Imagine a young religious man who married the first girl he dated and then, a few years later, she cheats on him. This melancholy experience is the tale of comedian Pete Holmes (“The Pete Holmes Show”) and it’s the pitch that executive producer Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and HBO saw to have the potential of being a good comedy series—and they were right.
“Crashing” is Holmes’s semi-autobiographical creation that he writes and stars in, and it can be considered his comeback from his short-lived late-night TBS talk show “The Pete Holmes Show.” To some he may be an unfamiliar face, but this show will definitely be his chance at the limelight.
“Crashing” begins by introducing the couple—Pete and Jess (Lauren Lapkus, “Orange is the New Black”)—as cute and compatible…at first. This image does not last long at all, as the show is quick to unapologetically reveal the pair having cringe-inducingly awkward sex, setting the tone for the rest of the series. Following a style similar to Louis C.K.’s “Louie,” the show blurs the line between drama and comedy as audiences follow Holmes’s series of unfortunate events—starting with his wife’s affair.
Pete, distraught by the event, goes to a comedy club where he has an unsuccessful set but runs into his comedy idol, Artie Lange (himself, “Artie Lange: The Stench of Failure”). Together, they get into trouble (i.e. cars being towed, hobos shanking them), and Pete begins to learn how to live his life careerless and alone without the woman he thought he once knew.
“Crashing” creates memorable, genuine moments that may lead its audience to have trouble deciding whether to laugh at or feel bad for Holmes’s character. It’s this complexity that could be the show’s most enthralling quality.
The show, the event it’s based on and Holmes’s performance create a sense of pragmatism that makes Pete a character you will want as a friend to comfort with a hug. In any other situation, particularly a sitcom, Holmes’s character might quickly fall into the trap of being the quirky outsider who is put in situations that highlight his oddness. But, based on this premiere, “Crashing” does an excellent job not making Holmes appear cartoonish—he is instead treated with dignity. The fact that this is basically Holmes playing himself probably helps.
What differentiates the show from other comedies on HBO or the comedies it’s taking influence from is the positivity that looms in the bitter tragedies. Where some comedies will elongate the self-deprecating darkness of a scene, “Crashing” takes new angles that are refreshing and, consequently, hilarious. This is a great new show to look into, especially for those that enjoy comedies that don’t follow the safe, digestible sitcom format. The pilot did a great job developing itself, and it can only get better from there.