|Lucky Louie: The Complete Series (2006)
Starring: Louis C.K., Pamela Adlon, Kelly Gould, Michael Haggerty, Jim Norton, Laura Kightlinger, Jerry Minor, Kim Hawthorne, Rich Shapiro
Despite what the name of the show may suggest, comedian Louis C.K. is far from lucky. Then again, the story of his failed comedy series is one we’ve all heard many times before – a brilliant comic creates a sitcom based on his own stand-up material only to watch as it crumbles before his very eyes – but the sheer fact that it was being produced by HBO certainly made its future more promising. Nonetheless, after only one season on the air, the show was given the “Comeback” treatment and canned for lack of a stronger audience. You can’t say HBO didn’t try, either, because the premium channel scheduled some of their biggest shows (“The Sopranos” and “Entourage”) as lead-ins for the adult-themed comedy, and while “Lucky Louie” certainly has its moments as a modern-day “Honeymooners,” the final product pales in comparison.
The first show in the history of HBO to be taped in front of a live audience, “Lucky Louie” has an incredibly simple premise: when Louie (Louis C.K.) isn’t playing the role of Mr. Mom for daughter Lucy (Kelly Gould), he works part-time at a muffler shop, while his wife, Kim (Pamela Adlon, perhaps best known as the voice of Bobby on “King of the Hill”), is the family’s real breadwinner. Of course, this highly untraditional arrangement only makes Louie even more embarrassed about his complete lack of success, and while the couple struggles to stay above the poverty line, their relationship is dragged through the hellish obstacle course known as marriage.
Joined by a group of blue-collar friends – including his boss, Mike (Michael Hagerty), his drug-dealing slacker pal, Rich (Jim Norton), and his next-door neighbor, Walter (Jerry Minor) – most of Louie’s day-to-day “adventures” revolve around mature subject matter like masturbation, sex and language, and though the writing exposes a certain level of reality that most men can probably relate to, it ultimately feels like the show is trying way to hard to be cutting edge. No one cares to see Richard Shapiro (who plays Kim’s brother, Jerry) naked, and the fact that the producers would stoop to such a level to make the show raunchier is exactly why it didn’t win over many fans.
The good news, however, is that the complete series is finally being released on DVD in a two-disc set that includes all twelve originally broadcast episodes, as well as the previously unaired thirteenth episode, “Clown Time is Over.” Unfortunately, the poor offering of bonus material will likely cancel out any feelings of satisfaction, and while the real highlight of the set probably should have been the four audio commentary tracks featuring co-stars Louis C.K., Pamela Aldon, Jim Norton, Rick Shapiro and executive producer Mike Royce, they’re laced with such bitter feelings towards the show’s cancellation that they’re not even worth listening to. Furthermore, the behind-the-scenes featurette (“A Week in the Life of Lucky Louie”) isn’t all that exciting.In its attempt to deliver a cutting edge comedy in the same vein as “The Honeymooners” and “All in the Family,” “Lucky Louie” isn’t a complete failure, but there’s certainly enough proof as to why it never lasted longer than one season. It’s not that the show doesn’t have its comedic moments (because it does), but they’re few and far between what many couch potatoes have come to expect from television these days. You’ll probably laugh at the idiotic situations Louie gets himself into, as well as the juvenile behavior in which he deals with them, but when the episode has ended, you also probably won’t be jonesing for any more. And in an age where network executives base their programming decisions almost solely on audience reaction (even by those that probably don’t even qualify to make such important choices), “Lucky Louie” never had a chance.