Last night's viewing: Louie, Fox; The Following, Sky Atlantic

 

For most British viewers, Louie’s reputation will have long preceded the thing itself. It runs something like this: groundbreaking low-budget comedy, impeccably free of interference from the suits and trading on the poor schlub candour of its online begetter – Louis CK, a comedian of cult standing.

Louie likes jazz and there was a sense that what you got in these shows was as free-form, as daring, and as prone to culs-de-sac as a jazz improvisation. It may be a bit of a disappointment, then, to find that the first episode of a show that has now reached its third series in the States looks at first a good deal more conventional than you might expect. Bear with it. It really isn’t.

A lot of comedians have done routines about the aggravation of modern packaging, for instance, one of the stand-up sequences that interrupt the dramatised passages in the comedy. In Louie’s case, he was describing the difficulty the small children at his daughters’ school have in opening milk cartons, one of the things he helps them with when he volunteers as a lunch supervisor. Not all comedians would pay off as Louie does, though. “I’m not better at it...” he  explains. “I just cope with the stress better than they do.  I don’t cry like a little bitch because I can’t open my milk.”

And although the core material of this first episode, a chaotic school trip and a disastrous blind date, are hardly groundbreaking as situations, Louie’s treatment of them is never quite what you might expect. You get boilerplate stuff, like Louie’s panicked explanation to his date of why he’s wearing a suit (he stammers out that he’s just come from his father’s  funeral and then has to back-pedal furiously). But you also get fine visual comedy, such as the reflexive pasted-on grin Louie adopts whenever his date looks at him, and sudden sideways darts into something far more surreal. The date ends with Louie’s hapless partner literally being helivaced out, as if she’s escaping from Saigon. It obeys no standard playbook of comic construction, but it works.

Episode two, which goes out next Tuesday, is probably a better representative of just how far Louie is prepared to bend the sitcom format. Built around a poker session with friends, it mostly consists of heterosexual speculation about gay sex (one of the players is gay and stoically prepared to answer dumb questions). It’s a scabrously funny sequence that manages simultaneously to be honest about straight men’s prejudices and offer an example of what mutual tolerance might look like. It concludes with a kind of mea culpa, in which Louie is gently taken to task for his use of the word faggot in his stand-up routines, a thoughtful, even moving moment that somehow doesn’t end up feeling like a grandstanding of superior conscience.

The Following was created by Kevin Williamson, who knowingly guyed the conventions of the  horror film in the Scream movies. Here, he’s produced something ripe for undermining parody but forgotten to add the face-saving wink. Kevin Bacon plays a damaged FBI man hauled out of retirement after his biggest catch, a serial-killing English professor obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe, escapes from prison. James Purefoy is the psychopathic genius, bent on continuing what he likes to describe as  his “art works” with the help of a troop of serial-killer  wannabes that he’s groomed over the internet.

And it’s blood-boltered trash from start to finish. The investigators are those over-excitable types who no sooner have an intuition about a lead than they’re running out of the door to leap into their SUVs, yelling urgently as they go. And Bacon’s character is one of those moody types who expresses his frustration with standard procedure by throwing furniture around the place. Several victims are found with their eyes pulled out. They may have been watching The Following.

 

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project