Six episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Pete Holmes, who I find to be absolutely hilarious, with the help of Judd Apatow, looks to have finally broken through middling celebrity with his HBO comedy series Crashing. This is the second collaboration for the broadcasting company and the aforementioned Holmes, preceded by the stand-up comedy special Pete Holmes: Faces and Sounds. Premised around a behind-the-scenes look at the dicey world of stand-up comedy, and drawing from some of Holmes’ personal experiences, Crashing does anything but collapse, supplying ample hilarity and likeable characters the whole way through.
Aspiring stand-up comic Pete (Holmes) is thrust into the cutthroat New York comedy scene after discovering his wife Jessica (Lauren Lapkus) has been cheating on him for some time. Unemployed and financially depleted, he luckily crosses paths with and befriends Artie Lange, who, upon getting Pete’s car impounded, lends him a couch to crash on and industry insight. Struggling with his new reality, Pete is offered a brief opening spot for Artie in exchange for a lift to the show in Albany. There, he meets co-headliner T.J. Miller, who takes pity on him and invites Pete to stay at his place. The two then share a bonding experience when they travel upstate to retrieve some of Pete’s belongings which Jessica has decided to sell at a yard sale.
In order to work on his act, Pete spends his days “barking” (handing out comedy show fliers) in exchange for stage time. On the streets, he meets others with likeminded dreams and slowly adjusts to life without Jessica. Unpleasant situations, lucky breaks, and laughter ensue from there.
Crashing expels a significant amount of effort in being painfully unfunny (effectively), arousing feigned guffaws just as frequently as it evokes genuine laughs, leaving little time left for anything else. I prefer my comedy to ease off the accelerator occasionally and take drama for what it is without undercutting it. Reducing emotional plight to a slop of vulgar, flimsy predicaments handled with unrealistic discourse and immaturity doesn’t exactly trigger yucks for me personally. But I guess when you’re cranking out quality anecdotes like saving Artie Lange from a cocaine-wielding groupie, having a cathartic yard sale bonfire with T.J. Miller, and losing your marijuana virginity to Sarah Silverman, Holmes felt it unnecessary to dimensionalize his livelihood.
I assure you my ribbing of Holmes and Crashing’s one-dimensional content is well-intentioned. The show really is quite wholesome when all’s said and done. Protagonist Pete thrives off of Holmes’ natural and droll screen charisma, eliciting sincere conviviality with each highly suspect scenario, their dubiousness notwithstanding. With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s refreshing that a show can rely on kindness and optimism to push it forward, even if it is to a fault.
That being said, Holmes’ lighthearted hero and goofy humour can only take Crashing so far. After six episodes, the carousel of couches and farfetched, fortuitous flukes, however entertaining they may be, foreseeably turn stale like old bread. Crashing might not be able to sustain its freshness in the long run, but the material isn’t indigestible by any means.
It won’t have you in tears or contemplating life choices, either. Crashing’s endgame is inverting our bleak, cynical outlook. Whether reconnecting with his parents, sharing a drink with his backstabbing ex during a ceasefire, or turning mooching into an art form, a smile rarely strays from Pete’s face. He brings a happiness and enthusiasm about life and one’s profession not seen since Buddy the elf.
Even if memorable is off the table, Holmes’ astute observations, eccentricity, and inerrant Mark Wahlberg impression keep Crashing jocular and enjoyable. Retaining watchability with extended cameos from industry heavyweights and an admirable sweetness noticeably missing from television, Crashing is a wacky love letter to comedy with heart to spare.
Crashing is damn funny and very likeable, make no mistake about it, but it probably won't leave too much of a lasting impression.