Imagine, for a moment, that were to tell you there is a new show that’s written and directed by Louis C.K. Then imagine that C.K.’s costar in the show is none other than the fantastic and versatile Steve Buscemi. If that weren’t enough, imagine a supporting cast of Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, Kurt Metzger, Steven Wright, Edie Falco, Aidy Bryant, Nick DiPaolo, and Rebecca Hall and that the theme song for the show was performed by Paul Simon. If you’re anything like me, your first thought would be to imagine the great comedic heights a cast like that could accomplish with C.K. in command. Well, Horace and Pete is the new show that came as a surprise released today on LouisCK.net. And while it is the furthest thing from a comedy, it left me rather uncomfortable and I absolutely cannot wait for more episodes.
In the hour long episode—you can purchase for C.K.’s usual $5 fee for content on his site—we’re introduced to the world of Horace and Pete’s bar. A Brooklyn watering hole that’s been open for a century, it brings in the sort of walks of life you’d expect at an old bar. Horace and Pete’s has been a family establishment for the entirety of its hundred years and has passed to every next generation along with the eponymous first names. The latest Horace (C.K.) and Pete (Buscemi), along with Alan Alda playing their “Uncle Pete” are—at best—just making ends meet.
It’s hard to describe the show without giving away too much, and I think the expectation of comedy is almost needed for the full effect of what C.K. gives us. The performances are raw and as real as can be, and its somber and acerbic tone, coupled with these characters, is striking and unlike anything in movies or television today. C.K.’s “Horace” is deeply flawed and apathetic, Buscemi’s “Pete” is dealing with a lifelong mental issue, and Alda’s “Uncle Pete” is a completely unlikeable wretch so fervently set in his ways that you can’t help but hate him. The episode unfolds like a play about nothing else than relentless examples of how life has the ability to knock the wind out of you. And there are barely any moments you’d consider to be jokes.
It’s strange that with each character and plot development, I was on the edge of my seat hoping for a punchline or something to redeem them in any way—but it just never comes. This might be the beauty of what C.K. is giving us with Horace and Pete: A piece of television that doesn’t pull any punches and refuses to spoon-feed the audience with resolution. Even the darker episodes of Louie have a underlying humor to them that is usually able to shine through, but it is clear that this is not that kind of show. Watching it is an incredibly awkward experience that I can only compare to a concentrated version of the very worst arguments you’ve ever had with your family combined with every uncomfortable interaction you’ve had with stranger at a bar.
As weird as the first hour of Horace and Pete made me feel, it was equally as cathartic. There’s a certain comfort in seeing things acted out in way that so closely resembles real life conflict. The fact that nothing is wrapped up by the end, things are generally worse than how they started, and not one character got anything near the redemption that TV and movies have conditioned us to expect, makes this a show of which I can’t wait to see more.
Have you checked it out? Let us know in the comments.
Images: Louis C.K.