Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Lucky Louie" and the Decline of Programming for Ordinary Americans

As I've said previously, I probably watch more TV than I should.  A show that I talked about recently on the blog was the comedy "Louie" that just finished its first season on FX.  "Louie" stars the comedian Louis C.K; he plays a divorced father raising his two kids in New York City.  I liked the show very much, and so rented a series that he'd done a few years before that, called "Lucky Louie". 

The two shows are very different.  While "Louie" is an atypically loose comedy, with a couple of short stories and stand-up vignettes taking up most of its 30 minutes, "Lucky Louie" is more of a traditional sitcom.  It's hard for me to say which is better.  I did enjoy "Lucky Louie" because of its similarity to another sitcom I enjoyed while growing up, "Married with Children".  This is even more cruder than "MWC" since it was on HBO.  A very odd thing to note about "Lucky Louie" is that HBO only gave it one season, which is not normal for them.  I assumed it was pulled due to low ratings, but then read elsewhere that ratings actually grew each week, outranking much more expensive shows like "Deadwood" (which I loved) and "Flight of the Conchords" (which I've never seen).  "Lucky Louie" even got an order for additional scripts for the next season, which in most cases would ensure a renewal.  But unfortunately, it's believed by some (including, reportedly, Louis C.K. himself) that the show did not fit in with HBO's programming.  Which is a really stupid rationale, and to clarify, watch the show.  Even if the show was a ratings loser, it would still have made some sense to renew it, because the show was freaking dirt cheap to produce.  The sets were simple to the extreme; every other HBO show either has elaborate sets or are filmed on location, and so cost a shitload of money to produce.  Forgive me, I'm just a little upset that a potentially great show had its life cut off prematurely because it was on a network who wanted to make programming for the affluent east and west coast "liberal" types rather than ordinary Americans. 

Which brings me to my point.  "Lucky Louie" was the first show of its kind that I've seen in awhile, and it was aired in 2006.  By "its kind", I mean a show that ordinary, working-class Americans can relate to.  "Lucky Louie" was about a part-time mechanic (C.K.) and his wife who works as a nurse, and they raise their 4 to 5-year old daughter.  They live in a seedy apartment, and struggle to pay their bills.  Sound familar to anyone?  I remember there were a lot more shows like that out there, like "Married with Children", "All in the Family", and all the way back to "The Honeymooners".  All very funny shows, and shows that people can relate to, even today.  So what happened?  Somewhere along the way, they were replaced by "reality shows" (and by reality, I don't mean the reality that most people face.  The "reality" in "reality television" is often total fantasy), or sitcoms about roommates living in some high-rise in New York City who just hang out and crack jokes all day, with nary a worry of paying bills or rent.  I think that this is Corporate America's way of phasing out voices from Middle America.  You have shows about rich people living in high-rises for the affluent viewers (and those of us who want to be affluent), and reality shows about, for example, a black tranny looking for love for the clueless masses.  Nothing for working people who are just trying to get by, and who have a clue about what is happening to this country.

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