Am I jealous of Pete Davidson? No, I am not. Okay, I lied just a little bit there. Hell yeah I am jealous! Let’s get that out of the way. The guy started working on Saturday Night Live at the age of 20, has worked on television and film with some of the industry’s best, and at the age of 29 he has a series based on his life… he’s 29! Oh yeah, not to mention he has been known to date and endless list of Hollywood who’s who. What’s not to be jealous of? Based on a multitude of online comments I am far from alone in this feeling.
To be completely honest, I went into Bupkis, deep down sort of hoping I would not want to like it. My dislike would stick it to Davidson, the guy who seems to have it all, taking him down a notch or two. After an opening scene featuring a Davidson VR porn masturbation session ending with his (let’s just say ‘results’) accidentally and graphically sprayed on his mother’s (Edie Falco) shirt, I figured my petty was granted. While the scene was funny and Falco’s willingness to be part of it somewhat shocked me, the crude and predictable comedy was just what I was expecting. In other words, Bupkis did not look to be my thing… until I watched more.
It did not take long before my opinion started to shift. By the end of episode one, much to my pleasure, Bupkis proved to have much more to offer. After anticipating a loosely tied together string of juvenile jokes (and there are plenty,) I was pleased to not only find myself laughing at much of it, but also invested in the more personal moments of Pete Davidson’s story. The series takes us on his journey, told in a way only Davidson could. Bupkis is one of the biggest surprises of the year.
The premise is simple, Bupkis is a semi-autobiographical dramedy of Pete Davidson’s life – one that explores the features you would expect while unafraid to tackle those many would hide. Being this is Davidson’s story, you can expect an open book recollections and fictionalized accounts of situations and moments that are consistently and effectively mined for humor.
Davidson’s fingerprints are all over this. Self-deprecating, sophomoric humor, drugs, sex, drug addiction, his penis, and even more drugs. Those parts are expected, what was not is how Davidson bravely takes a lot of punches, exposing not only the surface level details that are well covered in the press, but also his insecurities, longing for some mundane aspects of life, and the tragic loss of his father (Joshua Bitton) at 9/11.
Through recreated flashbacks and even some very touching family home video and photos, the weight of the loss of Pete’s father on his psyche is a constant underlying theme. Davidson admittedly has some daddy issues, when explored they inject some disarmingly rawness. This essentially feels like a comedic therapy session – delayed coming of age story and Pete works through many of the issues that he has suppressed with drugs. Though, while addressing it all, nothing is off limits as the series finds ways to turn everything, including a funeral burial, uproariously funny.
The series quickly vicariously transcended me back to my younger, more reckless self (even if my youth was never so reckless.) It captures the wild feel of hanging with the guys being immature, aimless and loving it. From episode to episode, Pete never stays in one place too long interacting with different people who all provide different perspectives on his life, including his sister Casey (Oona Roche), his girlfriend Nikki (Chase Sui Wonders) and his best friend Evan (Philip Ettinger).
The two biggest standouts are Edie Falco and Joe Pesci who play Davidson’s mother and dying grandfather respectively. From the moment she explains why she will not change her t-shirt soiled with Pete’s “results” until after she finishes her workout, it is evident Falco is all-in on the hijinks and hilariously so. Both Falco and Pesci are scene stealers who put a smile on my face just through their presence in this comedy chaos – even if I could have used more of each.
So much of the humor that had me cracking up is difficult to put into words without losing much of the effect, and if I could it would only spoil the fun of all. One example I will share that had me in tears has to do with Pete helping his family friend “Uncle Roy” (Brad Garrett) who is suffering with a bout of hip dysplasia, perform mid-act with a prostitute. It is probably not what you expect. What it is immature, kind of gross, and probably (or at least I am hoping) one of the fictionalized parts of the series. It is also funny as hell. The image it creates will have you laughing, groaning and asking for more.
I went into Bupkis pretty blindly. I knew it would involve Pete, Edie and Joe, but the remaining cast was all a mystery to me. Garrett was only one of the welcome co-stars to make an appearance. The series was developed and written by Davidson, along with his creative partners Judah Miller (The King of Staten Island) and Dave Sirus – it is also produced by Lorne Michaels.
There’s obviously a great deal of support behind the series. In addition to those behind the scenes is a long list of amazing actors from comedy greats to today’s hottest talent and numerous in between. They are weaved into Pete’s story effectively adding some great laughs in addition to a certain level of esteem to a project that (without viewing) could easily be dismissed.
Just a few of the stellar cast include Bobby Cannavale (fantastic as always as Pete’s uncle and surrogate dad), SNL legend Jane Curtin, the great Steve Buscemi and the hilarious Sunita Mani. As always, I will let you discover the other guest stars on your own. Just go in knowing in one episode alone there had to have at least a half dozen exciting guests. Who will pop up next is part of the fun, without being gimmicky.
The series is a bit manic, bouncing around all over the place through Pete’s life including dealing with internet trolls, playing dad, filming a movie, drug deals and of course, rehab. While the tone is certainly inconsistent it also feels appropriate when telling Davidson’s story – a young man who often aimlessly wanders through his own life.
The outrageous gives way to the unexpectedly endearing. Even when at its most sincere the absurd is not far behind. Where the series most succeeds is making Davidson, a guy whose life is much different than mine, feel relatable. Davidson’s acting may also be uneven, but the most human aspects of his wild journey will probably change opinions on the actor, at least for those who can keep an open mind.
For a series about a man who acknowledges his flaws and is working them out, the rough around the edges feel is fittingly on brand, capturing the charms of Davidson. I get it now. The guy won me over. Somewhere during the eight episode season I went from not being a fan of Davidson, to openly rooting for him. For that reason and many more, Bupkis is one of the most surprisingly addictive series of the year.
Bupkis premieres all 8 episodes only on “The Cock” (Peacock – Pete’s choice of words not mine,) starting May 4rd. Warning: The series is completely binge-able. I was planning to watch a few episodes and ended up watching all 8 in one sitting – it is a load of fun.
Jane Curtin not Curtis