63. "Kim's O," Lucky Louie (2006)
Welcome to the “100 Best Sitcom Episodes of All Time,” a countdown for winter 2012. Each episode will get a separate blog post, counting backward toward No. 1. A list of the programs revealed so far is here and an introduction to the project is here.
Lucky Louie was Louis C.K.'s attempt to revitalize the live-audience sitcom format on HBO, which cancelled it after one season and pretty much guaranteed that the genre would remain forbidden on upscale cable networks (TV Land and TBS not among them). It's not as exciting as his current series on FX, but I wish it had gotten at least a second season, which is usually when this kind of show starts to work.
HBO clearly went along with Lucky Louie's antique style because it promised to be a raunchier show than anything that had aired on broadcast TV, and "Kim's O" is perhaps its raunchiest episode. It might have also killed any chances of a renewal, according to the star''s DVD commentary. As he tells it, HBO helpfully reminded him during production that nudity was A-OK, but "Kim's O" features the paunchy actor — and not Pamela Adlon as his wife — leaping out of bed and giving us a glimpse of his privates. Add the fact that C.K. has a huge bruise on his arm during the scene, and that he comes very close to whinnying like a horse during sex, and HBO must have figured out that Lucky Louie wasn't going to provide any moments to pair with The Sopranos' "Bada Bing!" scenes on the network's promos.
Kim: This feels different!
Louie: (considers) Not to me.
Kim: I think your dick was different.
Louie: I'm using the same one!
Kim: Maybe the angle was different?
Louie: All right. (shifts position)
Kim: No, that's not right! I can see your bald spot, and I couldn't see it before.
Maybe the line "You're going to break my dick off, you fucking lunatic!" is better? (Or am I actually remembering that one from The Bob Newhart Show?)
In "Kim's O," Louie gives the 37-year-old Kim her first orgasm. ("It only took you eight years to do it," she says.) But then they can't replicate the experience, and Kim decides that if she's not going to be satisfied, Louie shouldn't be either...
Like I said, this is as filthy as a sitcom gets, but what strikes me is that Louie and Kim are not the immature characters of Seinfeld or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, who seem to behave selfishly out of pure instinct. (Though I should mention that Seinfeld has a pretty good female orgasm episode with "The Mango.") Louie and Kim are adult characters who can never completely disregard each other's feelings even when they get obsessed with some pretty animalistic urges, and much of the show's comedy is from their frustration with this conflict. (Sorry to bring up That Show again, but this what I like about Everybody Loves Raymond, where the characters don't have the Seinfeldian option of just cutting loose annoying boyfriends or girlfriends at the end of an episode.)
The devolution of Louis and Kim's sex life into mere mechanics, akin to trying to make the perfect omelet and throwing out every attempt, is funny in a way I haven't seen on another sitcom, which is why "Kim's O" is on the list despite the show's very rough edges (including most of the supporting cast).
• The A.V. Club's Noel Murray covered Lucky Louie for the site's Very Special Episode department (where the second photo in this post appeared) and examined why the show didn't last. He's a little harsh on Louis C.K.'s acting ability, but C.K. has mocked it himself plenty of times :
Ultimately, C.K. may have misjudged some fundamental factors when it comes to making a show like this. The Lucky Louie DVD includes a featurette that documents the weeklong production schedule for a typical episode—a process that included a lot of rewriting, blocking, and taping in front of two separate audiences to allow for even more tweaks. Talking to Maron [Marc Maron of the WTF podcast], C.K. says that in his mind, he envisioned a much looser show, with minimal rewrites and rehearsal and more trust in the process of creating comedy in the moment, letting the audience guide the performance. Instead, the fussier process of modern sitcom creation kicked in, “Because that’s how people know how to do it.” Making matters worse: C.K. wasn’t much of an actor back in 2006. He’s hardly Olivier now, but he’s learned a trick or two over the years about how to invest lines with some natural energy. On Lucky Louie, his character was listless by design, which often made his half of any two-person scene a virtual void.
• The full episode "Kim's O" is here at the Veoh.com streaming website. I'm not embedding it because it has commercials and prompts pop-up ads, but I played it without any problems on my Mac.
• Thanks for sticking with this list so far! As we get closer to the top, certain shows appear with more frequency, and there are lots of well-known classics to come.