Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bit and Pieces

           The round peg of Louis C.K. meets the square hole of modern life...

2013 was one crappy year for me.  I worked like a dog the whole time -- which was just about the only redeeming feature of such a relentlessly ugly year -- but the rest was one big shit sandwich with a side order of flies.  I won’t bore you with the details (and be ever-so-thankful for that, my little droogies), but suffice it to say that thus far, 2014 has been a big improvement.  Nothing spectacular, mind you -- I'm still waiting for Scarlett Johansson to come to her senses and realize that an older man of exceedingly modest means is exactly what she needs to fill the emptiness inside her glitzy-but-meaningless celebrity life -- but at a certain point the absence of "bad" becomes good enough.  

I know -- how pathetic.  But making such down-side bargains comes with the turf of aging, kids.  One of these days you'll know what I'm talking about -- and believe me, you'll wish you didn't.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Still, there's been some good news along the way, with perhaps the best news of all that Season 4 of “Louis C.K.” will begin airing this week starting May 5 on FX.  There it will run for seven weeks, with two back-to-back 1/2 hour episodes per week.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of this show at first, but as the three seasons evolved, it captivated me as few other comedies ever have.  Much more than mere comedies, these carefully crafted short films reveal many painful truths about modern life in a manner that is rarely predictable, often poignant, and always accompanied by a healthy dose of dark humor.  "Louis C.K." may not appeal to everyone -- hey, I even know a couple of very smart people who didn't like "Breaking Bad," so anything's possible -- but I think this one truly great show.

In reviewing the first four episodes, the inimitable Tim Goodman (former TV critic for my hometown SF Chronicle, now writing for The Hollywood Reporter) put very nicely:

"Somewhere along the way during its three-season run, FX's brilliant comedy Louie ceased to really be a comedy as we know it... which means that Louie is hard to classify other than that it exists and is immensely enjoyable most of the time, and then shifts gears to become something you don't expect right in front of you. No show quite behaves like Louie, which exists in a 30-minute dimension that FX has essentially given to creator Louis C.K. to do with as he pleases. And if you've followed the show, you know describing it is almost always a mug's game. Tell someone it's the best comedy on television -- which it has been throughout its run -- and they could watch one episode and think you're insane because they didn't laugh or because it made them feel awkward and out of sorts, like walking into one of Woody Allen's midcareer films when they were expecting something from Michael Bay."

"Get an episode of Louie that makes you laugh uproariously and feel the pain of the man's life depicted onscreen -- a somewhat fictionalized version of Louis C.K.'s life that makes you hesitate to ask exactly how fictionalized -- and you might be proselytizing about its greatness to strangers on a bus. Get an episode that makes you feel -- and this happens more than you might imagine -- strangely sad, and you might not wish to talk about the show at all. Other than to tell a slightly overweight divorced man in his 40s with two kids and some self-esteem issues that, hey, you've found a show so perfect for it's scary."

Tim is just getting warmed up at this point in the review -- and he's always worth reading -- so click on over for the rest.*

It’s been almost two years since Season Three aired, and I have sorely missed the wit, wisdom, and unique perspective of Mr. Louis C.K.  I sure as hell could have used it during the black hole of last year, but better late than never.  He's clearly one of the smartest people working in television at any level these days, and probably the most plugged-in comic of his generation. The man has made a serious study of film (immersing himself in the work of Jean Luc Godard, among others), which may be why he's able to do so much more than simply make us laugh.  Although his stand-up routines are brilliant, he’s much more than a “comic,” and this show demonstrates the full spectrum of his talent.  If Season Four is anything like the first three, he most certainly will make us laugh -- a lot -- and much, much more. 

Don’t miss it.

The great British actor Bob Hoskins died this week, much too early.  If that name doesn't ring a bell, go rent "Mona Lisa" and watch him work.  Meanwhile, check out this interview he did on "Fresh Air" a few years back. You can read it or listen, but personally, I love hearing the man tell his story.  Any wannabe actors out there are going to cringe when they hear how he nailed his very first -- and utterly unwitting -- audition, thus sparking a long and lucrative career.  It's a classic.

Rest in peace, Bob.  You will be missed.

Next up, a “Martini Shot” commentary from veteran writer, producer (and lately, director) Rob Long -- this one a morality tale wherein Rob suffers the consequences of texting while driving and lives to tell the tale.  And maybe... just maybe... he learns something from the experience.

Last but not least, a lovely bit of prose from LA Times TV critic Robert Lloyd’s review of an eminently forgettable new sit-com called “Friends With Better Lives”:

“There is a professional, even grim efficiency to the jokes, which approach like B-52 bombers, drop their punch lines and head back to base.  There are breast jokes, genital jokes, a long oral sex joke, an alcoholic-sorority-girl-defecating-in-a-closet joke.  A few hit, many miss.  The war goes on.”

So it does, Robert.  So it does... 

* And here's your bonus link for the week: Tim Goodman's entertaining review of "24: Live Another Day." I couldn't take the original very seriously, but as Tim underlines, "serious" was never the point.  "24" is and always was pulp, doing for Kieffer Sutherland what Kurt Sutter tried to do with Charlie Hunam and Ron Pearlman on "Sons of Anarchy."  As a comic book thriller, "24" worked pretty well... and if that smacks of tepid praise, it's a lot more than I can say for 90% of the broadcast network offerings out there.  


Ed (sloweddi) said...

The Bob Hoskins episode was excellent. My world is one of spurts of activity followed by long periods of confusion so I have a tendency to download the Fresh Air interviews so that I can totally forget about them for many, many months.
Fortunately, I was able to listen to the interview right away. I have always enjoyed his work and he will be missed.

Michael Taylor said...

Ed --

We seem to be losing a lot of good ones lately -- too many, too young. But so turns the Great Wheel, I suppose.

Spurts of activity followed by long periods of confusion" -- I can relate to that.

Thanks for tuning in...

Ed (sloweddi) said...

On a similar note, Billy Connolly will be doing a 2 part on iTV (if you know of a way to get it) on death. He said on Monday they gave him a hearing aid, Tuesday was antacids, and Wednesday Parkinson and pancreatic cancer.
We are of a similar age as our on screen icons and age is important in the conversation. I remember that in my early 20's, hearing of someone in their late 60's passing, as thinking them old. Now that I am here, not so much.