Pamela Adlon heckled Louis C.K. from the aisle as he introduced her at the Tribeca TV Festival on Friday. There was indeed something ridiculous about him donning reading glasses to recite a lengthy bio about her career as a child actress turned voiceover artist turned writer-director-producer, given how well they know each other. They co-created Better Things, the show that had just screened, and played romantic partners on the HBO sitcom Lucky Louie and the FX show Louie.
During their talk at Cinepolis Chelsea, it emerged that they had worked on a couple of other projects as well, though neither have seen the light of day. After HBO canceled Lucky Louie in 2006, Louie and Adlon tried to do a “safe” version of the sitcom about a working stiff and his wife and kids.
“CBS hired us to do a pilot together and it didn’t seem like a good idea creatively because CBS is not, you know…” Louie said, trailing off to laughter. “But they’re a huge network and we thought, we both needed to make money for our families and, ‘Let’s just do a shitty [version of Lucky Louie].’ Because we did the HBO one and [we thought], ‘Let’s just do a bad one.’”The idea was: “Let’s keep it safe, let’s keep it sweet, let’s keep it network-happy,” Louie said. The result was “a diluted, watered-down Lucky Louie,” said Adlon. Still, both she and Louie agreed it was good.
Needless to say, the pilot didn’t include much of the “obscenity” that caused the Catholic League to declare Lucky Louie “barbaric.” But it was still “edgy” enough to turn off CBS, Adlon said.
“CBS called and said, ‘We don’t want this show,’” Louie remembered.
And they weren’t too polite about it, either. “It was [comedy development executive] Wendi Trilling or whoever from CBS and they sounded mad. They said, ‘We’re not doing this,’” Louie recalled, mimicking a voice of indignation.
One point of contention involved a scene in which Adlon throws up. “We’re not showing someone vomiting,” Louie recalled CBS saying.
Another one of the network’s complaints about the script: “You call your daughter a liar.”
“Well, she lies,” Louie recalled noting.
“We’re not going to show a thing where a mother is screaming that her daughter is a liar,” Louie recalled CBS saying.
“And I looked at the page, I had it in front of me, and I said, ‘There’s not even an exclamation point. Why are you saying that she’s screaming?’”
“We feel that she’s screaming!”
Louie and Adlon went on to write a movie script together, but they weren’t forthcoming about the details. “I don’t know if anybody still has that,” Adlon said, and Louie didn’t know either.
Will the duo ever write another movie script together? Who knows. They may have to reconcile some creative differences first.
“I like things that are dark, but it has to have a heart,” Adlon said at one point.
“That’s the difference between you and me,” Louie responded.
“I don’t like a nihilist thing and then everybody’s dead and it’s all over.”
“I find that hilarious,” said Louie. “It’s the best.”