Friday, December 30, 2016

Now on Hulu: Horace and Pete (2016)

Horace and Pete (2016) - Created by Louis C.K.; Starring Louis C.K., Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Alan Alda, Steven Wright, Jessica Lange, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Metzger, Rebecca Hall, Amy Sedaris.

By Kenny Howell

TV has been revolutionized over the last several years in content, accessibility and business practices.

But Louis C.K. showed us there are still ways to go, and he did it by looking back to a form that isn't used much anymore - the televised play.

His latest creation Horace and Pete is a true original in so many ways. First, it has no network. It is just listed as because C.K. financed the whole thing himself and put it up on his website for a couple of bucks per episode. He didn't make his money back initially I am sure, but over time he is going to make plenty, especially now that Hulu has snapped up the streaming rights, which is where I saw it. It is a whole new way to make a show, though it is limited to the people that can afford to make an entire show, have lots of talented people that want to work with them and can distribute it themselves.

All that would be well and good even if the show wasn't great. Luckily it is. It defies convention, it's not really a comedy, but it is very funny in spots, and it is sometimes too funny to be a serious drama. But it is both of those things. And exceptional at both of those things.

It is the story of an 100-year-old bar in Brooklyn called Horace and Pete's. It is a dive bar through and through, complete with every sort of problem a person can have. There are alcoholics, blue collar guys just trying to get away, and some people have even died in the bar. Since the beginning it has been run two brothers named Horace and Pete. The previous Horace and Pete's made sure that they had heirs that had those names as well to keep it going.

Horace, played by C.K. is divorced and somewhat estranged from his kids, though he does try with his daughter. Pete, played by Steve Buscemi (On the Road), was previously in a mental institution for a disorder that made him hallucinate all kinds of monsters and horrible creatures all around him. Luckily, there is a new drug that has made it so he can live a normal life and help run the bar. Their sister Sylvia who is battling cancer (Edie Falco) wants to shut down the bar because it's a miserable place and the price she would get for the building would help finance her treatments.

The bar is filled with colorful characters, one of those being their Uncle Pete, a previous owner, played with horrible vitriol by Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies). He's a despicable man, as our many of the people we come across in the bar. Some are just commentators on society, as people sitting at the bar discuss current events. The show was filmed over several weeks and C.K. would add things for the bar patrons to talk about, so the 2016 election comes up as well as many other social issues. THe idea being that the people that were purchasing the episodes would see current events in the news being discussed on this fictional show. It gives it a strange relevance that other scripted programs don't have, like it is being done in real time. Several comedians like Kurt Metzger and Steven Wright spout off and create some of the funnier, more insightful moments of the show.

However funny it is, Horace and Pete at its heart is more of a drama. It is about depression, loneliness, regret, past mistakes, mental illness, strained family bonds, and a million other horribly sad things. That C.K. is able to build a show that does include quite a bit of comedy mixed in with those heavy subjects is quite impressive. It's a hard balance to pull off, and C.K. sometimes does it within the same scene, dancing on the extreme ends of both comedy and drama. It only occasionally doesn't work, but those are few and far between. What C.K. has created is far more powerful than the small faults it may have.

Horace and Pete is now streaming on Hulu.

Rating: ****

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