|Scene from Crashing|
To a large extent, there's not a whole lot that's new to Crashing. It's a show about a stand-up comedian whose life is a tad miserable. It's a formula that comedy fans have come to recognize thanks to shows like Louie and Maron, where the jokes come from awkward everyday life. While Pete Holmes does little to reinvent the wheel, his addition to this trope-filled style manages to thrive on the same eccentric personality that he brought to his successful podcast You Made It Weird. Mixing in his deeply rooted Christian faith, he has created a story of divorce and career that may not be the greatest show on TV, but it's far from the worst thing out there.
The inciting incident involves an affair that his wife (Lauren Lapkus) is having. With the feeling of abandonment, he turns to his stand-up comedy friends to get him through his day to day. The eight episodes serve as an origin story based around Holmes' early days. He gets into bizarre situations while handing out flyers to comedy shows while also dealing with eccentric club owners, celebrities, and his own faith. At the core the show is about Holmes' struggle with faith as his life falls apart. He listens to Joel Osteen tapes and Jars of Clay albums, hoping to find some answers within them. Even then, the world that he has entered isn't kind to do-gooders who think all that optimistically. Holmes is a rainbow in a field of cynical and downtrodden comedians.
The show reflects his struggle to remain optimistic in the face of these struggles. By the end, he loses a big job for Rachel Ray after accidentally insulting her mother. He finds himself embarrassingly trying to reconnect with his wife. He is desperate to get his life on track. Instead, he is stuck sleeping on couches and trying to find any modicum of success. By the season's end, he is in a hotel room with his wife's new lover, whom she also dumped. They are broke and stuck in a miserable situation. How will he keep the faith going forward? It's almost a Job-like scenario for whatever lies ahead.
For the most part the show is fine. Holmes gives an excellent performance as the awkward and bumbling protagonist. A lot of his humor relative to his faith feels sincere in a way that is self-effacing. His ability to grow as an artist and understand ideals different from his own help to make him a compelling protagonist. Even then, the show's biggest issue is that a lot of it feels familiar and only gets by on personality. Holmes brings an authenticity to it that makes it more successful than it should be, but does little to make it a standout show that is a must watch.
Crashing is a decent HBO freshman series. It hits all of the marks that make for an entertaining half hour of comedy. While the premise is a bit played out, Holmes' ability to add his personal grappling with faith into the mix allows the story to at least feel at times personal and unique. There are genuinely funny moments that reflect Holmes' strength as a writer and actor. However, it's few and far between in its ambitions to be quite as good as it needs to be. It's a fine show, but would need to step up its game to be anything better.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5