Less a TV Show and more a filmed stage play. Or something like a stage play. The sets are large open areas and the stages make loud noises as the actors walk across them. There are also a lot of long, lingering, painful shots. The kind of takes you would expect in a play where everyone is on stage the whole time.
Horace and Pete has an amazing cast. Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Steven Wright, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, and several other greats who have small roles over the ten episode span of Horace and Pete. Even Paul Simon, who wrote the mournful theme song, makes a cameo appearance.
Louis C.K. is a comedian, though he did do a pretty good job of being serious in Trumbo. Alan Alda has also done a bit of work in the comedy field, though he has leaned toward more serious roles since he left MASH. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from Horace and Pete and after watching all ten episodes, I’m still not sure what I watched.
It’s a show that is very much a couple of months ago. The talk about the Iowa Primary and why Trump is leading. They talk about women’s rights, gay rights, transgender issues, and other very topical items. Louis also dives into more evergreen issues such as alcoholism, spousal and child abuse, and mental illness.
Readers of If You Write It will know one of my personal pet peeves is stories without heroes. I like someone to root for, not a cast of people to hate. Despite this, I still love Game of Thrones and I did like Horace and Pete. There are no good people here, but no real villains either. They are all losers muddling through life as best as they can. For most of them, this is not very well.
But each episode makes up in deep thoughts what it lacks in drama or comedy. Is it gay to have sex with a woman who used to be a man? Is madness something you can cure through will power? Is is ok to have sex with someone even though you know they are an alcoholic? Should you tell the racist old bastard in your life that he’s a racist old bastard and needs to stop it? Should you hate your father because he cheated on your mother? Should you have an affair with your father-in-law? Is Donald Trump going to be the end of American? Should you have sexual fantasies about your father’s last lover?
There is a lot of strong language here. Every foul word you can think of is used as a matter of course. The show is set in a bar after all, and drunks tend to be less than polite in their speech and ideals.
The end of the story is a bit shocking and a bit expected. The entire show is one long downer, so don’t expect the bar owners to win the lottery and move to Florida.
One of the odd things is the lack of a live audience or a laugh track or any hint that what we are watching is a performance of some kind. There are no musical cues as to what might be going on. There are several flubbed lines and mistakes with props. The camera work is basic to bizarre, most of one episode is a tight shot of a woman’s face. The fact that it still cost Louis C.K. half a million dollars to make each episode is mind-boggling, what did he spend the money on?
Horace and Pete had a few laughs and a few tears. I liked it. Mainly I just liked seeing all the familiar faces. You can find it on LouisCK.net. Like the many blogs and Kindle books no one but the author loves, the countless Youtube channels no one subscribes to, and the little rants and raves on this or that site, Horace and Pete is an odd bit of work. It’s not a show a Network would have picked up or a Broadway Theater would stage. So Louis C.K. did what anyone with the money and time would do, he banged it out himself. Why do creatives need Networks? Why do singers need Labels? Why do authors need Publishers? Horace and Pete sure as hell could have used an Editor or two, but then it wouldn’t have been what it is. Whatever that is.
Tom Clancy once said’The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.’ It’s pretty clear that Louis C.K. is unfamiliar with this quote.