“Louie” begins its third season on FX Thursday night (June 28), and it remains maybe the purest expression of a creator’s vision on television. Because as much control as, say, “Mad Men’s” Matthew Weiner or “The Newsroom’s” Aaron Sorkin may have over their shows, they don’t write, direct and star in every episode.
Louis C.K. does that, and he used to edit his own show too. He’s now turned those reins over (mostly) to Susan E. Morse, a long-time Woody Allen collaborator, but he still puts his stamp on virtually every aspect of the show, in part, he says, because he doesn’t want to become complacent.
“One way I do that is to make it harder. I mean, this season was a lot harder than last season,” C.K. says. “It’s just that the production was more difficult, and I did … more things that I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull off. So I always kind of keep the bar ahead of myself; I keep moving it up. I mean, that’s the intention anyway.”
Among the challenges C.K. presented himself this season are a couple of longer arcs — episodes 4 and 5 involve him going out with a very, very quirky woman (Parker Posey), and another multi-episode story involves Jerry Seinfeld. The first few episodes also find Louie the character in a wistful state of mind about his love life, fueled in part by the revelation that his ex-wife, whom we’ll finally see on screen, has a new “friend.”
Louie’s ex is played by Susan Kelechi Watson (“Third Watch,” “NCIS”), who’s African-American — which has taken some early viewers a little bit by surprise. C.K., however, says he never really gave it much thought; he just liked what Watson brought to the role.
“To me the racial thing is like — I think when people probably first see her, their brains do a little bit of DNA math and go, ‘I’m not sure I get how that would happen,'” C.K. says, referring to his two blonde TV daughters. “And then I think with my show, most people, they go, ‘Oh, all right. Just go ahead,’ and then they watch the scene. The thing that’s important is what’s getting said.”
C.K. says he cast Watson in part because “she has a great demeanor for somebody who has moved on in life.”
“That’s what she feels like to me — like she has moved on in life, and she’s on a good new chapter,” he adds. “And I think she looks like she’s in a better new chapter than me as far as us having shared a chapter earlier, so I think that is a good contrast.”
“Louie’s” first few episodes also touch on breakups, a midlife-crisis purchase, a surprising blind date (featuring Oscar winner Melissa Leo) and a trip to Miami (where the show shot on location). No episode is like the one before or after it, which is also part of what keeps C.K. engaged.
“Whenever you give people a show where their brain knows what the pattern is going to be and the brain sets itself — and I think, actually, one reason TV like that has always done well is because there is something comforting where you kind of know what you’re going to be taken through,” he says.
“But it’s just a different group of people who would rather — and probably a smaller group of people — who would rather watch a show where they don’t know how long this is going to go on for. They don’t know if they’re going to see this character’s face ever again. This character might be in the rest of the season, or who knows? I think it’s more organic that way. Life is built that way. You stick with things that are compelling, and you drift away from things that aren’t.”
“Louie” premieres at 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday on FX.