My memory, as always, is sketchy, but I think in the very first episode of the television series Louie the eponymous protagonist has a disastrous first date with a woman who gets so bored and irritated that she actually flees Louie's company and takes off in a waiting helicopter. Louie is left behind sitting on a bench by the river as the commotion of the helicopter disappears on the horizon—a victim of one of the most emphatic and surreal rejections imaginable.
I think this sequence epitomizes the patchwork appeal of the innovative series, which is an often uneasy blend of comedy, drama, and ridiculous flights of fancy. It is in fact this destabilization of genre that is perhaps the series' most jarring quality. Louis C.K. is a stand-up comedian who writes, directs, and acts in an ostensible comedy series which often willfully refuses to be funny.
One of the most remarkable episodes of the series featured Parker Posey as a bookstore clerk whom Louie (after much preambling) asks out on a date. Much to Louie's surprise, this pretty, seemingly sane woman says yes—but the date which follows offers a glimpse both into the psychological chaos lurking beneath her staid appearance and into the real heart of New York City—not the caricatured Greenwich Village streets built on a studio lot in Southern California for an episode of Friends, but the strange, unpredictable, and often lonely streets of that imposing metropolis.
Many of the hijinks in this date from hell wouldn't be out of place in, say, Scorsese's After Hours or early Jarmusch, but the last few minutes—obscure and mysterious as the human psyche—distinguish the episode from the standard-fare Adventures in Gotham schtick.
The reason I'm talking about Louie is, first and foremost, because it's something different. Even if you end up hating it—and many will, primarily for its failure to follow the rules—you have to admit that it's trying something new. Sure, its ancestry can be traced back, dimly, to Seinfeld and other shows which gradually shook off the constraints of traditional narrative, but Louie isn't afraid to be gloomy or portentous from time to time either. The triviality and pettiness of life that Seinfeld deftly trafficked in aren't its only stomping grounds. Loneliness, failure, and death are other preoccupations—but Louie's isn't the glib, wholly cynical approach of Larry David (or at least it isn't always); it revels in the endless and irreducible difficulties of modern existence.
All of this isn't to say that Louie can't also be cheap, childish, and crass. That's the point—it can be absolutely anything. When Melissa Leo smashes Louie's head into a pickup truck window under (shall we say) curious circumstances, we know that we're not cozying up to a connect-the-dots sitcom. Actually, Louie is much more 'sit' than 'com,' so if you're accustomed to the straight-ahead approach of much of Louie's (admittedly very funny) stand-up material, I think you'll be surprised by this strange kaleidoscope of a television series.