The return of Pamela Adlon to “Louie” is a call for celebration. The chemistry of Adlon, also a producer on the series, and star-writer-director Louis C.K gave charge to some of the series best early episodes. Yet, the celebration never comes. The plot of ‘Pamela,’ such as it is, is so thin and seemingly ill-conceived that even the intentional discomfort it inflicts falls oddly flat.
‘Misery is wasted on the miserable’
Why does Louie talk to Dr. Bigelow (Charles Grodin)? It never goes well for him. Here Dr. Bigelow’s sage council is that the misery Louie is facing after losing Amia is the true expression of love. This poetry of agony is, in Dr. Bigelow’s eyes, is far superior to the faux-Disneyland appeal of the two actually being together. It’s a classically cantankerous Charles Grodin moment and for just that moment “Pamela” looks a like a classic “Louie” episode.
Louie has a show tonight
A selfie from Pamela seems to indicate that Louie is back in with his unrequited love, even after having rejected her for Amia. However, after admitting quite clearly that Pamela is his consolation prize, she’s less than interested in giving him another chance. That said, she’s still nice enough to babysit his girls while he does two shows. Again, Pamela’s kindness does seem to indicate good things for Louie’s chances but the plot is left to hang from there.
How can you be so confident?
I can’t say for sure if this is the longest set we’ve seen on an episode but it seems pretty long. Don’t misunderstand, the set is hysterical with Louie mocking both hardcore believers in heaven and hardcore atheists with his typically masterful, effacing, uncertainty. Just how are people so confident that they know, unquestionably that they are going to heaven, especially at 28 years old, or that there is no God. Louie is baffled by unequivocal belief and it’s hard not to share his feelings when laid out in such blunt terms.
‘You can’t even rape well’
And yes, I buried the lead. That’s going to be the headline from this episode, an offhand, sort of insult from Pamela to Louie as he attempts to be a man and take control. It’s a shocking line, though not all that shocking from Pamela, really, but it doesn’t really land as well as I’m sure it was intended. Putting aside the offensive aspect of this line, if that’s possible, this line may have had more impact if the Pamela-Louie story had more time to develop. Instead, we get Louie’s extended stand up set taking up most of the episode. It’s a great stand up set, but it short changes the story.
Yes, rape will be the headline for those seeking thrill of being outraged. For me, the headline is a rare wasted moment on TV’s finest comedy. I don’t begrudge Louie his time on stage, it’s a great set, but it leaves no time for the final scene to build the kind of explosively awkward tension it needs to really land and in that way “Pamela” is a rare misfire of an episode.