Back in Januany 2016, one of the greatest comedic minds of our generation, Louis C.K., decided to make a brand new television show. Already several seasons into his hit show Louie, he wanted to try something a bit different. He decided to get a tremendous cast of actors together, including the fantastic Edie Falco, Alan Alda and Steve Buscemi, along with some talented writers/producers etc and make Horace and Pete.
Now, for those of you who haven’t heard of Horace and Pete, there’s a very good reason for that. It isn’t on Netflix, or on any TV channels. It’s barely on YouTube. And that’s exactly how Louis C.K wanted to market it. Instead of doing all the talk shows and social media advertising, he simply made 10 episodes of a high budget, high concept comedy/drama and sent a message to his email mailing list saying, ‘I made this show, here’s a website if you want to buy it’. No DVD copies of it exist at all. There’s no other way to view it. Which is very bold and somewhat brave, considering how cut-throat and aggressive the current TV market is. If you are going to do it this way, you have to make sure the product is worth it. Can you imagine if he went to all the trouble to release it like this and it was terrible?? There’s no coming back from that. But don’t worry. It’s good. Very fucking good.
The story is about two brothers Horace and Pete (Louis C.K and Steve Buscemi respectively) who run an Irish dive bar in New York, along with their hate-filled, bullying and brutal Uncle Pete (played by the almost always brilliant Alan Alda). The bar is ‘propped up’ by a strange collection of regulars including their dead father’s former lover, an LSD-taking loud mouth, a haunted actor who can’t cry, an apple juice-drinking scene stealer and even David Blaine at one point, amongst many others. Most of whom are played by some of the greatest stand-up comedians in New York. Which was a nice touch by Louis in my opinion.
Whilst shot on a sitcom set, but with no live audience, it comes across as more of a Pavlov-style play rather than a modern, moderately high-budget TV show. It’s themes also support this idea. Suicide, politics, racism, sexism, mental illness, Cancer, Transgender roles in modern society, adultery, domestic violence, etc. All are explored during the series, some of which are incredibly harrowing, and are dealt with in a way that is both respectable and thought provoking. There are a lot of laughs in there though, so it balances out well.
One particular episode that should be pointed out is episode 3. It features a long, opening monologue by actress Laurie Metcalf (Sheldon’s mother from the Big Bang Theory for you philistines out there) talking about her feelings regarding her new, younger husband, his family, infidelity and it is some of the greatest acting I have ever seen. (Definitely worth going onto YouTube just to check it out). They honestly don’t do scenes like this in big shows anymore so it was very refreshing to watch. The story it quite mad and strange but it keeps you going for the full episode. Top marks to Laurie Metcalf for a great performance.
Whilst Louis C.K isn’t the greatest actor in the world he does a stellar job, especially considering who he is alongside. Edie Falco (The Sopranos) plays Horace and Pete’s sister Sylvia and she knocks it out the park in every scene. Has his actress ever had a bad performance in anything? Steve Buscemi does a tremendous job playing the mentally ill Pete also and it could be argued, due to his narrative arc, that he is in fact the main character in the series. He makes this character someone you feel genuine emotional attachment to which is never easy in television. I also can’t say enough about the Performance of Alan Alda as Pete senior (yes he is Pete is well, it’s not important part in the story) the foul-mouthed, aggressive, narrow-minded, ignorant uncle of the two show leads. His tirade about oral sex between man and woman is unbelievable and one of many great scenes Alan Alda has in the show. It’s quite surprising that he wasn’t the first choice for the role considering how great he is in it (Louis wrote the part with Joe Pesci in mind and got a strong but rather humorous rejection, search for it on YouTube, it’s quite funny).
I honestly can’t praise this show enough. It was a huge risk to market it how he did and one that actually almost bankrupted him as he paid for everything himself. The emotional impact the show had on me speaks volumes for how brilliant it is, funny, harrowing, entertaining, depressing, thought-provoking, it really is something else. It’s not one that many of you will take the time to watch but it is a breath of fresh air considering most of the popular shows on television today that are terrible (looking at you Big Bang Theory) If you ever get the chance, go for it, seriously, you won’t be disappointed.