COMEDY IN A HOSPITAL; TRAGEDY IN A STAND-UP CLUB: As the summer winds down (you can tell because it just got warm in San Francisco), it's a good time to say a few words about two pleasant additions to summer television -- FX's Louie and Adult Swim's Children's Hospital.
Children's Hospital is the less ambitious of the two, and all I've seen of it so far is old stuff that first aired on the web. It's broad parody very much in the style of its principal creator, Rob Corddry, so if you have a problem with that, you wouldn't like it. But the excellent cast -- a rotating stew of half the comic actors from the incestuous Greg Daniels/Daily Show/UCB/Human Giant ensembles -- seems excited about the format (each episode is roughly the length of two SNL sketches), the gag rate is high, and the shots the show takes at the enduring hospital-show format generally hit the mark. And the National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: SUV commercials are Veridianesque in their value-additivity.
Louie, on the other hand, is a show that Matt Ufford accurately described as not really a comedy so much as a show about the painful stuff that comedians use as comic source material. Louis CK puts his character into a lot of sit-com situations -- a playdate co-supervised with a brash single parent; a date interrupted by a bullying teen; a political argument with a friend; a poker game with some loudmouths and a gay man. Then he frequently mines them not for yuks, but for sharply observed examinations of flawed characters or insights about his own and others' shortcomings. Those, and not the more traditionally comic episodes (the airport episode; the lesbian mom episode) are the ones I have liked the most. At its best, the show is unlike anything I can remember seeing on TV.