"Lucky Louie" got a whole sackful of lousy reviews when it premiered on HBO, and most of them seemed to take issue with how crass the show's tone was. Since I had just recently subscribed to HBO and was determined to watch ALL of their typically excellent original programming, I decided that I would watch the first episode, despite the bad reviews.
Half an hour later, I'd been laughing for nearly half an hour. This is a FUNNY show. Yes, there is a lot of profanity; yes, there are some uncomfortable bits involving how inadvertently racist the main character is. But so what? It's nothing compared to "Deadwood," I assure you of that.
There's nothing here that's exactly groundbreaking or revolutionary; it's really a very normal sitcom in the vein of something you might have seen in the late '70s to mid-'80s. The plots are typical of that genre. But the characters talk like real people (or at least like real people I know; maybe you don't know people like this, but I certainly do), and they kind of act like real people, too. At least, Louie and Kim do; the other characters fall more in the vein of the typical wacky sitcom character. They're kind of like potty-mouthed Kramers.
Somehow, for me, what all this adds up to is a VERY loving portrayal of a marriage. Louie is constantly doing something incredibly boneheaded to make his wife, Kim, slackjawed with astonishment. The specifics may well be flights of fancy, but the reactions seem very genuine. This, to me, FEELS like a real married couple. They don't necessarily like each other very much, but they definitely love each other. That may sound like a contradiction, but you may change your mind after watching these DVDs.
The actig is generally strong. Louis C.K. is sort of in the same tradition as Jerry Seinfeld and Ray Romano in the sense that while you can't exactly make a claim for him being a great actor, you also can't imagine his show without him in it. Pamela Adlon -- who also does Bobby's voice on "King of the Hill" -- is terrific as Kim; she's sharp, sexier than heck, and very funny in a put-upon sort of way. The aforementioned wacky sitcom characters are played by Michael G. Hagerty, Jim Norton, Laura Kightlinger, and Rick Shapiro, and they are all very, very funny.
Also definitely worth mentioning are Jerry Minor and Kimberly Hawthorne, who play Louie and Kim's African American neighbors. There is a very funny dynamic between these two couples, in which Louie tries VERY hard to make friends with Walter simply because he's never had a black friend before. Naturally, Louie overcompensates and ends up being more of a racist by accident than many men manage on purpose. Some of these scenes are just hysterical, mostly because of Minor's droll performance. In some episodes, you can see that he is so put upon by his wife that he tries to put up with Louie, just so he'll have someone else to talk to. This is all handled in a manner close to perfection.
To sum up, I think this was a pretty terrific show. It's VERY funny, touching in an unexpected sort of way, and in its own fashion it's up to par with the rest of HBO's intimidatingly good output. I'm confused as to why critics didn't find this to be the case, and I'm hopeful that the DVDs will help the show find the audience it deserves, even if it IS after the fact.