Auteurism On TV And ‘Louie’

Probably my favourite concept in film is the one of auteur theory. Which, if you’re out in the dark, refers to a film that showcases a pure vision of the director as the sole voice that drives and creates a film. This director isn’t just coming into a film from the woodwork for his next job or paycheck. This is a particularly calculated film where the director has control over all aspects, and his unique voice is discernible in the film through common themes, motifs, camera techniques, dialogue etc.

Unfortunately, being a big TV fan, the auteur theory isn’t that translatable from film to TV, as the medium of television almost prohibits it to a certain sense. New directors are hired for each new episode as a “hired gun” who come in, direct, and leave right away. Now with the ever popular term of “showrunner”, usually the creator or executive producer of a show who runs day-to-day operations and oversees the writing process, their is definitely a sense of the auteur theory in TV, but not in a fully realized definition of the term as in the filmic sense. Shows like The Sopranos, Fringe and Breaking Bad have a unique vision and direction that is influenced and maintained by differing writers and directors, but these shows still contain other people trying to adapt either David Chases, J.H. Wyman or Vince Gilligan’s vision. These showrunners are of course in control of a lot of the content, but aren’t the sole, singular force.

This long-winded beginning is all to say that someone finally found a place for the “auteur theory” in TV, and against better judgment in the world of TV, FX gave Louis C.K. his own show, with free reign to do whatever he wanted week to week. C.K. does everything behind the scenes on Louie, he writes, directs, produces, acts and edits (although in this past season handed some of the editing duties off) all of it. People liken the show to short stories, or mini-independent films, mostly because of Louie’s introspective and inclusive story-telling to himself and the lack of any major continuing storylines, besides smaller themes and ideas. C.K. has freedom like no other person or show on television right now, possibly ever. Obviously, being a comedian this show was billed as a comedy and of course it largely is, but this is C.K.’s show to do whatever he wants and comedic guidelines aren’t always followed. There are several scenes of “drama”, or more accurately C.K. wringing the truths out of real-life that are often sad and sometimes depressing. Also, seeing as this is a comedy, I don’t think anyone really expected how tight and beautifully this show is continually shot. It is a comedy, but the aesthetics and visual look are massively top-notch and continues C.K.’s strength as an auteur and someone who is able to craft a multitude of visions into one package.

Being able to have full control over a film or show is great, but along with that comes all the criticism, as there’s no one available to scapegoat if you’re received less than favorably. C.K. has made quite a few bold choices in his episodes, ones that might not click with me or you, because of that personal nature that is so defined to his likeness and craft that it’s hard to relate to or get. But, the majority of the time, C.K. still carries the same vision, deft, direction and style into new areas that still feel like an episode of Louie, but is still vastly different to the previous episode.

Another one of my favourite ideas from the worlds of film and TV, is trying to top yourself after an amazing or great season of TV. The immense pressure of coming off something of such a success and making it even bigger, more expansive yet still faithful to your viewer is something that fascinates me and must be forever frustrating and hard to pull off. After season 2 of Archer, I never thought they could make a funnier season of TV, with season 3 they somehow made maybe the funniest season of TV (at least for me). The great season 4 of Breaking Bad was not quite eclipsed by season 5, but was closer than I ever thought it’d be. And as I write this I’m wondering if Homeland can expound upon their near perfect first season. Louie is hard to judge as a whole, as the episodes are so different, content wise, from episode to episode. I liked season one, but didn’t really fall in love with the show until the second season, where C.K. really got the confidence to tell his stories, no matter how wacky, weird and depressing they may be. It’s really up in the air for me for what’s better, season two or season three? I loved season two, but the more I think about it season three just seemed more audacious. Whichever the case, I’m sure I’ll be going back and forth over which season is truly greater (not to mention the coming seasons), forgetting the fact all along that I should just shut up and be grateful I have all this great TV at my disposal in the first place.

Louie is a special show, because it allows its creator to practice auteurism within the medium of TV, creating a truly innovative show that reaps rewards for its faithfulness and vision in its content and technique. Louie embodies the auteur theory and allows a window into auteurism for TV, that remains as effective a showcase as any film director has amassed.

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