Louie, TV review: Definitely not a sitcom but strangely riveting

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The Independent Culture

It's time for us all to admit that Louie, the show created by and starring stand-up comedian Louis C.K. is definitely not a sitcom. If you haven't seen Louie, which is on its fourth series, but irritatingly scheduled at 11pm on satellite and cable channel Fox, then the closest comparison is probably Seinfeld.

Like that show it's set in New York City, features a comedian playing a fictionalised version of himself and is book-ended by snippets of stand-up. Louie also takes the Seinfeld concept of "a show about nothing", but pushes it to new extremes. Not only is there no series plot to speak of, or any formal jokes, there are barely any laughs, either.

This week's episode, "Elevator Part 2" broke with even the show's own loose traditions by including points of continuity between episodes. In the first scene we saw Louie pottering around a supermarket, picking up a surprisingly gourmet selection of foods. It turned out the food was all a gift for the elderly neighbour (Ellen Burstyn) who Louie rescued from a broken lift last episode. Or rather it's for his neighbour's non-English speaking niece, the latest in a long line of offbeat romantic encounters for our bachelor hero.

There were scenes in this episode that wouldn't have been out of place in a frothy romantic comedy but these were interspersed with very different tones: Louie discussing school with his rebellious elder daughter Jane, Louie arguing with the mother of his children – and the fact that he's incongruously cast African-American actress Susan Kelechi Watson in this role is a fresh joy every time she's on screen.

Next episode it will be something entirely different again. So Louie is definitely not a sitcom, but whatever it is, it's strangely riveting.