Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2012

‘Louie’ may be future of TV comedy

July 5, 2012


The much anticipated return of Charlie Sheen to prime time lived up to expectations. “Anger Management” (8:30 p.m., FX) attracted over 5 million total viewers for the cable network and was easily the most watched program of the night in the 18-49 audience, the demographic of choice for advertisers.

Somewhat overlooked in the “Anger” hoopla has been the return of “Louie” (9:30 p.m., FX) for its third season. If television comedy is becoming a hybrid of short, cheaply made “webisodes,” then “Louie” is the best of that new breed.

The show has a deceptively deliberate, homemade quality to it. It’s like a grittier version of “Seinfeld,” with a series of short vignettes bookended by star and writer/creator Louis C.K.’s stand-up appearances at a comedy club. And as on “Seinfeld,” ‘‘Louie” often seems to be about nothing at all. But at the same time, these short collections of disparate scenes can leave audiences with a great deal to ponder.

I find myself a late convert to “Louie.” I was initially put off by C.K.’s angry stand-up persona. I’m also not a fan of comedians talking about the “craft” of comedy, or the difficulty of the process. A story in season two about a feud between C.K. and Dane Cook left me with a profound feeling of “who cares?”

But compared to Sheen’s delivering punch lines to a laugh track, or George Lopez’s Neolithic pattering as he hosts “Take Me Out” (7 p.m., Fox), “Louie” is nothing short of breathtaking. Its New York locations and hand-held camera work make it much like an independent film or foreign movie.

On tonight’s “Louie,” look for Oscar-winning actress Melissa Leo as an unlikely date for the misanthropic comedian. Their bracing banter is well beyond the bounds of traditional sitcoms, and certainly earns tonight’s episode its TV-MA rating.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The remaining talent takes on American standards on “Duets” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Alex shows her mettle during two difficult procedures on “Saving Hope” (8 p.m., NBC).

• The troupe rallies around Rex on the season finale of “Breaking Pointe” (7 p.m., CW). This short-lived series deserves points for letting the dance and its performers emerge on their own, while avoiding fake drama and cliches.

• Domestic violence on “Rookie Blue” (9 p.m., ABC).


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