TV review: “Louie” is finally back

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From the May 1, 2014 edition

After taking 2013 off from television shows, Louis C.K. returns Monday night with probably the best comedy on television in “Louie.” The biggest question is whether “Louie” will return with the sheer genius it had in the first three seasons. Judging by the first four episodes … yup.

“Louie” has always been an idiosyncratic, often surreal walk through the mind of C.K. And if you’re ever seen C.K.’s standup — and if you haven’t, cue the Netflix now — you know he’s got an incredible ability to balance humor, darkness and introspection with aplomb. But in “Louie” C.K. gets to flex those creative, fictional muscles to produce something possibly exceeding his standup — the best currently out there.

When C.K. gets the opportunity to make-up a story, or take a real event and twist it toward the uncanny, he crafts it into something truly compelling. It could result in gripping drama, hilarious comedy, the downright bizarre or even heartbreaking romance (or lack thereof).

In Season 4, “Louie” tackles doctor visits, dating someone completely out of your league, dating someone you think you’re too good for and finding companionship in the oddest circumstances possible. Spoiler alert: There’s also another fantastic poker scene like one from the first season.

While a lot of these early episodes don’t represent “Louie” at its funniest — except for that poker scene — the deft writing and directing makes each episode something special. C.K. has clearly grown as a force behind the camera over “Louie’s” run. C.K. uses doses of humor, but the most impressive aspects are his ability to weave together themes and ideas through multiple vignettes and even episodes.

One of the most remarkable skills “Louie” employs is letting a guest star or someone else be the voice of reason to Louie’s, and thusly the audiences’, flaws. The third episode features one such scene that I literally applauded out loud.

We should all be happy that “Louie” is back on TV. And even happier that letting C.K. do whatever he wants still results in the most original material on TV.

Photo courtesy FX