LIFE WITH LOUIE
(FOX, December 18, 1994-March 2, 1998)
Fox Kids Network, Hyperion Animation, The Anderson/Hassan Company
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.
“A Christmas Surprise for Mrs. Stillman” (12/18/94) – Andy and Louie decorate their elderly neighbor’s house.
“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.