Mike Gold: Louis C.K. and Lewis and Clark

Horace and Pete

I stare at the mammoth pile of unread comics on my iPad and I get frustrated. I stare at my TiVo and I wonder if I’ll ever get to watch much of that stuff. I think of my Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts and I consider plucking my eyes out.

How the hell did this entertainment gaper’s block happen? It’s not as if I prioritize work, family and meals over passive goofing-off. I am and always have been committed to the latter, and I’ve got my priorities straight.

Amusingly, that media pile-up just might have gotten worse.

It turns out that one of my favorite new shows of the past year, Louis C.K.’s dramatic series Horace and Pete, has not been cancelled after all. Time Inc. said it was and everyone believed them, particularly after Louis told Howard Stern he was losing money on the series that he produces, writes, stars in, and makes available only on his website www.LouisCK.net. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Horace and Pete is in the black and might someday become available on other rent-a-show services.

Horace and Pete is not an easy program to watch. It is a very heavy drama largely starring people we associate with comedy, taking a broad definition of that term. The show has one of the best casts in American teevee history: Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, Steven Wright, Kurt Metzger and, of course, Louis C.K. It also sports a guest cast to die for, including an actor born under the name of Warren Wilhelm Jr. but better known as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The ten episode first season concluded a couple months ago and is available on his above-noted website.

Because of the illusion he created on the Stern show and Time Inc.’s pulling the near-bankruptcy story out of its corporate ass, most people thought the show was dead. Not so; Louis simply hasn’t decided if he wants to do a second season as of yet. It sounds like he does, but the decision is totally up to him. When you own the show, finance it with your own money and distribute it yourself, you can do anything your little heart desires. As Mel Brooks said, “It’s good to be the king.”

This is seriously cool and I hope that Horace and Pete continues if for no other reason than to prove that a successful creator can do a major project completely his or her own way without answering to anybody but the unilateral public. We’ve been learning that lesson in the comics field, although seeing as how most comics creators are lacking access to Uncle Scrooge’s money bin we-all generally resort to crowdfunding – which is also a wonderful thing… as long as it lasts.

Louis C.K.’s operation comes at a time when production costs in virtually all media have lowered to the point where it is possible for people to apply that “do it yourself” attitude to their pet projects. He was smart enough to be among the first performers to take advantage of this in his own way, and, of course, he’s been successful enough to cover the deficit financing typical to most scripted television shows. More important, Louis C.K. is courageous enough to put his money where his mouth is.

Thus making Louis C.K. the Lewis and Clark of mass media.