Spending time in synagogue the last few days, for Rosh Hashonah, one is usually encouraged to be introspective, to think of sins one has committed this past year, ya know, your basic self-flagellation. Unfortunately my thoughts usually meander to lots of different things, including my major life obsession of television. I think of the upcoming season set to kick off in 10 days, what shows will hit, what networks will emerge stronger. These last few days I kept thinking about a couple of programs that really moved me this week
Obviously any fan of Mad Men (or good TV) was mesmerized and moved by this week’s ep “The Suitcase”. Don Draper is a very complicated character, written beautifully by Matt Weiner and played exquisitely by Jon Hamm. Don started off this week’s episode as his usual (lately) less than kind self. He’s currently going through a horrible descent into self-destruction but by the end of the ep, he and Peggy had been there for each other and had seen each other in such a raw vulnerable place, (Peggy saw more than Don in this case) that we all hope this might be the beginning of a breakthrough for him. It felt real, and was moving on a multitude of levels. There’s been so much written about it, and most of it brilliantly, I really don’t feel I can add anything profound other than to say it moved me, like many others.
The show that moved me the most this week, was the season ending episode of LOUIE. Throughout the 13 episode run, some episodes have been great, some less than. Though after watching all 13 and thinking about it, its batting average was better than most first year shows. Plus in this case, Louis CK writes and directs each episode on what looks like a shoestring budget, but the show doesn’t look cheap. It also feels like nothing else on television, major feat in itself. It actually feels like a rather authentic, though somewhat fictionalized, view of his life. He’s a divorced dad with 2 young girls whom he loves, but he doesn’t sugarcoat anything – life’s a bitch at times.
This episode “Night Out” began with what looked like a nice date Louie was on. They seemed to be clicking, there seemed to be a connection and then the woman had a confession she was really nervous to reveal – she had a child. Louie reassured her that wasn’t a problem and seemed really energized they had even more in common. Once he revealed that he also had children, instead of being excited that they shared this, the woman promptly told him that she doesn’t date men with kids. Funny – yes, sad – yes, pretty real – definitely. Such set the course for this episode. Louie is encouraged to take a “night out” by his kids quirky babysitter, and to try to connect with someone, so that he can be a more effective parent, which proves hard to achieve. There was a scene that most of us have experienced in real life (I think): Louie passes couple after couple on the street either kissing or looking very much in love – young couples. older couples, same-sex couples, couples arguing who then fall into a loving embrace that comes with familiarity and love. Does it reinforce his loneliness? – I don’t think he’s jealous of them. I think he just longs to feel that feeling himself. After a series of events, many comic, Louie goes to a comedy club – the one place he feels truly at home – to do a short set. His set consists of a bit where he describes the only two things he feels he’s good at – masturbation and being a great Dad. The scene was funny and poignant, a combination that is really hard to pull off. Mostly it just felt real. The episode ended with Louie coming home at 4am and his kids now awakened, asking him to take them to breakfast. He does, and the camera pulls away from Louis and his kids looking happy at breakfast and panning up to the breaking dawn of a new day.
I’m not divorced. I don’t have kids. But I know what loneliness feels like. Most of us do. LOUIE captured that in this ep. He also managed to show us that he’s not perfect, but he’s trying and he showed us the things he’s grateful for in his life and the man he’s trying to be. In short it was real life.
I think most of us watch TV to be entertained, to marvel at great work. But I think many times we just want to see ourselves in other characters or to know we’re not alone. When we’re lonely, there are others like us, who have felt lonely and maybe that makes us feel less lonely and dare I say, hopeful. LOUIE moved me very much this week and I guess when I thought about it in synagogue, in a way, I was doing some introspection.