this format!  I had missed this series when it aired on IFC, so I was so pleased that it was released on DVD.  The show isn’t without merit, but it’s nowhere near the genius of the late, great (and now possible resurrected!) Arrested Development.

9.  Marvel’s super-hero movie blu-rays: Thor, Captain America: The First Adventure, and X-Men: First Class I praised these three Marvel super-hero movies in my list of the Top 10 Movies of 2011, and I was equally taken by their blu-ray releases.  Not only do all three films look absolutely gorgeous on blu-ray, but all three are accompanied by some fairly in-depth featurettes exploring all aspects of the films’ production.  None of these are super-elaborate special editions, and I do wish that, for all of these films, the featurettes had been edited together into one longer, comprehensive making-of documentary.  But these are very, very solid releases, with a lot for fans of these films to dig into.  Extra props for the wonderful “Marvel One-Shot” shorts included on the Thor and Captain America discs, that further connect the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers.

8.  Louie: Season 1 I’d been reading about this show for a while, and having now finally watched the season one set I can say that this show deserves all the praise it’s been getting, and more.  In it’s structure, the show resembles Seinfeld: clips of Louie C. K. performing stand-up are intercut with vignettes of his life.  But in other respects the show is the exact opposite of Seinfeld.  Whereas on Seinfeld all of the story-lines would wind up beautifully dovetailing by the end, on Louie the individual scenes on the show often have little or nothing to do with one another.  We’ll watch a seven-minute sequence of Louie and his buddies playing poker, and then after some more stand-up we’ll shift to an entirely different scene … [continued]