More than ever, Louis C.K. is the man of the moment. He's had a hell of a year already, pioneering new ways of selling tickets and his stand-up special direct to the fans, and yesterday saw him make history by winning seven Emmy nominations — for acting, writing and directing in his FX show "Louie," and for producing, writing, directing and editing his special "Live At The Beacon Theater." No single person has ever had more nominations in a single year (the previous record holder? David Lynch, of all people, for "Twin Peaks"), but he's being typically modest about it, telling the New York Times, "It feels selfish, because I was really rooting for everybody on my show, so I feel a little selfish."
But the show missed out on a Best Comedy nomination, and last night's episode was a pretty convincing argument that C.K. probably deserved an eighth nomination for his series itself. Continuing the overarching examination of masculinity that has been season three of "Louie," "Daddy's Girlfriend, Pt. 1" (the first two-parter we can recall on the show, though last season's "Duckling" was double-length) was after a pleasant but minor stop-over in Miami last week, and the show is at the height of its powers, with a couple of great guest star appearances, and one of the show's few victories for Louie.
Opening with a terrific bit of stand-up about prejudice and how it relates to wanting to fucking Scarlett Johansson, the episode then segues into Louie having breakfast with his kids, who drop a hint about their Mom's "friend" Patrick (who we presumably glimpsed in the premiere), and ask their father, "When are you gonna have a girlfriend?" Cut to the comedy club, and Louie watches the brilliant, dextrously-voiced stand-up Maria Bamford perform, and kill. And you can already see in his eyes that his kids' question is kicking off ideas, particularly as he watches a beautiful, funny woman like Bamford on stage. He botches an attempt to ask for her a drink afterwards, but she cuts through the bullshit and immediately asks him back to her place.
From the next thing we see, however, it didn't go so well. The two lie in bed (curiously, fully-clothed), post-coitally, and pretty much entirely unsatisfied, watching a reality TV show. Bamford suggests they try again, not so much from wanting to, but only because it couldn't possibly get any worse. But Louie's already thinking ahead of himself, and suggests she comes to dinner at his place; a terrible misreading of the situation, and one that she reacts to with a hilarious "Bleurggh," before telling him "You really ruined my night. In two ways now," and adding, in yet another of Louie's emasculations this season, "You're bad at sex."
Still, the encounter doesn't seem to put off Louie's search for a girlfriend (although there's a nicely timed cut to an awkward reunion between Louie and Bamford later on), as he drops his daughter off at school, and goes on to pass three teachers in classrooms, imagining (abetted by a hilarious musical cue) making a pass at each of them. One slams a door in his face, one has a wedding ring, and another he rules out due to an imagined sexual fetish.
But things start to look up once he spots a woman in a book store, played by indie favorite Parker Posey. Ignoring her male colleague (one of our favorite jokes of the episode), he asks for her help to find a book about flowers for his daughter — clearly an off-the-cuff, made up question, and not a particularly great one. But she's helpful, and the two seem to have an instant rapport, despite Louie's faltering game. He returns, now fantasizing about a romantic relationship with her, and she's even more helpful, identifying with his older daughter, who reads "depressing novels where someone's head falls off," and praises him for being a good father. Louie fails at the last to ask her out, but returns, newly shaven, and launches into a funny, touching monologue, where he acknowledges that she must have unwanted male attention purely because she's nice to men like him, before taking the plunge and asking her out. And after briefly screwing with him, telling him she's a lesbian, she agrees, adding, as a backhanded compliment, "I don't pick guys based on looks."
Louie doesn't get a lot of victories in the show, but this was one, and well-earned at that — he's seemingly picked up on his mistakes from throughout the episode and season so far, actually articulated his feelings, and it paid off. Posey's so terrific in the role (it's nice to see her in something other than the Type-A kind of role she so often gets to play), and the two share so much chemistry that we're actively dreading the inevitable implosion in part two next week. But Louie's golfing-type celebration was a great pay-off to a piece of stand up earlier in the episode, and the perfect ending to a warm and consistently funny episode. [A-]
Bits & Pieces
– So, how's it all going to fall apart, then? It's unlikely Posey will be around beyond the next episode, so any theories as to how Louie fucks it all up can be added below.
– The third season's been relatively light on stand-up, but there were gems in this episode, both from Bamford (watch some more of her stuff; she's one of the best of her generation), and from C.K. himself. A particular highlight was his throwaway reference to him jerking off to a wedding album he found in the trash, a particularly colorful, bleakly funny and economical line. That's how it's done, ladies and gents.
– One slight bum note, we have to say, was the reality TV show-within-the-show. It was reasonably well done enough, and the stabbing was a good gag, but it's unfortunate that it comes right on the heels of The Onion's sublime "Sex House" (watch below).
– Speaking of the reality show segment, was that Pat Healy of "The Innkeepers" and "Compliance" as the stabber? There was no indication of who played the part in the credits. We were also briefly convinced that John Gallagher Jr. from "Margaret" and "The Newsroom" played Posey's bookstore colleague, but the credits say otherwise.
– "You're bad at sex" is now our go-to put-down.