Friday, August 6, 2010

Louis C.K. and Eric Schaeffer: Good and Evil

Tuesdays at 11 on FX is a masterpiece of television. I say this in all sincerity. FX has always been a channel you can depend on for quality television (the only channel that beats it is AMC but that's because it has Mad Men and Breaking Bad). FX, home of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Rescue Me can now add another show to that pedigree. Louie, created by Louis C.K., has become one of my favorite shows.

Prepare to love this man America.

What Louis C.K. has done with his program is something that most fail at today: it shows something real. In a world saturated with reality shows (insert Jersey Shore joke here), life has never been more fabricated. Louis C.K. brings us back to the real world. Louie shows a world of absurdities that is a perfect reflection of just how empty life is. Dancing between poignancy and c*nt jokes, the man creates a tapestry where we are all aggressors in our own private hell. But Louis C.K. still finds the humor in each raw moment which is what makes him brilliant.

Many shows attempt to be deep or have a message and that's usually their first mistake. The mistake lies in the fact that they try. They try too hard for that matter. For this example I will pick on Eric Schaeffer because he is such an easy target. Schaeffer is, in a way, the complete opposite of Louis C.K. A semi-successful screenwriter and director, Eric Schaeffer represents every hack that is so convinced of his own talent that he will go from failed project to failed project like a script-bearing nomad to share his supposed genius.

This man is Satan.

Once upon a time Eric Schaeffer had a show on FX called Starved. It was a comedy centered around a group of people with eating disorders who stumble through life dealing with their problems. Hilarity, no doubt, ensues. Starved premiered next to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia but unlike It's Always Sunny, Starved was not picked up for renewal for it's second season. Some may make the argument that a show making fun of eating disorders was too controversial to continue, but the reality was Eric Schaeffer sucks. Not content with sucking on cable, Schaeffer moved to pay television to try his luck there. His new show, Gravity, premiered on Starz cable channel in April. Don't bother looking for it though because Gravity was just recently canceled at the end of June. Why was the show canceled? Because Eric Schaeffer sucks. The show involved a support group for suicide survivors and a wacky detective who is stalking one of the members. The detective is played by none other than Eric Schaeffer and he is just as annoying as he was in Starved.

Sensing a pattern here?

The reason why Schaeffer is such a hack is because he doesn't know how to write. He can't write characters who belong to this reality and any moment they are involved in is forced. Nothing flows naturally and even by the show's own internal logic everything is an uneven mess. Schaeffer replaces any true emotions with quirky piano music, like a laugh track for pretension. There is plenty of comedy to be found in tragedy, Eric Schaeffer just doesn't know how to find it and that is why he is a failure.

Apologizes for the Eric Schaeffer tangent but he is such an easy target that it's hard not to get worked up. Back to the original point, Louis C.K. succeeds at what Schaeffer can only dream of. No matter how absurd the situation Louis C.K. is able to bring it to a kind of reality. This is his view of the world and we are along for the ride. No matter how insane the situation becomes we are right there next to Louis and going along with him. He invites the audience and doesn't slap them in the face with pretension. Like Schaeffer, Louis had a previous failed television show. Lucky Louie premiered on HBO and was actually successful, it was only canceled because HBO didn't feel it fit with their other shows. Like how Schaeffer went from cable to pay channels, Louis went the opposite route and found his home at Starved's previous network: FX.

FX, you're my hero.

One can describe Louie as a show that illustrates the life of a comedian but it doesn't do justice to what Louis C.K. has pulled off. On the stage doing stand-up between vignettes, Louis is in control and confident, it's in the real world that Louis finds himself lost and observing an absurd world that we all live in. It's on the stage that he tries to make sense of it all but outside the environment he can do no more than observe one absurdity after another. It is in these moments that Louis plays the role of straight-man for the audience. Moments aren't always funny but we are left to decide for ourselves what to laugh at or what to let sit with us. Louis shows the most personal and vulnerable parts of his life and the viewer benefits from it all.

And in the end good won out over evil, because Louie was renewed for a second season last week and Eric Schaeffer is still looking for anyone that will read his next script. The world is just after all.

For those that aren't familiar with Louis C.K.'s stand-up, here's one of my favorite bits from him.

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