The Age of Louie

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It takes a lot to start a new wave of television. You have to be expressive, influential, and most importantly, hold meaning and relevance for those watching. Our most recent wave of great TV has been the “golden age” of cable dramas with antiheroes at their forefront. However, the age of the antihero is over. Or at least is getting there. Instead of clinging to the past, it’s time for TV to move forward. And it already has.

FX’s Louie has sparked the next wave of great television. This might sound like a surprise because based on its description alone (Louis C.K. plays a fictional version of himself in this series that follows the comedian through the lows of being an awkward single dad in New York.), Louie sounds like a “normal” show. And it is! Louis C.K. is an ordinary everyman telling everyday stories in ways that are unusual for television. Because, at its core, Louie isn’t about plot, characters, or even being funny, but is instead about the nature of being human.

Humanity is an incredibly hard thing to explore in any medium, but Louie does it with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. Through its transformative ways of storytelling, Louie strips down everything we know about regular storytelling, and offers a revealing look at what it’s like to be human. In Louie you can find the raw truths about life, the bizarre experiences of being human, our fears of rejection, humiliation, and loneliness, what personal victories, fulfillment, and self-discovery feel like, and what human connection really is. All of this in one 21 minute episode of television.

That’s the thing about Louie. One five-minute segment can be the most loving and profound scene you’ve seen all year, and the next as strange as a David Lynch filmLouie has been transcending normal storytelling for years in a very low-key way. The show takes its time to explore the small ideas that really matter, and the end result is unbelievably meaningful television. This is our new wave of great television: Low Key-TV.

The most obvious example of Louie’s influence on TV is HBO’s new era of dramedies. Picking up Girls and having Lena Dunham in a creatively auteur-ish position (she writes most episodes but has a writing staff, also directs occasionally) was an obvious response to Louis C.K.’s creative control over Louie (he writes and directs every episode, has edited most, and sits in with the musicians). Each episode of Enlightened, HBO’s best (albeit cancelled) dramedy was written by creator Mike White. And HBO’s new dramedies, the so-so Getting On and the wonderful Looking, are creator driven shows that have distinct visions. More importantly, each of these shows embody Louie’s low-key type of storytelling. They all tell small stories that end up having big impact emotionally, and are all incredibly resonant.

But low-key TV isn’t just half hour shows. Orange is the New Black takes a step back in every episode to examine how humanity binds each character together in their community. Sundance’s first original series Rectify is a thoughtful examination of how we view our lives and why they matter to us. And Showtime’s Masters of Sex is, ironically, the most intimate show on TV outside of Louie, telling very small stories.

However, the argument can be made that low-key storytelling has been present in television for years. Mad Men has always been a short story show disguised as an anti-hero one. Showtime’s network defining dramedies have always been blurring the lines of genre and storytelling. Even Freaks and Geeks employed a certain type of storytelling that was small, yet emotionally rich.

Still, this type of storytelling has been crystalized by Louie. It’s the main reason Louie’s the most ambitious and distinctive show on TV. You won’t find any other show on television that devotes 21 minutes to a conversation between two friends, with one who says he’s going to kill himself. There will never be a show that has its protagonist unknowingly bring a duckling into Afghanistan. Or any other episode that details a man’s escape from depression which ends with him connecting with a random family in China.

Thanks to Louie’s sheer ambition and expressiveness we have our next great wave of television. And hopefully we’ll be able to feel thankful for years to come.

2013 Emmy Nominations: Emmy Voters Remind Us That They Can Be Cool, That They Are Still the Worst

The 2013 Emmy Nominations were announced today, at 5:35 AM PDT, and nothing has really changed. Yes, the Emmy voters showed us that they are the same old guys who are able to nominate awesome and deserving things (like Adam Driver for Girls), and still be idiots at the same time (House of LiesEpisodes and Modern Family aren’t going anywhere!). However, it wasn’t all the same old, same old, as a new player emerged and dominated in most of the fields.

Emmy voters really liked House of Cards. Like really liked it. Despite it being a traditional and fairly boring “cable” drama, it earned 9 nominations, making history by becoming the first program to not air on actual TV, but still score top nominations (such as Best Drama, Actor, Actress, Writing, and Directing). Netflix really lucked out with HOC, but unfortunately the same didn’t happen on the Comedy side. Surprise, Netflix’s rebooted fourth season of Arrested Development only scored 1 major nomination (Jason Bateman for Actor) and 2 others (Editing* and Original Score). This fact probably won’t bother Mitch Hurwitz, the show’s creator, because he’ll probably tell the voters they’re resisting change. Regardless, Netflix’s newfound dominance within the Emmys is a major thing, and will hopefully pave the way for Orange is the New Black, which will win all the Emmys in 2014.

*Seriously?!?!? The Emmy voters choose to honor the editing of AD‘s fourth season? What was once the best thing about the show in its original run became one of the worst aspects of the new season, in the overstuffed and overlong episodes.

Despite HOC‘s dominance, there are still great things happening in the Drama side of nominations. Breaking Bad earned 13 nominations (some include Best Drama, Actor, two Supporting Actors, Supporting Actress, Directing, and two writing noms!) and it seems like this is the best year yet for the scuzzy, southwestern, anti-hero-centered drama. Despite its dominance (two writing nominations!!!) BB seems like the show that will never win Best Drama, and that’s okay because its fifth season wouldn’t be my choice for best drama. (Despite being Breaking Bad, the fifth season seemed like a step down from its outstanding fourth season, but in reality, it was still really great television.) Even though I may seem down on BB, this is the year for Anna Gunn to win, and I know I’m going to love her acceptance speech. Same goes for Jonathan Banks.

Accompanying Breaking Bad is Game of Thrones. GOT earned 16 deserving nominations for its best season yet, which is the most of any drama this year. Among the most deserved are Best Drama (obviously), Emilia Clarke for Best Supporting Actress (you truly cannot say no to Daenerys ‘Dracarys’ Targaryen in this scene), Best Writing for “The Rains of Castamere”, and Best Casting (seriously, I don’t know how they do it). Don’t get too excited, the Emmy voters managed to screw up somewhere GOT related, and this year it was Directing. Season 3 of GOT, seemed like it was the best directed show on TV (The Red Wedding, the previously mentioned Daenerys scene), but a nomination is nowhere to be found. Despite this, 2013 seems like the year for GOT to win it all, so here’s hoping it does.

Now, things aren’t all that great in the Drama field of nominations. Voters still found the need to nominate Downton Abbey which has been rapidly declining since the end of season 1. Downton scored 12 nominations, which is still far too many for this import drama. There is really nothing good I can say about this. Instead of submitting the heart-wrenching episode 5, the fairly forgettable episode 4 was submitted and scored writing and directing nominations.

What Downton Abbey is to the Dramatic categories, Modern Family is to the comedy categories. After winning three consecutive Best Comedy Emmys (which compares it to the likes of The Dick Van Dyke ShowAll in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Taxi), MF is back with only 12 nominations. This is a step down from past years, which is only a good sign, because no one wants Modern Family to be compared to the greatness of All in the Family. In fact, there is a rather hilarious (funnier than Modern Family, I promise!) slip that the show experienced this round of nominations. Last years winner, Eric Stonestreet (who I would’ve called one of the best performers on TV three years ago, but is now insufferable) was NOT nominated this year. Again, things can only get better.

While I like might to dwell some more about the negative things on the comedy side (House of LiesEpisodes, even more Modern Family rage) there is actually some really great stuff happening. As previously mentioned, Adam Driver was nominated for his performance on Girls! Laura Dern was nominated for Best Actress for Enlightened! Merrit Weaver was nominated again for Nurse Jackie! (the performance is good, the show… not so much.) Lena Dunham got a directing nomination for directing one of the best half hours of TV in the past decade (“On All Fours”)! Louis C.K. scored a whopping, 9 individual nominations (ranging from producing, directing, writing, editing, and acting)! Things are really, really great on the comedy side.

But best of all is the love for 30 Rock. 30 Rock earned 13 nominations for its beautiful swan song of a last season, which was a true triumph of TV in the past season. Among those are 2 writing nominations for “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” which combined create one of the best television finales of all time. In truth, because they are both nominated, votes will be split and Louie will win again, but that’s not a bad thing. Another deserving nomination that 30 Rock deservedly received was for Best Original Music and Lyrics for “The Rural Juror.” This song is truly an outstanding accomplishment in television, and will rightly win the Emmy. Because it is its last year, and has garnered many nominations, there is another comedy that actually stands a chance at dethroning Modern Family, so here’s hoping its 3o Rock.

The Comedy and Drama nominations aren’t all that are important. Yes, there is a lovely field of contenders in this year’s Miniseries/TV Movie categories. Among the top of them are Top of the Lake, and Behind the CandelabraCandelabra earned 15 nominations for Steven Soderbergh’s first foray in television. Top earned a bevy of nominations, and rightly so, though Holly Hunter was snubbed of a nomination for her wacky and confounding performance. Both nominees are equally deserving of their nominations, and I couldn’t be happier with the competition between the two.

Even if there are great things getting nominated, there are still less deserving nominees that exist. For instance there’s Jeff Daniels of The NewsroomVice being nominated for an award with the word “Outstanding” in front of it. There are also far to many snubs to count. The guest actress categories strike a particular chord with me. Parker Posey did not get nominated for her profoundly beautiful performance in Louie, but I guess the nominations of Melissa Leo and Molly Shannon for Enlightened  make up for it. The Americans was also shut out of most major categories, but voters proved they watched it by nominating Margo Martindale. In the guest actor categories Patrick Wilson was shut out for his performance in one of the best episodes of Girls ever. David Lynch and F. Murray Abraham were not nominated for their equally hilarious roles (especially Lynch) in Louie. However, Harry Hamlin managed to get nominated for his particularly great role in Mad Men. But, in return Mad Men (one of top shows of the year) earned no writing or directing nominations. The dramatic actress category is a particularly confusing one. Seven women were nominated, but none of them were Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black (10 more times!), Keri Russell for The Americans, or former winner Juliana Margulies for The Good Wife! The only “reasonable” explanation for all of these snubs would be to blame it on House of Cards. Fuck House of Cards.

I could go on and on complaining about the snubs from the Emmys. I didn’t even mention Mike White, the New Girl shutout (I’m calling conspiracy!), or Rectify! But in the end, it just turns out that Emmy voters can be stupid. They like stupid things for stupid reasons and nominate them in stupid categories. That’s why fucking House of Cards has nine nominations and Rectify has zero. But it turns out Emmy voters can be cool to. Whether its nominating awesome performances (I can’t get over Adam Driver!), great writing (“The Rains of Castamere”) or great directing (Louis C.K. for “New Years Eve”), Emmy voters can sometimes get it right.

And in one particularly moving case, the Emmy voters got it on the nose. Henry Bromell passed away tragically from a heart attack at the age of 65 back in March. Before he died, he wrote one of the best episodes of the television season, Homeland‘s “Q&A.” Now the nominations are out, and guess who is nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series? This is a profound and moving sentiment by the Emmy voters, and in the end, they seem like they’re alright.