This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show premieres a few days after this post's publication; we got screeners.
Does Crashing Deserve An Indefinite Stay On Your Couch?
Another successful comedian chronicles his less-successful beginnings, but is the show's travelogue structure enough to set it apart from the pack?
What Is This Thing?
Pete Holmes, that comedian from all the podcasts (that narrows it down enough, right?), plays himself as a struggling, painfully earnest comedian who's a long way from his first headlining gig, let alone the alt-comedy ubiquity he enjoys today. Self-exiled from his suburban home after catching his wife cheating, he begins relying on the kindness of a rotating cast of wealthier comedians for both career advice and temporary housing (hence the title).
When Is It On?
The first episode airs at 10:30 PM ET Sunday, February 19th, on HBO.
Why Was It Made Now?
Inside-comedy shows are hot, Holmes's star is on the rise, and it's been scientifically proven that Judd Apatow (who exec-produces) can never resist a show that features a dysfunctional marriage. ("That's true," says Leslie Mann, lighting her ninety-eighth cigarette of the day.)
What's Its Pedigree?
Besides Holmes and Apatow, Crashing's writer-producers include Judah Miller (Axe Cop, Playing House, American Dad) and Oren Brimer (The Daily Show). Apatow's also in the directing stable, along with Chris Kelly (SNL, the movie Other People, and your Twitter timeline) and Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The League).
At first blush, Crashing appears to be just another one of those sad-white-bro comedies for which many of us (regardless of gender) are rapidly losing patience. But once you dig a little deeper...no, that's really all it is, and the introduction of Artie Lange (yes, Artie Lange) halfway through the pilot certainly does little to dial down the bro-ness. Things take a funnier turn when TJ Miller arrives in the second episode (his assessment of Lange's sloppy wardrobe was the first thing that made me genuinely laugh), but I'm pretty sure you can find Miller cracking wise on other shows IF YOU LOOK REAL, REAL HARD.
If I seem to be making little mention of Holmes himself, that's only because he's the most passive, least entertaining character on his own show. I don't care how accurate the series is to his actual life experience; pretty much everything we see him doing in the first few episodes -- having awkward, unsatisfying sex with his wife; bombing on stage at a poorly-attended show; talking shop with other comedians -- feels copied and pasted from other Apatow joints, or Louie, or whatever. The show tries to differentiate Holmes as a character by highlighting his Christian faith (he's a former youth pastor who still listens to inspirational sermons in the car), but that trait never pays off in any kind of meaningful way, at least not during the first few outings.
In general, Crashing feels like a show that would have been very cool and edgy in the early aughts; you can easily imagine it being paired with The Mind Of The Married Man. The gender balance of its cast also feels about fifteen years in the past: for the first three episodes, the only substantial female roles are played by Lauren Lapkus (as Holmes's wife Jess) and Gina Gershon (as a comedy fan with a major crush on Artie Lange). Aside from that, it's all men, all the time. A lunchtime security briefing at Mar-a-Lago would have a better chance of passing the Bechdel Test.
The most interesting thing about Crashing is its structure, which allows for frequent shake-ups in the show's setting and cast as Holmes couch-surfs his way through the comedy world. Even if you're not very invested in the protagonist -- and I wasn't -- there's always a fun bit of mystery over whose apartment (and world) he'll end up in next. (Well, it's not that much of a mystery, because his next benefactor is almost guaranteed to be another abrasive white guy, but it's still the show's most compelling element.)
If you're a huge fan of Pete Holmes, I'm not going to try to stop you from watching. But if you want to see an inside-comedy show that's funny and insightful and isn't stuffed to the brim with doughy Caucasian men, then why not get yourself a trial Seeso subscription and check out Take My Wife.