Louie’s inconsistency was, for a long time, one of its charms. Never knowing what you’re going to get is a rare thing for television, and it’s to the show’s credit that it tries to keep that as part of its identity. That being said, even while it rarely retreads ideas, formally it’s lost this aspect, and “Cop Story” goes over pretty familiar ground. The details might be different, but unlike last week’s episode, here we have Louie going back to all of its bad habits, resulting in a mediocre episode with barely a laugh.
It’s never a good sign when Louie starts off with one of its trademark rant-dialogues. This time, Louis is out purchasing cooking ware right before the store he’s at is ready to close, and the clerk working there (who turns out to be the owner) doesn’t want to show him their expensive pots, because they’re locked up. Louis gets annoyed about this and, when making his purchase, tells her he’s annoyed, which leads to some of the most unrealistic dialogue this side of Tommy Wiseau. They talk about the way Louis is afraid of her because she’s young and smart and successful… and that’s it. Humor? No. Unique observations? Nada. Deep characters, dramatic tension, or any other reason for existing? Nope. Instead it’s just a little vignette about how Louis is afraid of the youth, delivered in the most uninteresting manner possible.
After the credits roll, we’re treated to the episode’s main story, in which Louis meets up with his sister’s ex-boyfriend, who insists that they hang out. He’s a cop, and one of those extremely patronizing Louis characters, which is to say that the show’s writer/director has absolutely no use for him. He’s abrasive, has no friends, isn’t funny, and constantly puts Louis down. He’s essentially a cartoon, and there’s no real attempt at turning him into anything else until the end of the episode. What happens then doesn’t remove the show’s patronizing attitude, though, and his very existence only serves to show us how much Louis feels superior to him.
Then Louie pulls a really cheap move and tries to humanize the cop. He lost his gun, and Louis tries to help him find it, ultimately succeeding, but not before we see this man break down and cry. There’s an obvious, didactic message here: everyone has feelings. It’s the type of message you’d expect from Sesame Street, though, and does nothing to add complexity to what we’ve seen. What’s more, the manipulative nature of this storytelling just made me annoyed at the show as a whole. It’s done this same thing before, and it’s this type of thing pandering simplicity that makes Louie’s pretentiousness unbearable.
And that’s pretty much it. “Cop Story” is a reminder that when Louie goes didactic, when it wants to tell us a message with its stories, it’s always bad. Tonally, the show feels like it’s talking down to children, and that’s just not an enjoyable thing to be on the other side of. Instead of affecting, I find this type of writing irritating, and unfortunately Louie keeps heading back to this well with more and more frequency. I can’t help but wish the show would adopt Seinfeld’s “no hugging, no learning,” rule, because once again we get a lot of both of those elements, but pretty much nothing else.