11 p.m. Tuesdays
Nothing much goes right in Louie C.K.'s world. Every encounter is awkward, every stranger a lunatic, every date a disaster. His doctor thinks it's funny to taunt him and joke about him having AIDS. He gets into fist fights with his friends. When he tells his psychiatrist he feels like he has no friends, the doctor's response is: "Do you think it's because you're fat?"
He's like Larry David without the money, Rodney Dangerfield without the bulging eyes and relatable catch phrase.
That's a dark and dangerous place to take an audience, but in his new FX comedy Louie, C.K. mostly makes it work. He's likeable enough - playing the divorced father of two young girls helps. And because he wants to do the right thing and isn't inconsiderate or malicious like David so often is on Curb Your Enthusiasm, you can't help but hope that something will go right for the guy.
He's also funny. Well, as funny as you can be when you make jokes about having sex with animals and when your outlook on life goes like this: "Every day starts with me, like, my eyes open and I reload the program of misery."
C.K. plays a version of himself as a standup comic in New York, and like early episodes of Seinfeld, Louie alternates between him onstage and him out in his world. He plays poker with other comics, volunteers at his daughters' school and hopes against hope to find the right woman. Of course, why bother? Even if the relationship goes perfectly, he notes, eventually she's going to die.
That doesn't stop him from trying. In the first three episodes, he goes on a date with a woman who makes the greatest escape you'll ever see, looks up a sexually aggressive former classmate he finds on Facebook and hooks up with a young woman who finds him hot because he's old. (He's 42.) In the fourth episode, he meets up with another single parent, played by Pamela Adlon, who was his wife in Lucky Louie, their 2006-07 HBO sitcom, and is credited as a consulting producer on this show. In their previous series, they carped at each other like Ralph and Alice Kramden; this time, they seem to have more of a connection. So you know it will end badly.
How much you enjoy Louie will depend largely on how much sadness you like in your comedy. I can tell you this: I laughed far more than I cringed.
Also this week:
ABC begins an exceptional documentary series, Boston Medical (10 p.m. Thursdays, WRTV Channel 6), which takes us inside three of Boston's best hospitals. Unlike fictional medical shows, where the stories center on dreamy and steamy doctors and their bed partners, the real stars of this show are the patients - the women who undergo lung transplants, the parents whose newborn baby needs immediate heart surgery, the police officer who took a bullet to the jaw. As important as the doctors and nurses are to these real-life dramas, it's the patients who captivate us.