Louie: The Complete Second Season (US - BD RA)
Jonathan revisits the hilarious show from comedian Louis C.K..
Comedian Louis C.K. is back with another season of this critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated hit. Spotlighting C.K.'s signature brand of twisted observational humor, Season Two follows the everyday trials of single dad Louie as he struggles to raise his kids, advance his career, and somehow get some action in the meantime. Facing one bummer after another, Louie takes on inattentive crowds, insane relatives, and a hair-raising U.S.O. tour of Afghanistan. (From the Fox synopsis)
Louie is back, and for better or worse it is much the same kind of show that it was in the first season. In this second season we rejoin Louie as he goes through the daily struggles of being a single parent of two little girls, dating, finding a new home, and the perils of being of a comedian. Much like the season of Curb Your Enthusiasm that I recently reviewed, there isn't much connecting the episodes together in terms of plot. The structure is more like a series of vignettes and social interactions. C.K. plays a fictionalized version of himself, but the show often blurs the line between reality and fiction to interesting effect. It's very much the brainchild of C.K., who writes, directs, edits and stars in every single episode of the season. It's refreshing to see an artist have complete control over a television series, and there's something cool about knowing that everything on the show is something Louis C.K. wanted to be there.
For me, the major appeal of Louis C.K.'s comedy comes from how deeply human and insightful his remarks can be, as well as his ability to be self-deprecating without being pitiful. He's genuinely hilarious and often outrageous in his delivery, but there's a truth and awkward reality to his best bits that makes them resonate on a level many comedians can't compete with. His stories of parenting and battling logic with his children can be absolutely depressing at times, but he handles it with wonderful comic grace. Come to think of it, there really aren't a lot of mid-life, single parent comedians out there. He's a unique voice in the comedy scene, and I think its incredible that he manages to produce so much funny stand-up output and create a great television series simultaneously; making both look effortless. In my mind, his stand-up is where he shines the most comically, but the television medium gives him a place to stretch creatively and explore some of those awkward truths that can be found in his material. Even when an episode isn't particularly hilarious, it's often very interesting and explores some truth about adult life that you don't usually find in modern media.
One of the things that gives this season an advantage over the first is bringing in big comedians in guest starring roles as themselves and using them in a fascinating way. In one episode, Louie is unhappy with a casino lounge gig and wants to quit. Joan Rivers, who works for the same casino, sits down to talk with him and convinces him that it's a job worth keeping. I've never personally been a big fan of Joan Rivers's comedy, but if you've seen the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work it's impossible not to admire her persistence and work ethic. It makes her the perfect candidate to berate Louie for not appreciating his employment. She gets some good laughs and the scene culminates in a funny way too, but I'll refrain from spoiling it. In another episode, Louie is trying to get Lady Gaga tickets for his daughter, and it turns out Dane Cook is the only person who can help him. Louis C.K. and Dane Cook have a history, and at one point it was widely circulated that Cook had stolen some of C.K.'s material. And they address it in this episode. Even if C.K. wrote the episode himself, and even if they worked out things before this was filmed, the scene still feels incredibly honest and addresses a big issue in the world of stand-up comedy.
Not every episode works. Some of them seem like Louis C.K. had a thought he wanted to make a point about, and the episode is just a way to get that thought out there without much regard for comedy or entertainment. There's an episode that wraps up with Louie trying to talk his friend Eddie (Doug Stanhope) out of suicide, and even if its very well-acted and effectively emotional, I'm not sure it should have taken place in this show. But that's the kind of show this is. Louis C.K. has the freedom to do what he wants, and he's being experimental. You can't go into any episode knowing exactly what to expect. It's a strength and a weakness of the series, but you can always count on getting something interesting and bold. Sometimes that freedom can lead to a wonderful episode, like Duckling. In this episode, Louie goes to Afghanistan to perform stand-up for soldiers. When he gets there, he finds out that his daughter hid a duckling in his suitcase "to keep him safe". It's the first hour long episode and the extra runtime is very well spent. It's not just a great episode of Louie, it's a great episode of television. I was officially subverted. I didn't expect that one of the biggest names in raunchy humour could turn me into a total sap. It's dedicated to Tim Hetherington (director of Restrepo) and supposedly the idea for the episode came from C.K.'s six year old daughter. The series has been picked up for a third season, and I'm very excited to see what C.K. does next.
Barring the problematic pilot episode from season one, this 1080p video presentation is nearly identical to the first season. The show continues to be shot on the Red One camera, and it has a very clean digital look. It's a small budget show, but the power of the camera gives it a great look. Gone are the aliasing edges and jagged textures, and what we have left is a very smooth appearance that is easy on the eyes. The show has a lot of stylized blur effects, so the video presentation isn't always incredibly sharp, but it's clear that this transfer is capable of impressive detail when the cameras are in focus or when they stop for a close-up. Colors are very strong and realistic, but the softness of the digital image can sometimes give them an artificial pastel look. Occasional shimmer and some pixel clusters are a rare distraction. There are some segments, like the Fox News vignette, where it looks like a different camera or some alternate settings are being used to give it a more broadcasted feel. Quality takes a dip, but it's clearly an artistic choice. Stylistic touches taken into account, this is a very strong video presentation. Unfortunately I'm not able to take accurate screen caps from this Blu-ray right now, but if I work it out in the near future I'll add them to the review.
Louie comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that compliments the modest show production. There really isn't much to stretch out the sound scape aside from some ambient noises, background chatter, or the occasional passing car. In the episode Duckling there is some helicopter take-off and landing footage that fills the surround space with noise, but that's really the only time the 5.1 setup comes into play. Volume levels are fine, with voices being very clear and able to hear. The one minor exception is one of the theaters where some stand-up segments are filmed. The sound echoes, but not an extent where you can't hear what is being set. There's a lot of wonderful background music with horns and somber piano playing that sound rich and full but never drown out the dialogue. There really isn't much else to say about the sound mix.
Fox has included a nice feature on this Blu-ray set called Play Season. What it allows you to do is play the entire season like one big feature, and it remembers where you left off if you stop at any point. On the first disc, we have Commentary with Louis C.K. on the first five episodes of the season. His commentary is insightful about the filming process and can often be quite funny, but I really would've loved to hear what he had to say about some of the more personal episodes like the one with Dane Cook. It seems like he bowed out after the first five episodes, but still, any commentary at all is a nice treat. On the second disc there are no commentary tracks, just Fox Movie Channel Presents World Premiere - Louie Season 2, which is a brief introduction to the show and some interview footage with Louis C.K., Hadley Delaney, and Roderick Hill on a red carpet.
Louis C.K. is a talented comedian, and in the second season of Louie he assured me that he can hold his own as an artist and a storyteller too. Instead of using the show to rehash his stand-up material, he experiments with the medium to explore insightful, awkward, and sometimes brutally harsh truths about adult life. This season features some of the series's finest episodes to date. Owners of season one should consider this purchase a no brainer. Fox delivers on the AV front with a strong video transfer and a faithful audio track. There's not much here in terms of extras, but dedicated fans will want to check out the Louis C.K. commentaries on the first five episodes.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Release Date: 19th June 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Audio Commentary by Louis C.K. on Select Episodes, Fox Movie Channel presents World Premiere Louie Season 2
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Louis C.K., Hadley Delany, Ursula Parker
Length: 314 minutes
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