TV Club

Louie episode guide: Conan replaced by Jay once again.

Conan gets replaced by Jay yet again!

Louis C.K. in Louie.

Courtesy FX

My favorite moment in this whole episode was when Louie’s impossibly young-looking agent Doug pops his head out from behind Garry Marshall so he can blurt out an incredulous “No?!” after Louie turns down what sounded like an offer to host the Late Show on CBS. Which is fitting: “Late Show: Part 1” was Edward Gelbinovich’s finest half-hour. C.K. even gave him some extra screen time by showing an extended take of his backstage reaction shot as the credits rolled. I’m a little surprised that Gelbinovich’s two upcoming credits on IMDb are playing characters called “Burnt Child” and “Skinny Kid,” but perhaps this episode will be his breakout moment. And Jonah, he only looks prepubescent: Those basso pipes of his command authority.

My second favorite moment was that tornado of cosmetic preparation that swirled around Louie before he walked out on the Tonight Show stage. This was, as Allison mentioned, very much a showbiz episode—and that whole scene with Garry Marshall was a tour de force (even if I half-wish C.K. had cast Paul F. Tompkins in that part). Its most striking showbiz lesson concerned the proximity of wild, improbable success and painful, desperate failure. “You’re gonna crack your head on the ceiling, and you’re gonna go down, probably for good,” Garry Marshall tells Louie. Then he paints a picture of life after the road not taken. “In 10 years, you’re gonna be teaching comedy at a community college to support your kids, and falling asleep to the Late Show … with Jerry Seinfeld.”

We already know Seinfeld himself will appear at some point—he managed to tape an episode somewhere in his busy schedule of driving cars and getting coffee—and that his role will be “very different from what you’re used to seeing him do.” So I can envision two very plausible trajectories from here: 1) Louie goes for it, losing the weight, giving his all—and then bombs, after which he gets some kind of stand-up-life lesson from Seinfeld and walks off into a more modest sunset with his two daughters, and maybe Liz; or 2) Louie agonizes over the decision, knowing that late-night talk-show host is not really his calling, but finding it hard to resist the big paycheck and the professional validation. Then he turns it down.

Or perhaps 3) Leno will somehow sabotage both Louie and Seinfeld, and screw up CBS’s plans.

Speaking of which: Do you think it stung Conan O’Brien just a little to see C.K. recreate his “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” moment in an episode that guest-starred … Jay Leno? That career-altering riff was delivered on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and, as you may have heard, Conan and Leno don’t exactly get along. Also, Conan gave C.K. his first big comedy job. Perhaps this is neither here nor there—and, in any case, C.K. has defended Leno and the “old, shitty” show he hosts before. Plus it makes more dramatic sense to stage this scenario on the Tonight Show than on TBS. But I found it hard to stop thinking about this.

Also: Do you think C.K. wrote those dumb bits we saw Leno do, the before-and-after joke and the Velveeta coupon typo? If so: pretty good parody of Leno’s Tonight Show. If not: pretty good self-parody of Leno’s Tonight Show.

In any case, I’m eager to see how things play out. And I’m glad you pointed me to Matt Shafeek’s essay about “slow comedy,” Jonah: C.K. has said this three-episode arc is “what we put the most effort into” when filming this season, and I suspect he will unfurl its pleasures patiently. This felt like prologue. The scene-setting music—not to mention that intense cliffhanger—hinted at dramatic things to come.

One last aside before I go: I was glad to belatedly get Louie’s rationale for not doing any Blu-ray-player research before that disastrous trip to Best Buy or wherever in “Dad.” He doesn’t want to go to Amazon and read “a really long review written by an insane person who’s been dead for months because he shot his wife and then himself after explaining to you that the remote is counterintuitive.”

They’re all the same, these machines. They’re all made from the same Asian suffering.