Comedian Pete Holmes, of the You Made It Weird podcast and TBS’ (regrettably) canceled Pete Holmes Show, has landed on HBO with executive producer Judd Apatow — who directs this first episode — and a quasi-autobiographical story about an aspiring stand-up whose life is thrown into upheaval after he catches his wife having an affair.
It’s an incident that leaves him “crashing” on people’s couches while his life, in turn, “crashes” down around him, forcing him to live a bit more dangerously and uncomfortably than he’d grown accustomed to. Holmes has an amiable, squishy and unassuming presence and I’m really happy he’s rounded third here with an HBO series, but, as with most Apatow tales of woe, he’s become nestled within this “unlikable nice guy” persona where he’s almost too milquetoast to be believed. It’s sort of an aggressive version of being obtuse that really tests our limits for sympathy.
Here, Pete has been living with his wife, Jess (Lauren Lapkus), for years, having met her at a Christian college and the two of them being each others’ first love. Again, there are many elements present from Holmes’ own life (and divorce) and he himself wrote this pilot, but it is often a struggle to invest in a character who didn’t, for example, have a part-time job while trying to become a working mic n’ stool stand-up. Jess has been supporting Pete while he gets paid nothing to work on his craft and somehow it never even occurred to him to, say, work 15-21 hours a week in customer service for a little extra green.
Basically, any delving into this “storybook” marriage would have revealed a ton of communication (or lack thereof) issues, but that’s not what we’re here to watch. The set up’s all about the big shocking incident. Catching the naked tattooed long-haired dude with your wife. You know, something bawdy for the trailer. It’s pretty hollow, all in all.
The show picks up though once Holmes starts palling around with the notorious Artie Lange and their dichotomy of personality, and clumsy friendship, gives Holmes a great foil to work with. Rather than wallowing in the aftermath of betrayal, Pete is more or less forced to face the ghost of a dystopian comic future. A man who made it to the big leagues, but whose life may have been, for a majority of the time, less than ideal.
I’m not sure how much Lange will be on the series, but if he just represents, say, the first couch Pete crashes on, that’d be cool. I like the idea of Pete, a very sheltered man from the get go, having to dive into the lives of actual broken comedians who often bring their pain with them up on stage.