Well, this is a surprise. Louis C.K. — currently killing the game with his FX show, his stand-up specials, and his general winningly dour demeanor — is writing and producing a comedy for CBS. The show, about an “ensemble of young people who are trying to achieve their creative dreams in these tough financial times,” is co-created with Spike Feresten, his old pal from his Letterman writing room days. (Feresten has also written for The Simpsons and Seinfeld. More interestingly: He hosted Fox’s late-night program Talkshow with Spike Feresten for three years without anyone ever really knowing it existed.) So: Should CBS President Les Moonves now be afraid for his life via the ire of a put-upon Louis C.K.? Or has Louis C.K. somehow gotten the “Louis C.K. deal” over at the big-boy network?
Let’s back up. As New York magazine‘s profile from last year points out, Louis’ setup over at FX is ridiculously lax:
“The show is based on his life. Louis is the director. He’s also the only writer, the sole editor (he no longer shares duties with the co-editor he had last season), not to mention the person who oversees music (when the music guy’s budget ran out, he decided to do it himself). He also hired his own casting team: Last season, he turned down FX’s offer to help out and doesn’t inform them about casting in advance. But perhaps the most unusual aspect of the show is that Louis C.K. gets no notes from the network during filming, no script approval — an unheard-of ‘Louis C.K. deal’ that has made him the envy of comics and TV writers alike.”
Speaking of the deal recently at the TCA, C.K. said, “You have to be willing not to do the show. … If you’re concerned with success too much, you make all kinds of decisions and compromises, then you hurt the story that you’re doing.” As THR explains, “Working in Louis C.K.’s favor: he was not only willing but also able not to do the show. ‘I don’t need this shit, I really don’t,’ he deadpans, referencing a hugely lucrative side-career as a touring stand-up comic. [Note: He apparently made over $1 million on the stand-up special he just distributed online himself.] ‘This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But I don’t need it.’”
So why the hell is he doing a CBS show? Over at NBC they’d probably let him go wild, figuring that whatever the hell he came up with on his own would probably get at least as many viewers as Community (sorry, Community!). But CBS is the top dog, the home of comedy-as-decreed-by-Chuck Lorre. There’s no way he’s not getting notes, right? You could theorize that C.K. wanted to put his boy Spike on, and is going the major-network route to get him the additional exposure. You could theorize that Louis has mellowed out a bit, or that after a few years of hard solo labor he’s into the cushy comforts of a big production and friendly collaboration. Or maybe they just have, like, insanely good espresso in the CBS conference rooms?