Big-name guest-stars and multi-episode story arcs are among the things to look forward to when Louis C.K.’s FX comedy “Louie” returns for its third season Thursday night.
The show is still about Louie — playing himself as a standup comedian living in New York who is divorced with two young daughters. Relationships with women are a recurring theme in the new season, with Gaby Hoffmann, Parker Posey and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo as three of the women Louie hooks up with.
In fact, his liaison with Leo in Episode Two, one of several we got a chance to preview, is so — how to put this? — “adult” in nature that we had to marvel at how the comedian gets away with material such as this on advertiser-supported TV.
We asked him about that in a conference call on Wednesday. “Is there nothing out of bounds anymore” on basic cable? we asked him. C.K. answered that he leaves those judgments up to the professionals at FX.
“You can’t show sex and you can’t show people’s parts and there’s words you can’t say,” he said. “The people at FX who do standards and practices are very smart. I trust them. I never argue with them. They try to keep me within the place where it’s really … On basic cable, it’s not an FCC thing. It’s about where [FX is] gonna get [complaining] phone calls from and who’s gonna bug them.”
Still, in terms of its content, “Louie” goes farther than just about any other show on basic cable, in the process earning its 10:30 time period (9:30c).
What else should you know about the new season? These five things might come in handy:
1) In addition to the women mentioned above, other guest stars this season are comedian Allen Havey, Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld. Louie was especially upbeat about the Seinfeld guest shot for, among other reasons, it is quite sustained, stretching over three episodes for a multi-episode story arc (episodes 10, 11 and 12 this season, as a matter of fact). However, C.K. would reveal absolutely nothing about Seinfeld’s role or the story he’s in. In real life, the two comedians have known each other for about 20 years.
2) Among the comedic topics Louie gets into this season: Why heterosexual men are worried they’ll be mistaken for gay; and, along those same lines, why straight men can never use the word “wonderful”; and his young daughter’s joke-telling ability. In fact, C.K. “performed” versions of these bits when he guested on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” this past Monday night.
3) A new character is introduced — Louie’s ex-wife — and, surprise, she’s African-American: The choice is raising eyebrows for the simple reason that, in the show, the two kid actresses who play Louie’s daughters are white and, as a result, it’s doubtful they could be the off-spring of an African-American mother (though anything is possible). Still, C.K. explained that that sort of “logic” isn’t important to him. Instead, he made the casting decision based solely on how the actress — Susan Kelechi Watson — handled her audition. “A lot of the stuff we do on this show I’m not sure I’m going to do it until I see who’s playing it,” he told reporters. “I wrote a script with [the ex-wife character] in it and I had the casting people go look for someone and I told them to open it way up and just bring anybody. And I really liked what this woman did so I decided to stick with [her].”
4) The new season has 13 episodes, and Louie says he worked harder on them than he’s ever worked: “This season was a lot harder than last season,” he said. “The production was more difficult. And I did more things that I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull off.” He also said the show is less autobiographical this year than in previous seasons. “The show has really broken off into fiction much more this year than last year,” he said. “And so it’s not really drawing from my life much anymore.” For example, the ex-wife character is nothing like his real ex-wife, he said.
5) The show is hilarious, and strictly for adults: Louis C.K. is a decidedly adult comic, who FX is essentially allowing to say (almost) anything he wants on a variety of topics that were once restricted to adult nightclubs. So be forewarned: If you’re squeamish about no-holds-barred comedy, then tread carefully. But if you’re among the many who who find Louis C.K. irresistible, then you can’t miss this.
“Louie” starts its third season Thursday, June 28, at 10:30 p.m./9:30c on FX.