The comedian/auteur released the first episode of his new web series in a surprise e-mail to subscribers on Saturday. The project, “Horace and Pete,” is a one hour and seven minute family drama that takes place in the eponymously titled bar. I struggle to recall a piece created for the screen that feels as much like a stage production as “Horace and Pete”. It’s a multi-camera set-up, but there are no discernible cuts in the action -aside from the intermission that separates the two acts of the episode. The stellar cast includes: Louis C.K., Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Jessica Lange, Nick DiPaolo, Kurt Metzger, Rebecca Hall, Liza Treygar and Edie Falco.
Alda is brilliant as Uncle Pete, the longtime curmudgenly owner and drink-slinger at Horace and Pete’s. He’s very much the glue of the ensemble and the narrative, the connecting string from the past to the present. Horace and Pete’s has been open in the same Brooklyn location for 100 years, and Alda’s (Uncle Pete’s) only purpose is to ensure it continues to stay that way – the exact way. Alda rejects the hipsters that stumble into the bar thinking they have found the gem of all dives, he has no need for business to increase. He wants to continue to serve heavily watered down drinks to the handful of dedicated barflies that spend much of their lives painfully hulked over on their stools.
C.K.’s Horace co-manages the bar with his brother Pete (Buscemi) and their sweet and honest relationship is the steady, building heart of the story – although, since C.K. wrote the play, it’s still lightyears from saccharine. Buscemi is wonderful as Pete: a soft-spoken and good-natured man struggling with keeping his intrusive mental illness at bay with minimal medication. And C.K. holds his own nicely in the presence of some true masters.
The episode begins with a beautiful, original theme song performed by Paul Simon, and the narrative follows one day at Horace and Pete’s as we meet the lovingly dysfunctional family currently running the joint. The project must have been filmed in the last few weeks as very recent political (Trump & Cruz) and sports (super bowl) news is discussed in a few moments at the bar. Like certain Louie episodes, “Horace and Pete” is decidedly non-comedic. There are a few moments, but all-in-all, it’s a dramatic piece that doesn’t sky away from the big moments. Absorbing bar conversations swirl in and out of the story, eloquently touching on race, gender and politics—and the flow of the narrative is not afraid to meander a bit here and there and take its time. “Horace and Pete” should, and I would wager will, be performed live at some point in the future, it’s structure and pace work far too well for the theatre to be ignored.
The first episode of “Horace and Pete” (we believe there may be three more coming) is centered around family, relationships and tradition, and about wrestling with the passage of time. It touches on the distortionary affect of looking into the past, and the problem with being too dynamic, too static—too anything.
It’s Cheers like you’ve never wanted to see it before – but it’s wildly compelling.
You can buy the first episode of Horace and Pete here.
by Jesse Mechanic