When I'm asked what FX's Louie is about, my response usually goes something along these lines: "It's about this middle-aged comedian who gets in awkward situations and generally comes out on the wrong end of his misadventures." As those of you who watch the show know, Louie is a well-intentioned, tough-luck kind of guy who keeps digging through the shovelfuls of crap that are heaped upon him. He's got a winning percentage roughly in the same neighborhood as the Pittsburgh Pirates (pre-Andrew McCutcheon). But in last night's exhilarating and outstanding episode, "The Late Show (Part 3)," Louie won the big one.
Life's victories are all relative, and while Louie didn't usurp David Letterman and get the job as the new host of Late Show, he won an even longer running match that he's been battling all his life. Whether he's hanging out in Miami, confronting his ex-wife, or going on a parade of tragic dates, Louie has been struggling to climb Confidence Mountain and, quite literally in the last two parts of this "Late Night" saga, he's generally been life's punching bag.
It's not clear whether Louie even wanted the Late Show job in the first place. His ex wanted him to have the job. His agent wanted him to have the job. The guy who manages his retirement portfolio wanted him to have the job. Louie wavered not just because it would mean a buttload of work, but because he looked into the eyes of his precious daughters and saw what he'd be missing with this new "success." We love Louie because we know he knows the difference between right and wrong, and because he recognizes the important things in life.
The real war hiding behind the goal we saw—Louie getting the Late Show job—was the one between the insecure Louie of old and the self-assured Louie who needed to punch his way out. Ultimately, Louie's drive to win the job came not from the promises of money and supermodel girlfriends and a mansion in Westchester County, but from proving himself to his detractors, the weasels in show business ("Seinfeld!" (said to the tune of "Newman!"))... and as a nice side effect, to himself.
And it's that last bit that became the most satisfying scene of Louie to date. Chewed up and spit out by a system that used him as a negotiating ploy, Louie didn't go home and cry. He walked right over the Ed Sullivan Theater and stood up straight, his chest puffed out and swelling with pride, his arms raised above his head because fuck you, David Letterman. And everything was glued together by the simplest of productions and incredible music that crescendoed to Rocky-theme proportions. When no one, not even himself, thought he could do it, Louie went and killed it. In this case, "it" wasn't winning the Late Show job, but this "it" meant a lot more to Louie and to us.
Are we at a turning point in the life of Louie and Louie? Maybe, maybe not. But this week, as the show's final credits rolled, Louie wasn't a punching bag. As of now, he's still fighting. And it's a beautiful thing to watch.
– I loved the turn of Jack Dahl (David Lynch) from rickety old CBS exec to wise sage, the Mr. Miyagi of late-night. He ended up being exactly the mentor Louie needed.
– Jack: "Tune in every night folks, it's the crying cleaning lady show!"
– Louie: "You know what your problem is? You're just a pencil penis parade."
– What kind of powerful man is Louis C.K. in the comedy industry? He got Jay Leno, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld to all agree to play two-faced scheming asshole versions of themselves with essentially zero parody.
– Yes, we'd all watch a late-night talk show hosted by Louis C.K.
– Most importantly, this episode just made me feel really good. One of the best episodes of the series, right up there with "Miami" and "Duckling," but uniquely its own.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom