October 10, 2020

LIFE WITH LOUIE

 

LIFE WITH LOUIE

(FOX, December 18, 1994-March 2, 1998)

 

Fox Kids Network, Hyperion Animation, The Anderson/Hassan Company

 

 

MAIN CAST:
Louie Anderson – Louis “Louie” Anderson, Andrew “Andy” Anderson
Debi Derryberry – Jeannie Harper
Justin Shenkarow – Michael Grunewald, Glen Glenn
Edie McClurg – Ora Anderson
Miko Hughs – Thomas Anderson
Justin Jon Ross – Toddler Tobolinski

 

 

            Comedian Louie Anderson didn’t have an easy childhood. He was one of 11 children (technically 15, four of his siblings didn’t survive) living in the Minnesota projects with an abusive alcoholic father. That abuse led to his own addiction: food. In 1978, Anderson went into stand-up comedy where his self-depreciating routine would focus on his weight and family; particularly his father, who died in 1979. In 1981, Anderson won a competition that led him to become a joke writer for Henny Youngman, who served as the host. That further led to his appearing on a variety of late-night TV shows, sticoms, and in feature films.

The animated Anderson family.

            While on tour with Roseanne Barr in 1987, Anderson kept a diary of letters he wrote to his father that said everything he was never able to say to him when he was alive. One of those letters was published in People magazine and had a tremendous response. Anderson decided to publish the rest in Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child, which became a best-seller. This began a series of cathartic projects for Anderson.

Ora being the voice of reason to Andy and Louie.

            Seeing there was an interest in his early family life, Anderson attempted to shop around the idea of a sitcom based on it with very little interest from studios. Margaret Loesch, head of Fox Kids, approached Anderson about doing a cartoon instead, but Anderson didn’t think it could work in animation. A few years later, Loesch approached Anderson again; this time armed with a promotional video she had made featuring what Anderson’s family would look like. That was when Anderson became sold on the idea. The series was developed by Anderson with Matthew O’Callaghan.

Louie with little brother, Tommy.

            As advertised, Life with Louie focused on the comedian’s childhood—albeit, a sanitized version of it. The show was set in the fictional suburban town of Cedar Knoll, Wisconsin where the Anderson family lived in a two-story house. Anderson himself appeared in live-action wraparounds and provided narration, as well as voiced his younger self and father (renamed “Andy” from “Louie” to avoid confusion). Andy Anderson was a stereotypical early 20th century father figure: stern and seemingly aloof when it came to his family, but showed he cared about them in his own way. He was a World War II veteran who constantly talked about his experiences and had a superiority complex often undercut but his own limitations. Aside from his wife, the love of his life was his car; a barely-running 1959 Rambler Rebel. Louie’s mother, Ora (Edie McClurg) was the kind, loving, sweet-natured matriarch who often served as the voice of reason for the family. Louie had four older brothers—Sid, John, Danny and Peter—and four older sisters—Laura, Carol, Charlie and Julie—but his little brother, Tommy (Miko Hughes), was often featured the most.

Louie with Jeannie.

            Other characters included Louie’s best friend Jeannie Harper (Debi Derryberry), who often defended him from bullies and who he had a crush on; Mike Grunewald (Justin Shenkarow), Louie’s sarcastic friend and neighbor whose wealthy family often proved a point of jealousy for the Anderson men; Toddler Tobolinski (Justin Jon Ross), Louie’s other friend who loved recess; Glen Glenn (Shenkarow), the local bully who often picked on Louie; The Melvins, a group of chess nerds (although one of them was actually named Franklin, voiced by Eddie Deezen); and Pepper, Louie’s obese goldfish.

Friends Toddler Tobolinsky and Mike Grunewald.

            Life with Louie made its debut on FOX with a prime-time Christmas special on December 12, 1994 before the full season began on June 18, 1995. It was one of the more grounded offerings from Fox Kids, focusing on slice of life stories and the moral lessons that accompany them. One popular topic was bullying, particularly over Louie’s weight. When Mary Wickes, who played Louie’s grandma in several episodes, died in real life, her character also died on the show to teach a lesson about dealing with death.

A man and his car.

The series was written by O’Callaghan, Andy Rose, Alex Taub, Bernie Ancheta, Greg Cope White, Sean Dwyer, Natasha Hayworth, Matthew Negrette, Mary Gray Rubin, David Silverman, R.P. Halke, Ed Driscoll, Robert Rabinowitz, Bruce Clark, Marc Peterson, Shawn Ryan, Alex Zamm and Mike Gandolfi. O’Callaghan also served as a story editor with Taub and Corey Powell and as one of the character designers along with Tom Owens, Martin Fuller, Kimie Calvert, Bret Ring, Dan Root, John Dubiel, Cristi Lyon, Phil Mendez, Steve Aguilar, Douglas McCarthy and Chris York. The music was composed by Randall Crissman, John Zuker, Matt Muhoberac and John Given. Animation duties were handled by Shanghai Morning Sun Animation, Wang Film Productions Company and Sichuan Top Animation.

Getting picked on by Glen Glenn.

The show’s success came as a big surprise to Anderson. It ended up running for three seasons before the network finally cancelled it as a result of ownership changes behind the scenes. It racked up multiple Emmy and Humanitas Prize nominations, earning three of each. The show became a cult favorite in Eastern Europe and Russia due to its being aired on Fox Kids/Jetix and quality dubbing work, as well as the grounded nature of the program and characters which made it different from other programs on the air at the time. Anderson claimed in a 2016 interview that over 300,000 of his Twitter followers alone came from those regions.

One of the VHS releases.


Life with Louie had a massive merchandising push behind it with toys released through Taco Bell, Hardee’s, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen; various kinds of apparel; a CD-ROM comic book from Inverse Ink that adapted the episode “Lake Winnibigoshish”; a book series adapting six episodes from HarperCollins; and special Spaghetti-O shapes. In 1998, 20th Century Fox Home Video released “For Pete’s Sake” and “The Masked Chess Boy” onto VHS. In 2006, Anderson announced during a radio interview that the series would be coming to DVD. However, no release had ever materialized in the United States. But in 2007, Boulevard Entertainment released three 2-episode DVDs as part of the Jetix programming brand in the United Kingdom and Studio Printel released six 5-episode DVD sets in Poland.

  

EPISODE GUIDE:

Special:

“A Christmas Surprise for Mrs. Stillman” (12/18/94) – Andy and Louie decorate their elderly neighbor’s house.

 

Season 1:

“Dad Gets Canned” (6/18/95) – Andy loses his job and Louie is upset that he has to work instead of relaxing all summer.
 
“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Bed” (9/9/95) – An argument with the new neighbors is put on hold when a massive rainstorm causes a flood in the town.
 
“Lake Winnibigoshish” (9/16/95) – While on vacation, Louie meets a girl that has a crush on him but he doesn’t like in return.
 
“A Fish Called Pepper” (9/23/95) – Jeannie moves away for her father’s new job while the family gets a new pet fish.
 
“Behind Every Good Coach” (10/7/95) – Andy takes over the baseball team for the injured coach, but they can’t seem to win until Ora gives them a few pointers.
 
“Alive! Miracle in Cedar Knoll, Wisconsin” (11/4/95) – Louie and Tommy are left home alone just as a blizzard causes a blackout.
 
“Pains, Grains and Allergy Shots” (11/11/95) – Louie develops a food allergy.
 
“The Fourth Thursday in November” (11/18/95) – The Andersons hosts Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family.
 
“Tracks of My Deers” (11/25/95) – While on a hunting trip Louie befriends a deer and tries to keep it safe from the others.
 
“When Cedar Knoll Freezes Over” (2/3/96) – The Andersons fail at every competition at the winter carnival while Louie develops a crush on Jeannie’s sister.
 
“A Fair to Remember” (2/10/96) – Andy wins a pig at the fair while Tommy gets angry with Louie for only taking him on the baby rides.
 
“Born a Rambler Man” (2/17/96) – Ora buys Andy a new car when his Rambler gets damaged, but Andy just can’t seem to like the new car.

 

Season 2:

“Caddy on a Hot Tin Roof” (9/14/96) – Louie works as a caddy to earn some money.
 
“Summer of My Discontent” (9/21/96) – Louie goes to camp to get away from Glen Glenn only to end up lost in the woods with him.
 
“Anderson Ski Weekend” (9/28/96) – To celebrate his promotion, Earl and the Andersons go on a ski trip where Louie pretends he’s a ski master.
 
“Roofless People” (10/5/96) – A tornado that hits the town terrifies Louie and he hides in his room long after it’s over.
 
“How to Succeed in Washington Without Really Trying” (10/19/96) – Louie buys a speech from Glen Glenn in order to win a trip to Washington.
 
“An Anderson Dozen” (11/2/96) – Ora finds out she’s pregnant and Louie is afraid a new baby will mean he has to leave the family.

“Buzz Stop” (11/9/96) – Andy takes up beekeeping in order to make enough money to buy a bigger TV than the Jensens.
 
“The Masked Chess Boy” (11/23/96) – Louie learns he’s adept at chess, but after his father makes fun of chess players he disguises himself when he enters a chess competition.
 
“For Pete’s Sake” (12/25/96) – After a homeless man saves Louie, Louie lets him stay in their garage.

“The Good, the Bad, & the Glenns” (12/27/96) – The town celebrates when the obnoxiously loud Jen Glenn loses her voice.
 
“Kazoo’s Coming to Dinner” (2/1/97) – Louie befriends Ora’s ex-boyfriend.
 
“Mr. Anderson’s Opus” (2/15/97) – While his parents fight over when they got married, Louie becomes jealous when Jeannie gets a crush on the new kid in school.

“The Thank You Note” (2/22/97) – Louie procrastinates writing his grandma a thank you note, and when he finally does he finds out she died.

 

Season 3:

“Loui’s Gate” (9/6/97) – To stave off Louie’s constantly going to the new movie theater, Andy and Ora give him a movie camera which inspires him to film his own movie.
 
“The Making of a President” (9/13/97) – Louie and Mike try to win the school election by spreading lies about their opponents.
 
“Military Reunion” (9/20/97) – Louie learns Andy was actually a cook in the army, but he did manage to save his company.
 
“Go Packers!” (9/27/97) – Andy and Louie go to a Packers game.
 
“The Undergraduate” (10/11/97) – When Louie falls for his substitute teacher, Andy tries to get rid of her.
 
“Louie’s Harrowing Halloween” (10/25/97) – Louie steals some candy and tries to get rid of it during Halloween.
 
“Mr. Louie’s Wild Ride” (11/1/97) – The Andersons head to an amusement park for their vacation only to learn it moved to Florida.
 
“Close Encounters of the Louie Kind” (11/8/97) – Louie and Mike’s spaceship leads to Andy becoming the ambassador of Earth.
 
“The Kiss is the Thing” (11/15/97) – Louie ends up as the prince in a school production of Sleeping Beauty.
 
“Family Portrait” (12/20/97) – When Louie learns one of his friends is an orphan he invites him to his house for Christmas.
 
“Blinded by Love” (2/16/98) – Louie adopts a dog trained to guide the blind.
 
“Do It or Donut” (2/23/98) – Andy supports Louie’s newfound love of playing basketball.
 
“Project: Mother’s Day” (3/2/98) – Louie does Ora’s chores when she gets sick, which leaves him with no time to get her a Mother’s Day present.

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