One of the aspects of Louie that makes it such a quintessentially New York show is its very lack of abject New Yorkness: There are no nosedive camera swoops through Times Square, no summer-in-the-city montages of Central Park. The show takes place largely in the sort of standard-issue diners, bodegas, and parklets that most New Yorkers pass by every day and barely notice. In that sense, Louie reflects an essential truth of NYC living: After you’ve been here long enough, it just becomes another place, one where the obstacles tend to blot the landmarks. It’s not like we spend our nights spray-painting Basquiat tags on the Top of the Rock while reciting lines from Annie Hall.
Which is why last night’s “Moving” episode — in which Louie goes on an infuriating hunt for a new apartment — was so notable, as it was one of the few installments of the show that simply could not have taken place in another city. Granted, I’m sure that finding a new pad in, say, Cleveland isn’t without its frustrations. But it’s compared with the indignities that come with apartment-hunting in New York City, what with all its grotesque floor plans, corrupt realtors, and unfathomable closing costs. Yay, New York! We’re No. 1 in dream crushing!
Before Louie goes on the prowl, though, we watch him onstage, trying to keep a bit from going off the rails. It’s about a Hasidic Jew fighting for luggage space on a plane, though Louie’s greater point is how people use ethnically specific details whenever they tell a story. But Louie gets lost in his own impressions, and, for once, we see him faltering: “What a disaster this is right now.”
We then find Louie and his daughter in their apartment — a different place, it seems, from the one we saw last season. It’s further proof that Louis can alter Louie however he sees fit — adding or subtracting characters and cornerstones at will — and another reason the show’s hazily elastic narrative can be hard to trust. Our condolences to the show’s continuity director, who probably dies a thousand little deaths every time he/she is handed a new script.
Louie’s need to relocate isn’t necessarily a desperate one: Now divorced, he simply wants a new start for him and his kids. It’s a desire that becomes an obsession, so much so that we see him scanning the classifieds in a diner, oblivious to the razzing he’s receiving from pal Todd Barry: “Your mom ate my asshole last night,” Todd tells him, bringing the Louie season-two Rim Job Rim Shot Tally to 2.
Louie absentmindedly begs off the rest of his meal and heads off to look at apartments, eventually dragging along Pamela, his fellow single parent and confidant. They visit a Realtor who freely admits to bait and switching them with a tantalizing listing that doesn’t exist — a con that Louie is apparently the last person in the city not to have heard about. The Realtor also mistakes Louie and Pamela for a couple —a remark that reminds me of one of my big worries going into season two: Namely, that Louie and Pamela, so clearly matched both in their temperament and B.S.-detection skills, would slowly be nudged together as a couple.
As it turns out, the visit turns into a disaster: Not only is the apartment occupied by a half-naked old man wielding a half-eaten pickle, but Louie happens to look out one of the windows to see a scraggly homeless guy abducted by MIBs, and replaced by an equally homely doppelgänger. Louie, weirded out, decides to bail, earning a truth-hurts diatribe from Pamela: ”You’re so afraid of life that you’re boring,” she says. “Fucking men. I’m outtie.” Clearly, there’s no Sam-and-Diane-style pairing in the works for these two, unless it’s in the contentious manner of bickering PrimeTime Live co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer.
The next apartment turns out to be a doozy: Previous tenants include a daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and Lenny Bruce (thankfully not together) and boasts a lavish outdoor garden. “Your girls would be very, very happy here,” says the Realtor (played by former NYC first lady Donna Hanover, a woman who knows a thing or two about post-breakup relocating). “Buying this house would fix absolutely everything … everything … everything … ” Louie, lost in reverie, decides to take it. Asking price: $17 million.
When he visits his accountant, though, Louie’s told he doesn’t have enough money for a single month’s mortgage. Louie works through the stages of real-estate grief, from Anger (“When do I get to step up?”) to Bargaining (“If I was able to get them to come down … ”) to Full-On Confusion Regarding Home-Buying Tax Credits (“What about Obama?”). Even though it’s only a moment in which a cash-broke (but still relatively well-off) guy finds out he’s not a multi-millionaire, it’s heartbreaking to watch, especially for any New Yorker who’s found the home of their dreams — a place that can all but guarantee their family’s happiness — only to be dealt a cruel realty check.
But, as Louie’s next monologue demonstrates, life ain’t always fair. “I should totally be saving for [my kids],” he says. “I’m not preparing for their future, or even their near present.” He then notes that the concept of inheritance is as dated as that of a monarchy, giving him the opportunity to riff on why England will never have a black king. “After all that white that’s pumped into their blood for years,” he says, “they’ve just been this kind of jizzy-white color.” Perhaps. But those jizzy-white blokes do have a more manageable housing market.
“Moving” ends with Louie, having given up his search, repainting his old apartment with his daughters. It’s a touching moment — a reminder that “home” isn’t a specific address, but an empty box that’s defined by the connections and companionship inside. And the fact that it comes just a few moments after Louie’s “cock meat” rant proves just how adeptly this show balances vulgarity, honesty, and bliss. Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.