HBO’s Crashing

| August 1, 2017

I’ve been a huge fan of Pete Holmes for many years now.  While he was hosting The Pete Holmes Show, I would often catch the various sketches he would put out on youtube where he plays Batman or Professor X, or a fight promoter in the Street Fighter universe.  His Batman vs. Superman sketch is infinitely better than Zack Snyder’s film because while it’s hilarious, it also stays true to the characters.  Right before Crashing premiered, me and my girlfriend also watched his latest HBO stand-up special: Faces and Sounds, which is also fantastic.

So, I may have been expecting a little too much when I got into Crashing.  The show is entertaining definitely, but knowing what Holmes is capable of, I just know it can be so much greater than it is.

In the series, Pete Holmes plays himself starting out in stand-up comedy and being torn between his Christian ideals and the moralistic compromises he finds himself making to pursue his dream of being a comedian.  His life becomes more complicated when he walks in on his wife Jess (Lauren Lapkus; Jurassic World) having an affair with another man, Leif (George Basil).  Having lived off his wife’s support for years, Pete now has to survive on his own while still pursuing his comedic passion.

There are a lot of things to like about this show.  A lot of great comedians come on and play themselves including Artie Lange, who is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who somehow has his life more together than Pete.  Sarah Silverman runs a sort of comedic halfway house for comedian friends who need to get back on their feet.  Steve Agee plays himself living indefinitely with Sarah Silverman.  T.J. Miller tours around with Pete a bit and we only ever see him tell one joke; I thought it was funny that Miller uses the same joke to open his HBO special Meticulously Ridiculous.

I also have to say that there is one phenomenal episode of Crashing in the first season.  All are fine and fun, but there’s one episode that really stands out where Pete gets a job handing out leaflets for a local comedy club and if he hands out enough, he gets to perform at a coveted timeslot.  The episode has a great structure, is really funny, and everything I want the show to be.  All of the other episodes have great elements, like when Pete gets a gig doing warm up comedy at The Rachel Ray Show, but nothing quite holds together as magically as that canvassing episode.

One thing that I felt odd was how they kept working the Jess character into the show.  I like Lauren Lapkus a lot, and she’s great as Jess, but after Pete discovers her affair, it mostly feels like her part of the story is over, and by continuing to force her and Pete to need to see each other, it dragged down his drive to become a successful comedian.

All this being said, the biggest issue with the show for me is that it’s not unique enough.  There have been countless shows about comedians being comedians.  Some are enormously successful, like Louis and Seinfeld, while others fail almost instantly.  This having the support of HBO and being pretty entertaining may help it survive beyond this first season, but if we do get a season 2, I really feel like the show needs to differentiate itself from its many predecessors in ways that are more complicated and interesting than the Christianity angle.  I hope they pull it off.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from HBO.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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