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The Televisionist, July 22 

LOUIE
FX
10 p.m. Tuesdays

Comedian Louis C.K. is an acquired taste. His comedy, which focuses on the harsh realities of aging, family life and the everyday grind, can be off-putting. In fact, comments the comedian made in reference to his new show "Louie" during an interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" offended enough listeners to get Terri Gross' talk show banned from Mississippi public radio stations (they weren't that offensive).

Coming off a stream of well-received comedy specials and rave reviews for his film "Hilarious," C.K. is back on TV with "Louie," a half-hour show (shown weekly in pairs) that presents the comedian at his best. That is, when he's being himself.

Like it or not, the show mirrors C.K.'s stand-up material. It's brutally honest. Episodes don't follow the traditional sitcom arc, often including unrelated scenarios for our hero to stumble through, interspersed with Seinfeld-like clips of C.K.'s stand-up routine from the Comedy Cellar in New York.

But that's the way C.K. wanted it. He took way less money to make the show at FX rather than one of the big networks in order to maintain complete creative control. As a result, he's able to toy with the idea of what a sitcom really is and push those boundaries. The show has neither laugh track nor recurring cast of quirky characters. It is, by design, simply-shot and soft-spoken.

"Louie" is smart, funny, thoughtful and even sweet if you can get through the sometimes jarringly uncomfortable scenes where we see our protagonist get in a fight with his friend over politics, completely botch a first date and have a nuanced and surprisingly poignant conversation with other comics about the appropriate use of the word "faggot."

But those moments are only uncomfortable because they make you take a look at how you would behave in the same situation. And you might not like what you see.

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