Feb 20, 2017

Channel Surfing: Crashing - "Artie Lange"

Pete Holmes
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
In the modern era, there hasn't been a trope more infecting on TV comedies than shows based around stand-up comics. While Seinfeld may have started the trend, Louie was the real kick-off to an era where any major talent is allowed to make a half hour show and explore the sadness in the humor. There's of course shows like Maron, Mulaney, and even on film with Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me. It isn't so much an issue if the stories are told right, but one has to wonder what stories are left to tell that involve getting up and telling jokes. Adding his name to the list is You Made It Weird podcast host Pete Holmes, whose Crashing looks pretty familiar if you've seen the other shows mentioned.
The show has the simple premise: Pete Holmes plays a fictionalized version of himself. He goes out to do comedy gigs only to discover that his wife (Laura Lapkus) is cheating on him. This leads him to a frustrating night of comedy that causes the crowd to turn on him. After befriending Artie Lang, he discovers how much of a dead end his life up to that point had been with his wife. She clearly wasn't fulfilled by his existence. There is an early scene where both of them are having sex, but discuss instead the issues of just how passionate they are about the moment. There's a lifeless nature to the sex scene, and one that suggests that maybe Pete has some issues.
The one major difference is that Pete's character has a certain reliance on Catholicism. While it is far from a religious show, there are moments where he questions God's intentions and wonders what good it will do him. People laugh at him, and he's even accidentally mistake as being gay. His journey home is full of embarrassing moments, and it only makes things worse. Through a mix of philosophy and self-effacing comedy, Crashing looks to show yet another example of how miserable comedians' lives are. The only advantage really is that it has Holmes' bubbly personality.
It also has an autobiographical element. The divorce at the center of the series actually came from Holmes' life. It is never a pleasant experience, but the show manages to balance dark and light in a way that at least makes for an enjoyable half hour. It may have trouble standing out amid the several stand-up comic sitcoms, but it at least has a promising premise that could see the series become more self-reflexive, and even take it into a direction that isn't just meandering comedy. There's plenty to like in the first episode, but there's not much to separate it. Still, one can only imagine that Holmes has something up his sleeve.
Crashing is at worst a promising show and one of the first newbies from HBO. Considering how open and honest Holmes has been on his podcast, one can only imagine what he'll bring to this role. Maybe the show will become more bleak and honest about divorce in ways more common with Divorce than Louie. That has yet to be seen. For now, it's another above average show about a familiar theme. It's not so bad, especially if you're a fan of the talent involved. However, it has to work a little harder on being something new and innovative. 

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