Louie Review: Late Night War Is Hell
Last week, Louie received a surprising offer from the head of CBS Television to be David Letterman’s replacement when the long-time host retires. The uneasiness and uncertainty Louie felt then hasn’t subsided when we see him again in "Late Show (Part 2)."
He’s practically paralyzed by his unwillingness to improve and he seeks out others to hop on board his pity party to make his decision NOT to do it easier. But that’s not what life has in store. We learned life is hard. Though he thinks he has the choice, it seems like there’s not much of one here.
Louie went to his ex because he was betting she’d say no. But she’s improved. She’s in a better place since their split. Now, she wants him to be in a better place, firmly declaring the late night gig will do just that. Very uncommon for the stereotypical ex-wife character (on TV, at least).
The scene in the grocery store threw me off. But I think I understand it now. It was brief, but it highlighted what Louie’s ex had stated without hesitation and with supreme confidence: that the girls don’t need a father. They need a role model.
This incident in the store was just another example of the daughters showing their maturity beyond their years. Louie’s touched upon this in his standup. They’re advanced. He often jokingly admits they’re better people than he is. It was a simple, quick reminder that they’ll be alright without him. It also showed Louie’s cowardice; another reminder of how tough the road ahead will be – late night talk show hosts can’t have that cowardice. Despite the sheepishness of Jimmy Fallon or the pseudo-geekiness of Conan O’Brien... these men have to face a live studio audience and a national audience for hundreds of nights a year.
Then we meet Jack Dahl. When we think of trainers and mentors, we think of regimented authoritarians who dictate and never give in or back down. That’s what makes David Lynch such a remarkable casting choice. The director is known for not playing by the rules, for coloring outside the lines. To see him in this by-the-book role was disorienting.
How does one capture the mentor’s no-nonsense approach in such a short time span? With one camera shot. Overhead, looking down, we get a glimpse into his desk. The most jarring item is the gun. What kind of statement is Louie trying to make with that shot? That this guy’s a straight shooter? He’s all business – which is life (success) or death (failure)? The gun in the desk bit makes me think he’s akin to an old-school private eye; the half empty handle of Jack and overflowing ashtray would’ve been overkill, I guess.
The call from Jay was interesting on many levels. One, you have the fact that Jay has become a villain in the late night landscape. Jimmy Kimmel has come down on him... Howard Stern... his long-standing feud with Letterman. Usually on Louie’s shows, he takes the time to debunk the assumptions made about people – like he did with Dane Cook. But here, he’s reinforcing it and Leno happily plays along. But I think I speak for all viewers when I say I bought his act as the former ‘hip, cool guy’ who’s lost his appeal courtesy of the late night grind.
You have to suspect that even though Chris Rock assures Louie that Leno was lying, Jay’s words stuck with Louie when he vehemently refused to wear a suit or shave his face or get control of his hair.
I appreciate Louie’s loner mentality and rogue, on-the-fringe stance, but he’s also a realist. He knows his schtick won’t fly – that’s why he’s acting like a kid, like a rebellious teen who doesn’t want to conform to The Man. He figures if he goes through the motions and makes life difficult for others, they’ll give up on him and he can at least say he tried without having a guilty conscience…initially.
The diner scene with Rock can be summed up by a quote by Sun Tzu: “All war is deception.” Here we think Chris is being a buddy and helping Louie out by pointing out Leno’s deception in the ‘Late Night Wars’ when he’s the one deceiving Louie about his own intentions. I didn’t pick up on it at first, like most people probably didn’t, but Chris’ inability to make eye contact and his constant checking of his phone upon further review give him away. Rock calls out, ‘watch your back’ just as he makes moves behind it.
This isn’t war just yet. It’s boot camp. Hell week. To quote a song from the Rocky soundtrack, ‘There’s no easy way out. There’s no shortcut home."
Despite Louie’s nonchalant attempts to sabotage this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he reluctantly pushes forward because it’s new and fresh and different. He’s stepping outside of himself, which is something that he loathes but we’ve seen it can also excite and invigorate him.
The journey should be fun (and painful) to watch. He’s been physically, emotionally and psychologically abused, but now it’s for something big. All the bruises (ego and physical) are not without reason. But, as I’ve said in past reviews, we’ve come to know what to expect (failure) but we’re just tuning in to see the fallout.