Before it slips my mind entirely, I have to say a few words about last week's episode of "Louie." Actually, there were two episodes last week, and they were equally good, for entirely different reasons.
And if you're not watching it, then by all means get cracking. The first season is on DVD, and you can catch most of the second (current) season On Demand. And if you're not familiar with Louie C.K., the star of the show, then just head over to YouTube and do a quick search. And if you're not laughing out loud midway through the first clip, well...then "Louie" is not the show for you.
The episode the other night (and it's impossible to tell without spoilers, so consider yourself warned) was called "Eddie," and it told the story of Louie being paid a visit by an old friend, a fellow comic named Eddie, whom he hasn't seen for close to 20 years. The two were once friends, but had a falling out when Louie started to hit it big, and Eddie didn't.
From the first time you lay eyes on Eddie, you can tell why he didn't make it. The man is singularly unpleasant, and is one of those people who can't have a simple conversation without starting a fight. So, another comic's innocent remark, "you from L.A.?" nearly turns into blows. A while later, the same thing happens in a liquor store, when Eddie quickly becomes offensive and threatens to take the head off of the store's owner. All the while, you can see Louie begin to remember why he and Eddie aren't friends any more.
In sum, Eddie has been severely defeated by life. Although he can still be brilliant when the occasion demands (as he proves during an open-mic set in a seedy Brooklyn club), he has nowhere to go, and all of his bridges have been burned. After driving around for a while with Louie, he tells him that he's planning to kill himself, right after he finishes his last show, up in Maine. He just wanted Louie to know, and to say hello one last time.
And what happens next is what separates "Louie" from most of the other sitcoms that you've ever seen on TV. In the "perfect world" type of sitcom, Louie would get a stricken look on his face, proceed to talk his friend out of doing it, the two would hug, cue the sappy music...
And that is how the scene starts. But then Louie stops himself, and realizes that there's really not much he can say that is going to make a difference, one way or another. So he shakes Eddie's hand, and says something along the lines of "you know, who the hell am I to be telling you what to do with your life at this point? I knew you once, but I haven't thought much about you in 20 years. " He wishes Eddie well, shakes his hand, and tells him that he's going to take the subway back home. And he does...cue to black.
It's one of the most striking, if not remarkable, moments I can remember seeing on any television show. Brutal, yet heartbreaking, in its honesty. Brilliant in its simplicity, yet as layered as a great short story.
"Louie." Thursdays, on FX. I don't even mind plugging it.