It seems odd that in the same year that Netflix broke through as the first Internet streaming service to earn Emmy nominations in major categories, FX’s “Louie” is the first basic cable series to score a nomination for best comedy.
Cable is no stranger to comedy — with HBO and Showtime earning plenty of nominations in major categories for such series as “Sex and the City,” “Veep,” “Girls,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Weeds” — but basic cable has been shut out. Until now.
That’s not for lack of trying, although basic cable networks have made far more inroads with edgy dramas and original reality concepts. FX itself has plenty of comedy offerings, from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to “The League” and “Wilfred,” while TBS has had such shows as “Cougar Town,” “My Boys” and “Men of a Certain Age.” But it’s taken “Louie” — which is almost a singlehanded effort by its creator, writer, exec producer and star, Louis C.K. — to finally cross that threshold.
“I think the show has only gotten better every year that it’s been on the air,” says FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. “I think there is a consensus among TV’s most significant critics and commentators that this is the best show on television. It’s gotten a Peabody and an AFI Award. But it had to cross over a very significant divide. It was inertia of history, if you will, coming from a distribution medium that hasn’t been thought of as fostering the very best comedies.”
“Louie” launched almost as an experiment, with Landgraf offering C.K. a check for $200,000 and allowing him to go off and make the show he wanted to make.
“It seemed to me that he had all the tools necessary to throw out the structural playbook of comedy and reinvent it from the ground up,” says Landgraf. “It was a calculated risk — it wasn’t a huge amount of money and he was undoubtedly talented.”
Besides being nominated for comedy series, C.K. himself was nominated for lead comedy actor, comedy writing and comedy directing. In addition, former Woody Allen collaborator, Susan E. Morse, who edited eight of season three’s 13 episodes, was nominated. Melissa Leo also earned a guest actress nod, bringing the show’s total to six nominations in 2013.
“Television has become an auteur’s medium,” says Landgraf. “Louis is in many ways one of the defining auteurs of this age of television. He is to comedy what David Chase is to drama. He’s cracked it as a singular voice and singular entrepreneur.”