No one -- including Louis C.K. himself, apparently -- knows if we'll ever see another season of FX's Louie, but it's not because the man's been goofing off.
On Saturday, he surprised fans with the first installment of Horace and Pete, a new TV show/teleplay/streaming/download he's selling online for $5 an episode.
Set in a Brooklyn bar that's been in the same fractious family for a hundred years, it stars its creator and director as the latest in a long string of Horaces and Steve Buscemi as the latest in an equally long string of Petes. Alan Alda plays their crass, angry Uncle Pete and other stars include Jessica Lange, Edie Falco and Saturday Night Live's Aidy Bryant.
How is it? Well, if you're the type of person who often skips the long lines for musicals at Times Square's half-price ticket office to zero in on the plays (guilty), you should love it. It feels more like theater than television has anytime since the fabled 1950s, though an extended political debate attempts to nail it as up-to-the-minute. It's also an opportunity to watch great actors at play. And if this is what is in the Louie creator's head right now, it's little wonder that it's felt less and less like a comedy and more like a collection of short stories.
Is $5 an episode a lot to pay? Sure, though, Louis C.K., who's something of a pioneer in pay-as-you-go TV, packed a lot into 67 minutes. Viewers have the option of downloading it to a computer or streaming from a device -- it played fine on my iPad -- and you don't need to subscribe to anything.
As for the surprise, well, I'll admit to being too snowed under by scheduled television to be as charmed as I should be. On Friday, we learned that Gilmore Girls would have a new life on Netflix, which is great, except that it could mean there is no saying a permanent goodbye to anything ever again. Sunday brings the very much scheduled "Grease: Live," the latest exampe of networks trying to draw viewers in real time. It's a lot to take in. But if you have the time -- and the $5 -- by all means, check out Horace and Pete.