If you think the world needs less of Pete Davidson, his wildly funny and empathetic new show on Peacock helps prove why that’s “Bupkis”.
Pete Davidson first rose to fame at age 20 as a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live, one of the youngest in the show’s five-decade history. But he really became part of the public discourse following his very public love life and high-profile relationships with superstars like Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian.
Bupkis is a new comedy series following — a somewhat sincere portrayal and a somewhat fictionalized caricature of — Davidson as he attempts to work through challenges with fame, notoriety, family dynamics, and mental health.
Davidson stars as himself in the show that is loosely based on his life, which he co-wrote with showrunner Judah Miller and producer Dave Sirius (all three also Executive Produced, along with Pete’s old boss, SNL kingpin Lorne Michaels).
It’s not the first time Pete has mined his life’s tragedies and absurdities for comedy gold. He previously co-wrote and starred in the semi-autobiographical comedy and Judd Apatow joint, The King of Staten Island (2020).
The first question many might be inclined to ask, especially those who aren’t particularly partial to Davidson, is, “Did we really need another piece of entertainment centered around Pete’s semi-charmed, semi-traumatic life?”
Some will accuse the star of using a show like Bupkis as a vehicle to work through his issues.
As for me, I say more power to him.
As a creative myself, I readily admit that I use my art as a form of self-reflective therapy. It’s healing in a way nothing else can compare to. Most of the people I know in the creative community would confess the same thing.
So, what’s wrong with Davidson using his admittedly much larger platform to express himself and try to make some sense out of the insanity that is life?
As the tile card with voiceover narration announces at the beginning of every episode, the show may be inspired in part by real people and events, but much of it has been heavily exaggerated and completely made up for dramatic effect.
It’s Bupkis (a Yiddish word for “absolutely nothing”).
Except, it’s not nothing.
There’s a whole lot of something beneath the wildly outrageous, laugh-out-loud shenanigans. There are heartfelt, potent moments that feel as if they ring very true.
Among the topics broached include suicidal thoughts, the loss of Pete’s firefighter father during 9/11, insecurity and self-doubt, public perception and misconception, drug addiction, loneliness, and the pain of being a highly sensitive person with a very public persona.
At its core, Bupkis feels like a collection of broken people working through a plethora of issues and trying to fight their way through the madness and misery of life.
In one episode, Pete reveals his philosophy on life: that nobody really knows what they’re doing. We all keep thinking we will figure it out one day, but we never really do. So, we try our best to hold on to joy where we can find it and not fall off the nonstop roller coaster ride that tosses us around like ragdolls.
But before you start to worry that this sounds like more drama than comedy, rest assured; this is a show far more concerned with hilarious hijinks and entertainment than emotional authenticity.
Bupkis wastes no time announcing itself as a ridiculous romp and riotous good time.
It comes out of the gate swinging with a winning debut episode that begins with one of the funniest scenes in the entire series.
We also get introduced to two of the show’s brightest lights. The first is the scene-stealing Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie, The Sopranos) as Pete’s brash, somewhat overbearing, co-dependent mom, Amy, whose basement Pete just moved back into.
The other is Pete’s cool-as-a-cucumber, gangster-as-f*ck, pull-no-punches grandpa, played by the incomparable Joe Pesci (Goodfellas).
Alongside these two heavyweights, we have a pitch-perfect cast and a nonstop parade of hilarious cameos.
The supporting cast includes Bobby Cannavale as Pete’s well-intentioned but misguided uncle and surrogate father figure, Brad Garrett as a close family friend, Roy, Charlie Day as Pete’s unconventional therapist, and Pete’s love interest played by his real-life girlfriend Chase Sui Wonders, whom he met on the set of Bodies Bodies Bodies.
We also get a bevy of standout moments from guest stars like Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly), Steve Buscemi, Al Gore, John Mulaney, Ray Romano, Jon Stewart, and Simon Rex, whose performance is so over-the-top that it’ll leave you in stitches.
At only eight half-hour episodes, Bupkis is super binge-able.
One minute, it’s heartwarming, even heartbreaking, and the next, it’s side-splittingly hilarious. It’s entirely outrageous and yet utterly relatable.
It’s Bupkis. Only it’s definitely not.