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updated: 8/3/2014 10:15 PM

'Louie' is back with more great guest stars

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  • Louis C.K. returns to FX at 9 p.m. Monday with the fourth season of his uniquely entertaining sitcom, "Louie."

    Louis C.K. returns to FX at 9 p.m. Monday with the fourth season of his uniquely entertaining sitcom, "Louie."
    FX Networks

  • Jerry Seinfeld guest stars as himself in an episode of "Louie" airing at 9:30 p.m. Monday on FX.

    Jerry Seinfeld guest stars as himself in an episode of "Louie" airing at 9:30 p.m. Monday on FX.
    FX Networks

  • Video: "Louie" Season 4 promo


Yes, we're all excited about Jack Bauer's return to the small screen Monday for Fox's "24: Live Another Day," a 12-episode "limited series" that continues the adventures of our favorite terrorist hunter.

But after Kiefer Sutherland's done yelling and shooting, you can watch the best standup comic on the planet in his unique, profane and profound FX show.

"Louie" is ostensibly a half-hour sitcom in the style of "Seinfeld" -- Louis C.K. plays himself, and we see slices of his New York life in between bits of him telling jokes onstage. But if "Seinfeld" was famously the show about nothing, "Louie" is a show about everything: Life. Death. Sex. Kids. Parents. Dating. God. War. Peace. And of course, comedy.

Returning at 9 p.m. Monday on FX with two episodes, "Louie" is often as incredibly funny as C.K.'s standup routines, but it's not afraid to ditch punchlines for a more subdued, even meditative vibe. C.K. writes, edits and directs every episode, and the show is truly the work of an auteur; Louie bares it all, literally and figuratively, for the sake of art.

And yes, "Louie" is an artful dissection of American life, even if it often deals in the obscene, the scatological and even (gasp) the gynecological.

Given C.K.'s current status in the comedy world, he is seemingly able to get any guest star imaginable, from Jerry Seinfeld (who appears again in Monday's second episode) to Jay Leno. Even quirky director David Lynch turned up last season as a stone-faced consultant who prepares Louie for his "Late Show" audition. (That last season, by the way, ended in September of 2012. Louie's kept us waiting awhile!)

Aside from Seinfeld, Monday's two episodes also feature the long-absent Charles Grodin and "Chuck" star Yvonne Strahovski, who also happens to be in the cast of "24: Live Another Day."

My five essential episodes of "Louie" all feature memorable turns from guest stars. They are:

"God," Season 1, Episode 11 -- Tom Noonan, the lanky, Lurch-like actor who played the villain in the original Hannibal Lecter movie (Michael Mann's "Manhunter"), plays a doctor who delivers a grisly autopsy report on Jesus Christ in a Catholic Church for a young Louie and his friends. Noonan nails (ahem) the tonal tightrope that C.K. asks him to walk, as he is both darkly funny and truly scary. This early departure for the show made sure we knew this wasn't just another standup sitcom.

"Duckling," 2x11 -- Louie and guest star guitarist Keni Thomas go on a USO tour in Afghanistan in this hourlong episode that shows how desperately our fighters need a release, and how terrifying and enlightening such a trip can be for a civilian. The episode culminates in an unexpectedly heartwarming surprise courtesy of Louie's daughters, Lilly (Hadley Delany) and Jane (Ursula Parker).

"Airport/New Jersey," 2x13 -- Louie finally gets some unrequited love off his chest in an episode that features the ultimate version of a conversation that desperate men have with women every single day. (I know. I've had it.) C.K.'s longtime friend and producing partner Pamela Adlon appears as ... Pamela, the one that got away. Hmm.

"Barney/Never," 3x06 -- Louie and Robin Williams, playing himself, find themselves together at a funeral. Where they go next brings some of the show's biggest laughs.

"Dad," 3x08 -- F. Murray Abraham steals the show as Louie's uncle, who urges him to go visit his ailing and estranged father. The erstwhile Salieri's virtuoso performance in New York's Russian Tea Room features several funny accents, obscene hand gestures and the word "wretchedness." It's a beauty.

You can stream these episodes and the rest of "Louie's" first three seasons on Netflix and Amazon Prime, or purchase them on iTunes or vudu.

Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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