That's Your (Platonic) Boyfriend: Louis CK and Pamela Adlon Are All of Us

Crushes aside, "Louie" also boasts the best, most honest male-female friendship on television.

Nov 7, 2011 at 5:01pm | Leave a comment

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I know, I know. I’m late to Louis C.K. party bus.

But, to paraphrase my good friend Cheech Marin as he greeted the Titanic in "Ghostbusters II:"  better late than never.

Still with me? Just checking!

I was unprepared for how in love I would be with "Louie." As Cat, one of the fellow enlightened mentioned, watching it can feel totally transcendent: you simply know you're watching one of the best shows on television.

For a guy who hates his ex wife, flips his adorable daughter the bird and has some murky dating ethics (he doesn't seem to get that vapid, hot younger women rarely work out for him), the character is complex enough that, well, you kind of develop a crush on him. Watching a roman-a-clef Louie as an ice-cream loving dad trying to find love -- with heavy doses of kook and surrealism -- is part cinema verite, part Woody Allen, and part man-"Cathy" comic. He mixes scatological humor and surprisingly feminine Oprah a-ha moments, and the result is a show that's touching without being saccharine or condescending.

But crushes aside, "Louie" also boasts the best, most honest male-female friendship on television.

In a show with a  memorable rotating cast of guest stars like Ricky Gervais, Stephen Root,Todd Barry and Nick DiPaolo, the standout recurring character on the show is Pamela Adlon, playing a version of herself as another single parent and Louie's best female friend.  In real life, Adlon co-produces the show, after playing his wife on HBO’s ill-fated and under-appreciated sitcom "Lucky Louie."

The Pamela of the Louieverse is no nonsense, damaged, intense and slightly man hating. She's also probably got the filthiest mouth of anybody who's ever been on the show, which is saying something.

Louie and Pamela share an enviable artistic partnership -- their ease with one another is evident, and her edge compliments  his sheepishness nicely. In an eponymous show that cleaves very closely to the life of the guy writing, starring in and editing every episode, she's the system of checks and balances that keeps it feeling like extended exercise in navel-gazery.

You can’t fake chemistry and these two have it in spades.  Jack and Diane from "Cheers!" Daisy and Tim from "Spaced!" Mulder and Scully! These guys!

But what's different about this is the degree of realism. It's a dynamic that anybody who's ever been in a plantonic-but-not friendship knows too well. There's a lot of sexual tension, sure, but as in real life, it's never solely a will-they-or-won't-they thing. Louie is way more into Pamela than she'll ever be into him, but sex isn't off the table, either.

It's never one thing or the other, and it's just photorealistically depressing enough to hit you in the "been there" breadbasket. On one of their many non-dates, Pamela berates Louie for trying to impress her by taking her to some  ostentatiously "cool" lunch place, then laughs unabashedly at his jokes and orchestrates spending the whole day with him; she's stringing him along, a little, but there's real affection there.

It's clear that these are two characters with a real bond that won't be resolved by some drunk stumble into bed that shows them how in love they've been the whole time. Louie and Pamela are two damaged people who make eachother laugh who go back and forth on whether or not they should bang. It's fascinating to watch, and it hits home for anybody who's ever been in a murky friendship with a dude that may have involved the occasional make-out or sponateous, instantly regretted confession of love. The volleying is entertaining, but it rings true.

I think I also like it because, while its his show, Adlon owns his ass.  It's not like anything you've seen so elegantly faked before, because it seems too damn real. That's good TV, friends. Git on it.