Pete Davidson’s semi-autobiographical series is a hilarious fictional take on his crazy real life.
Plot: A new comedy following Pete Davidson as he attempts to work through unique family dynamics and the complexities of fame to form meaningful relationships.
Review: Love him or hate him, Pete Davidson is very popular these days. After his stint on Saturday Night Live, his semi-autobiographical Judd Apatow movie The King of Staten Island, as well as a string of high-profile relationships with everyone from Ariana Grande and Kate Beckinsale to Kim Kardashian and more, Davidson has used his fame and unique comedic style to develop a new Peacock series. Bupkis finds Pete Davidson playing the most challenging role of his career: himself. Taking a cue from Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bupkis is a showcase for Davidson’s sense of humor, and a huge cast of famous guest stars reenacting stories from his life exaggerated in such a way that you cannot tell what is true and what is fiction. Luckily, it is all pretty funny.
Created by Davidson, Judah Miller, and Dave Sirus, each episode of Bupkis opens with a narration by Lorne Michaels, declaring the story is inspired by real-life but is completely fictionalized, echoing the Yiddish origin of the series title. From the first scene of the premiere, Pete Davidson pushes the envelope of what he did in many of the digital shorts during his tenure on SNL. It is a hilariously raunchy moment that sets the tone for the entire series. Each episode serves as a standalone look at elements from Davidson’s life as a celebrity and his connection to his family and friends at home on Staten Island. The thirty-minute episodes vary in quality, with some anchored in more dramatic moments from Davidson’s childhood, including multiple references to his father’s death as a first responder on September 11, 2001. But even 9/11 isn’t safe from jokes in this series.
At the core of the series is the relationship between Pete and his mother, Amy, here, played by Edie Falco. Falco is a commanding actress in her own right, but she embraces the maternal elements of her role and the off-the-wall requirements of being a mom to Pete Davidson. From his sobriety and mental health to his fame and notoriety, Falco takes them in equal measure while not being afraid to tout that Marisa Tomei “played her in that movie.” Equally great is Joe Pesci, who portrays Pete’s grandfather. While Pete was raised Catholic but also has Jewish, German, and Irish ancestry, his fictional family is more Italian. Grandpa Joe plays his terminally ill father figure, a no-holds-barred guy echoing some of Pesci’s trademark roles. The scenes shared between Davidson, Falco, and Pesci are amongst the best in the series, but that is only a small aspect of Bupkis.
The “heightened” reality of Bupkis comes into play with the more over-the-top aspects of each episode, all of which Pete Davidson has a co-writing credit on. From an episode soliciting an escort to hunting down the online troll posting bad photos of him to an episode inspired by The Fast and the Furious, these episodes place Pete into ridiculous situations that showcase the extremes that some people think his real life may be like. These stories also carry a moral or message at the end that makes Pete relatable while bringing in many pop culture references to everything from Star Trek to the song “Cotton Eyed Joe.” There are also more sentimental episodes that focus on Pete’s childhood and bring fictionalized family members to life. These stories blur reality and fiction and are more than likely not true but feel genuinely heartfelt despite being imagined through the cracked lens of Pete Davidson’s comedy.
The series also benefits from boasting a massive list of guest stars who appear in everything from cameos to supporting roles in certain episodes. Actors like Brad Garrett appear multiple times, while Bobby Cannavale gets to sink his teeth into meatier roles. Davidson looks to have called in a lot of favors to bring some of these folks to his series with Charlie Day, Ray Romano, Steve Buscemi, John Mulaney, Kenan Thompson, and Machine Gun Kelly appearing with some more surprising appearances from Jon Stewart, J.J. Abrams, Eli Manning, Simon Rex, and former Vice President Al Gore. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm, some actors and celebrities portray versions of themselves to great effect. In contrast, others get to play original creations, like Simon Rex’s memorable role as Crispy.
Bupkis is somewhat uneven, with some plots working well and eliciting easy laughs while others coast by with a chuckle here and there. The series is clearly rooted in what has been going through Pete Davidson’s mind, and it often feels like we are experiencing his daydreams or drug-induced hallucinations. More of Bupkis works than does not, and if Davidson can rally as many famous faces for future episodes, this series will work at least as a fun outlet for his therapy to unfold on screen. Many people deal with their mental health privately, but Pete Davidson has found a way to share his thoughts, fears, dreams, and hopes through a creative medium. Sometimes it is productive, and other times it leads nowhere, but it definitely is worth a few laughs.
Bupkis premieres on May 4th on Peacock.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/bupkis-tv-review/