One of Louie’s hallmark traits has been the way it confounds expectations, experimenting with form and content with nearly every episode. I say “nearly every,” though, because that’s not always the case, as with “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 1,” in which the surprise is, for the most part, the lack of surprises.
Spurred on by his daughters, Louis has become fixated on getting a girlfriend. After watching Maria Bamford’s stand-up act, he asks her out, and we cut to them laying in bed post-coital and fairly content. He ruins this, though, by asking her to have dinner with his daughters, and she’s not only disappointed in this idea, she seems fairly disgusted by it… which makes a fair amount of sense, given that he doesn’t seem particularly interested in a relationship, it’s more that he just wants to show his daughters that he’s not a failure. Her role here would just be as a female to give him validation, and she made a smart decision.
This point is underlined when afterwards he’s attracted to every woman he sees, including all the teachers at his daughter’s school. He doesn’t do anything about it, though, until seeing a woman in a small bookstore, who recommends books for his daughters. After a couple of visits, he gets his nerves up to ask her out, and following a lengthy monologue by Louis, she accepts.
“Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 1” is charming and funny, and the fantasy sequences are clever, but it can’t help but feel slight. Admittedly, it’s only the first part of the plotline, but as far as a stand-alone episode goes, that really doesn’t help it, since there’s no cliffhanger or built-up anticipation. The stakes felt so low that there was little to really grasp onto. It’s not like this is the first time we’ve seen Louis on a date before, either; in fact that’s how this season began. Were this episode to be in the first season, it would at least make some sense, but given its role here it’s hard not to just shrug. Yes, it’s difficult for adults to meet new partners, but it’s also a story that’s been told countless times elsewhere.
Louie doesn’t need a riveting plot to work well, and actually the show’s storylines are frequently the weakest parts of the show. The problem here, though, is that Louis’ internal life, the fantasy sequences we see, aren’t deep or particularly clever jokes. They’re good enough, but the show feels capable of so much more. Since it’s an episode based around a story rather than a theme, this keeps the episode from ever really getting off the ground. “Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 1” is pleasant, well-directed and competently acted, but that’s fairly damning praise for a show that can frequently be counted on for doing something truly new and great.