This is a spoiler-free review of the premiere of Crashing, that debuts on HBO on Sunday, February 19th.
I am aware of Pete Holmes. I’ve never seen any of his stand-up, I didn’t watch his late night show that was on after Conan (though I caught one or two of those Batman sketches that he did), and I’ve never heard a single second of his popular podcast, You Made It Weird. But I am a bit of a comedy nerd (I happen to subscribe to a rival comedy podcast, WTF with Marc Maron), so I’m aware of Holmes’ wide-eyed, religion-positive, nice guy routine. He’s just never demanded my attention. He also looks like my friend Trent.
Anyway, Crashing, Holmes’ new half-hour comedy series, is exactly the material I expected from Holmes; a good-natured, funny, but not quite laugh-out-loud funny, inessential entry into the “comedy shows about comedy” genre. Frankly, there’s nothing much wrong with the series, except everything feels recycled from something you’ve seen before. When there are so many scripted comedy series out there vying for attention, Crashing feels 10 years too late to warrant weekly viewings.
Produced by Judd Apatow, Crashing really feels like Forgetting Sarah Marshall except the protagonist is a fledgling comedian. Pete arrives home early from writing jokes at the library one day to see his wife cheating on him with an eccentric, tantric –practicing dimwit who’s given most of the pilot’s funniest lines. Sound familiar? It turns out that Pete’s nice guy routine and his constant need of support from his wife (played by the always wonderful Lauran Lapkus), wore her down. Pete won’t fuck his wife on the floor, but expects her to pick his socks up off of it. This is the one aspect of the show that I enjoy. Based on Holmes’ real-life, this plot line shows that Holmes is self-aware enough to realize being polite and meek may not be the greatest way to go about life.
Feeling dejected and low, Pete goes to a popular nightclub that is way above his usual anonymous, half-empty Upper West Side dive to catch some comedy. Not in the right frame of mind, Pete is pushed to perform at the club and bombs. If you’re interested in the comedy world, you might enjoy the backstage action and the cameos from comedians like Jeff Ross, Jay Oakerson, and Greer Barnes, but that sort of fly-on-the-wall in the comedy club stuff feels more intimate and revealing on shows like Louie.
Pete’s set is so bad that he earns the sympathy of Artie Lang, who is a great foil to Holmes’ “babe in the woods” shtick. Lang gets Holmes stuck in some classic New York City ruts, basically leading him down the wrong path at every turn until Holmes is forced to crash on Lang’s coach, thus the name of the show. Whose coach will be next? Only devoted Holmes fans, comedy podcast listeners, and channel surfers are likely to find out. Holmes seems like a great guy, but based on this show’s thesis, that, may be part of the problem.