By the time Louie returns on May 5th, the acclaimed FX comedy series will have been off the air for 19 months. The reprieve has Louis CK, the show's star and creative force, time to decompress following a hectic season 3 that included trips to Miami and China, a three-episode arc that saw CK's "character" reach for the brass ring of a late night hosting gig, and numerous big name guest stars.
While we don't know if season 4 will match the scope of season 3, it seems clear that CK is much happier slow brewing his latest concoction, elongating his shooting schedule from 48 to 60 days while finishing the show ahead of the season premiere - an irregular occurrence for the show and CK, its writer, director, producer, and star.
Another rare thing? An extra episode. Apparently, the extra time gave CK the chance to pull together an additional half hour. So while Louie will return for 13 weeks, fans will get a double dose on May 5th, though it's unclear if those will be independent of each other or linked like the "Late Show" episodes were last season or the double-sized "Duckling" episode from season 2.
While CK kept himself occupied during his hiatus with movie roles, the wholly independent release of his long-gestating avant-garde film Tomorrow Night (filmed in the late 1990s), his stand-up career, and a still developing side project on FX with Zach Galifianakis, it's Louie that seems to give CK his best outlet.
The show, which truly does sidestep comparison to anything else that has lived or does live in the realm of popular TV comedy, allows CK to speak to the intricacies of life with as big or as small a story as he likes. Death, failure, parenthood, ambition, fading goals, depression, entitlement, and romantic desperation - it's open season on these topics and almost all others for CK under the protective wing of FX.
Even as a filmmaker, CK wouldn't have the ability to be as free of boundaries. Not with the need to raise money to finance these films and not in a way that would likely reach as many people and make as much of an impact.
So while some worry when they hear that he's suddenly enamored with appearing in other people's films, that he has another project in the works, and that he's already thought of an end date (which is a bit closer than CK has previously stated), it's important to note that even if CK winds up taking another lengthy break (which he has not yet indicated), he isn't likely going to find a better soap box anytime soon.
Louie returns to FX on May 5th 2014