Perhaps no one person has been more closely identified with FX’s 2010s creative renaissance as was Louis C.K., the comic, actor, and director who Thursday was accused of sexual harassment by five women on the record — and who admitted the accusations are true. And now FX is cutting ties, issuing a statement Friday that the network’s deal with the comedian had been cancelled.
Even in a recent climate whereby consequences for newly surfaced allegations have come swiftly, this was a startling development; C.K.’s long-on-hiatus series Louie had been a key building block in establishing the network’s critical credibility, and C.K.’s clout in Hollywood had been another, as he was producing two shows for the network and another two through the network’s production offices for other networks.
C.K.’s firing marks the effective end of one of the young century’s most consequential TV careers, one that endlessly made grist of sexual anxieties and peccadilloes about which it’d seem impossible to laugh, now. C.K.’s Louie was premised on a simple equation—the tension between being a father who loves his daughters and a man in the world who does not much respect or like women—whose interest, to this viewer, ran dry long before what we now know to be its final episode aired on FX. But its persona-forward, autobiographical-seeming model spawned fascinating further entries in the genre, whether produced by C.K. (like FX’s Better Things) or not (like, say, HBO’s Crashing or FX’s Atlanta).
There seems practically no star big enough not to be toppled by allegations of sexual misdeeds in the post-Harvey Weinstein landscape. C.K.’s empire was supported by several legs — his burgeoning career as a film director, his standup — but his work on television was defining and, seemingly, generationally important. But with FX forcefully distancing themselves from him, that era seems ended with such force as to retroactively recast, at least, Louie; whether those shows he produced behind the scenes will be tarnished, too, is a different question, and I hope the answer is no. Better Things and One Mississippi and Baskets, all produced by C.K. until his firing Friday by FX, owe what about them is good to the sensibility of the performers who pour their souls into the work. (The question of Better Things, co-written in large part by C.K., is thornier; so far, show cocreator and star Pamela Adlon has yet to speak out, but to this viewer, the show’s loving and tough tone is all hers.) They deserve their chance to move forward in a post-C.K. era, to be seen for what they are outside the occluding shadow of a seemingly too-big-to-fall star.