"Louie" (FX, Mondays). That
Functionally, it has the consistency of a sitcom — he is always the divorced father of two daughters and works as a comedian — but its stories, which may last more than a single episode, or less than a single episode, are discrete and self-sufficient; each stands on its own as a short story, a little art film, without the need of an overarching premise. ("Art" is the proper term. And I can't think of another television comedy, ever, as visually acute or sensitive to mood.) Louis C.K. is a character in that, though he is not exactly playing himself, he is consistently Who He Is, which is complicated enough, in a normal human way, to produce volumes. He is not on a "journey," except from cradle to grave, and we are not waiting for him to fix himself or be fixed, to find love or be found by it, or even be understood in some more than transitory fashion. The show is aspirational in the sense that the creator and the character are interested in how to live a good or better life, and there are moments in which he does, but the show is not sentimental about the accomplishment.
His condition is the human condition; Louis C.K. is sincerely philosophical, and while this is true of many comics, we sense something especially serious inside him that makes his show compelling in a way that
"Maron," "Comedy Bang! Bang!" (
In "Maron," Maron plays himself (or the more difficult aspects of himself, though he will sometimes let the sunshine in): a comedian who does a podcast from his garage, is a sober-living alcoholic, plays a little guitar and has cats, or cares for them. As an actor, he is, one would say, playing the role he was born to, and he is most convincing — by which I mean relaxed — when alone, speaking into a microphone or re-creating the podcast (many famous faces face his). He is convincing enough, in any case, to play a black cloud, and he is supported by excellent professionals in big roles and small. Judd Hirsch continues as Marc's father, and
Like its podcast progenitor, "Comedy Bang! Bang!" (I'll have a feature on the show timed to the premiere), is a thing of truth and lies. Arrayed as a typical talk show, with the less usual inclusion of taxidermy animals on the walls, it features Aukerman as host — gangly, sweater-wearing, creepily cheerful — and hairy genius Reggie Watts as his one-man bandleader, partner and foil/ One guest on each episode appears as him or herself; another as a Aukerman. (In this year's opener, the first chair is held down by
"A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and
That said, "A Fragile Trust" does put a face on the faker; it makes him human, if still fundamentally inscrutable, something more than a receptacle for one's own imported attitudes on lazy kids (a colleague points out that the lies took more work than the reporting would have) or affirmative action. (Blair is African American; some contemporary commentators made this the issue.) Grant also tells a story of institutional dysfunction and how incompatible personalities or autocratic leadership can lead to bad decision-making, or a lack thereof, and an additional story of old media grappling with new and an accelerated pace and increased workload that guarantee that mistakes will not only be made but can easily stay made. What the film also makes clear is that convenience is a slippery slope; the Times itself had a policy, called "one toe," whereby a reporter would be flown to a remote location to file a story written elsewhere in order to claim the dateline: an illusion of presence that Blair, who represented himself to his bosses as traveling when he was staying at home in Brooklyn, stealing and inventing facts for his stories, took to a remarkable extreme.
[For the Record, 4:56 p.m. May 2: An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave the title of Louis C.K.'s series as "Louis." It is "Louie." ]