Louis C.K.’s new self-sustained web series takes viewers far beyond anywhere Louie ever could.
Louis C.K. — actor, comedian, producer and now director — can officially do no wrong. Audiences cannot get enough of the comedian’s brutally honest take on the human experience, and will apparently follow him to the ends of the earth — even to a teleplay on the Internet. Horace and Pete, written with the same dry-wit fans can recognize from Louie, has released. Although it is nothing like Louis C.K. or most other comedians working today. It’s funny at times, but it’s not a comedy.
The pilot of the groundbreaking series was released Jan. 30, and takes the form of a teleplay with only one scene, which mimics the structure of a stage performance, as odd as that sounds. Horace and Pete is a genre-defying masterpiece with honesty, humor and humanity. There’s Horace (C.K.) — a sad, but still funny, clown of sorts, his cousin Pete (Steve Buscemi) and sister Sylvia (Edie Falco) — the serious types. There’s uncle Pete (Alan Alda) who’s the wild-card. He can be painfully funny and dead-serious in the same sentence, which is largely a product of his fitting role as the crotchety, outdated and insensitive uncle Pete.
Horace and Pete is a story about a family being torn apart by a 100-year-old bar, Horace and Pete’s est. 1916. It has been passed down from various Horace and Petes within the family since the days of prohibition. The bar is essentially a homewrecker. Horace tries to keep his fragile cousin Pete together while his uncle Pete constantly berates everyone in the room and his sister tries to pressure them all into selling the bar and alleviating this cancer from their lineage once and for all.
Audiences still have some of that same awkward, frustrated and confused Louie, except now he’s Horace. But now he isn’t the dependable, loving father we know from Louie. We have (once again) a lonely divorced man, but he doesn’t even have his kids — they hate him for a reason that takes a few episodes to decipher. And those similarities make the show seem even more strange as C.K. preceded its release by putting Louie on permanent hiatus, and one day just dropped Horace and Pete: episode 1 on his website without warning. The show is created, written, directed and produced by C.K., and after the first episode’s release the comedian sent out an email to his website’s subscribers, describing in vivid detail where all the money for this show is coming from. Therefore the first episode is available for $5, and subsequent episodes range from $2 to $3.
Even as a devout fan of Louie and all of its dry-wit and awkward humor, I am still willing to admit that Horace and Pete is far better than anything C.K. could have done for FX. Even though C.K. negotiated an unprecedented contract with FX that allowed him complete creative control, Horace and Pete goes far beyond the depth any sitcom on TV, because it’s not a sitcom. It largely resembles a play, the first episode taking place in just one room and includes an intermission, with the end of episode five signaling the end of act one. Although there is no certainty of how many episodes there will be, C.K. has released an episode a week since its release date.
The wonderfully crafted story and dialogue that deals with everything from Horace’s schizophrenic cousin Pete to Horace’s ex-wife discussing her affair with her new husband’s 84-year-old father, is a shining beacon of C.K.’s writing capabilities. And no matter how much freedom FX gave him, he never could have made a show with this much variety and unpredictability with the emotions it evokes — episode one having riotous moments of laughter during politically-fueled rants by barflies. Episode three has 30 minutes of Horace and his ex-wife having an intimate conversation about the cheating condition of marriage. C.K. also makes the episodes only as long as they have to be — the first running 65 minutes and others ranging from 30 to 45 minutes — however long it takes to tell another piece of the corrosive tavern and the combustible family.