Although Judd Apatow’s acclaimed comedy “Girls” is airing its last episodes, his newest HBO half-hour comedy “Crashing” is keeping the quirky and hilarious ball rolling. Similar to shows such as “Louie,” “Seinfeld” and “Master of None,” “Crashing” follows the semi-fictional story of comedian Pete Holmes’ life (for the purposes of this story, the comedian is called Holmes, and the character, Pete, respectively). The series begins with Pete catching his wife cheating on him, and continues as he’s forced to start a new life in show business.
For those unfamiliar with Holmes, you may have heard his voice as the E-Trade baby or might have caught his featured sets on Conan O’Brien or Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk shows. Fans of Holmes know and love him for his Nerdist podcast “You Made It Weird” and the late night “Pete Holmes Show,” which had a short run on TBS. A rising comedy star, Holmes recently released an HBO special “Faces and Sounds,” in addition to his new HBO comedy series “Crashing.”
And for those unfamiliar with Judd Apatow, he’s the producer, director, actor and comedian who’s helped create “Girls,” “Anchorman,” “Bridesmaids” and pretty much most other great comedies you’ve seen in the past 10 years. Following suit of Apatow’s other great comedies, the humorous dialogue in “Crashing” is natural and authentic, without the feeling of forced jokes. Apatow’s veteran directorial presence can be felt through the polished quality of the show, such as the scene where childlike Pete engages in a conversation with actual children, while Holmes’ writing provides a new perspective.
In episode one, “Artie Lange,” Pete turns to comedy for emotional support after leaving his wife, and meets real-life comedian Artie Lange. The interaction provides a sharp juxtaposition between the seasoned Lange and the sheltered newcomer, Pete. The duo share pizza, survive a stabbing and fight New York’s parking laws before Lange begrudgingly allows Pete to “crash” on his couch. Lange helps Pete embark on a journey to discover his independence, because in order to be successful, the young optimist first needs to learn more about the harsh realities of comedy and the world.
Pete is a new take on the doe-eyed newcomer. He is vulnerable and naive from his sheltered Christian background, but he’s no simpleton. In the first episode, Pete seems to get a taste of the harshness of the real world for the first time. Instead of crumbling in the face of his disillusionment, Pete begins to develop the tough backbone necessary to be a standup comedian. Through his growth even in the first episode, Pete shows the promise of further rejecting the trope of the loveable dummy, as his relationship with Lang has already given his character more of the depth that a real human being has.
From its premiere, “Crashing” appears to be a step in the new direction of the TV comedy. Ditching the laugh-track supported punchlines of the past in favor of authentically hilarious and personal moments, Apatow and Holmes could be on the cusp of genre-defining comedy.
“Crashing” manages to be quick with a smart joke, while remaining accessible to a wide audience, and especially sharp-eyed comedy fans will get a kick out of the numerous cameos of celebrity comedians which its premiere has already demonstrated.
“Crashing” continues the comedic prestige that HBO has come to be known for, and shows the potential of making Pete Holmes a household name. To see where Pete is crashing next, watch episodes live on HBO at 9:30 p.m. on Sundays, or stream for free on hbo.com/crashing.