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Whistling past the graveyard

Louis C.K. is OK with the suckiness of life

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These are not easy, secretly self-aggrandizing (aren't I a bad boy!) bits; this is radical honesty. And C.K. is in total control. Not only is the show based on his life, he's the director, the editor, the only writer, he oversees the music – and his deal with FX gives him sole script approval without network suits' input. That singular point of view enables the laser-sharp focus of each 22-minute opus. Like Monk at the piano, C.K. plays a note at a time rather than pouring out chords. Within the tight constraints of a half-hour sitcom, every word, every note struck, has to be true, and that's only possible when they're all coming from the same source.

Television is the last bastion of the quote-unquote American family (wake up, showrunners; that's not what America looks like anymore); if you have neither children nor frat brothers, TV comedy can feel like an alien landscape, toggling between kings of Queens and manic jackassery. It's a relief to find a sitcom lacking what Roseanne Barr calls "the rosy glow of middle-class confidence and comfort" and instead grounded in the most basic of situations – the bleak comedy of human error.

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