'Louie' Season Premiere Review: "Back / Model"

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FX's ‘Louie’’s finally returns from hiatus for its season 4 double-premiere "Back" and "Model,"  the first half of which sees Louie dealing with a few problems of his advancing age, while the second installment finds the sadsack comedian bombing at a benefit, only to rebound with a beautiful model before things go terribly wrong..

Last season’s ‘Louie’ finale “New Years Eve” saw Louie celebrating Christmas with his daughters, until his New Year's loneliness and an invitation from his sister (Amy Poehler) end up taking him to strange new places. So how do "Back" and "Model” begin the cycle of misery anew?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Louie’ season 4 premieres, “Back” and "Model"!

After reminiscing how he'd forgotten his own age of 46, Louie awakens one morning to the sound of overenthusiastic garbage men loudly tossing around the cans. Soon, the men break Louie’s windwos and enter the bedroom, trashing the apartment to Louie’s annoyance. After an obnoxious run-in with his building’s crass maintenance man, Louie has coffee with a friend, who jokingly explains how little he values Louie’s children, or Louie himself.

Louie picks Jane and Lily up from school, though Jane complains about everything from her backpack to Louie’s choice of dinner that night. Louie tucks the kids in later, doing a Beatles impression before heading out to play poker with his comedian friends. Jim Norton explains to the group’s amusement that he uses a vibrator as part of his masturbation routine, something even Sarah Silverman can’t quite grasp.

Louie casually enters a sex shop looking to check out their selection of vibrators, but experiences a back spasm when he goes to point at a shelf, and quickly retreats from the establishment. An old woman helps the ailing Louie find a cab, after which Louie attempts to see his building’s family physician, Dr. Bigelow (Charles Grodin). Dr. Bigelow blithely insists that human evolution has made improper use of the back, and he can do nothing to stop the occasional ache.

Bigelow’s receptionist shares with Louie her own method for dealing with back stress, that of a giant vibrating massager, quickly leading Louie to purchase one for himself. Later, Louie muses in his act that plenty of interesting things continue to happen after one dies, only not to the deceased. Louie remembers a woman who believed 31 to be an advanced aged, though theorizing that she could still commit a murder, go to prison, and have a nice life.

"Model"

FX

Louie finds himself embarrassed by a waitress who doesn’t want to have to reject his advances yet again, just before Jerry Seinfeld shows up and offers Louie the chance to open for him at a Long Island benefit the following day. Louie accepts, agreeing to tone down his material, and catching a bus out East the next day. Upon arriving however, Louie realizes himself vastly under-dressed for the tuxedo affair, something Jerry begrudgingly points out upon seeing Louie.

Reluctantly borrowing a security guard’s jacket, Louie is rushed to the stage without so much as the heart disease foundation’s name, quickly bombing and seeming out of the place with the crowd. Only one woman repeatedly laughs at his failed jokes and wealth humor, before Louie finally introduces Jerry, who promptly derides Louie to the crowd for his failed act. Louie sulks outside, before the woman from the crowd (Yvonne Strahovski) appears and admits to enjoying how badly he must have embarrassed the snooty crowd, next offering him a ride.

Louie and the woman drive to her lavish beach house, at which she promptly remvoes her dress and goes for a quick swim in the ocean, admitting herself to be in much better spirits by his presence. Once inside, Louie makes uncomfortable observations about the woman’s astronaut father, before she makes an aggressive advance. Afterward, the woman explains that a man who can make her laugh is valuable, and attempts to return the favor by tickling him, leading Louie to accidentally knock her unconscious in his protest.

With the woman now in the hospital, Louie tries to call Jerry for help, to no avail. The woman’s father soon arrives and punches Louie in the face, necessitating for the two to be separated. Jerry’s lawyer (Victor Garber) arrives and explains that the woman, Blake, has suffered permanent eye damage that will put an end to her modeling career. The family doesn’t wish the matter made public, but still intends to sue Louie for compensation, the best case scenario of which sees Louie making monthly payments of $5000 toward a $5 million sum. Louie insists it was an accident, but the lawyer points out it would only be worse if they went to trial.

Having returned to the city, Louie explains the situation to the earlier waitress, Jamie, who now takes pity at his laughable plight and offers to get the two of them drinks.

OUR REVIEW:

It’s hard to believe we’re really waited close to two years for any fresh installments of ‘Louie,’ so much so that we’d nearly forgotten that the season 3 closer featured Amy Poehler in a thankless role as Louie’s sister. Try as the comedian may to fight the current, ‘Louie’ tends to be at its most memorable in the more serialized installments, seen in 2012 when the Letterman trilogy provided perhaps the most momentum the series had ever had. We know Louis C.K. and FX agreed to the two-year gap in the interest of C.K. wanting to keep his material and the resultant show as fresh as possible, though it’s difficult to say if tonight’s “Back” and “Model” are the deserving fruits of that labor, or intentionally more inconsequential to ease us back into the world, and its characters.

“Back” had some strong moments of humor, between the fantastical garbagemen taking their commotion directly into the comedian’s bedroom (it’s exceptionally apt if you’ve ever lived in a city), and the laid-back camaraderie of the comedians’ poker game. On the surface, ‘Louie’ episodes generally carry stronger laugh quotients with scenes that allow the comedians to be themselves, as we see Louie performing more successful standup and riffing with fellow titans of the industry. Guest star-wise, it was certainly fun to see Charles Grodin as a disinterested doctor, though the role proved small enough that we’d expect the character to return in some form later in the season.

The second half of tonight’s premiere made reasonable use of its guest stars as well, between Jerry Seinfeld (of whom it’s become increasingly difficult to tell the cantankerous real-world Jerry from the cantankerous ‘Louie’ version), and the always-welcome Yvonne Strahovski (here pulling double duty opposite the ’24: Live Another Day’ premiere). “Model” treads a bit more on the poignant side without C.K.’s successful standup routines to balance out the melodrama, but even the familiar formula works as we see a dreamlike situation quickly become a nightmare, though a small ray of hope ekes through by the end.

In typical Louie fashion, we’d doubt if the resulting financial woes ever end up impacting the season going forward, or if we even necessarily need such a strict sense of continuity, but the message is well received. In the end, it’s tough to say if tonight’s premieres made up for the two-year gap in between episodes, or if future installments will better justify the need to freshen material though “Back” and “Model” at least appear not to have lost any steps in the meantime.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of awkward ‘Louie’ laughs? Did the premiere hold up to the previous season in 2012? Let us know in the comments and check back next week for more all-new ‘Louie’ episode recaps of "So Did the Fat Lady," and "Elevator Part 1" on FX!

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