Thursday, February 25, 2016

Louis CK's Horace and Pete

     Louis CK is a busy guy. He's both an acclaimed stand up comic, who's the only comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden three nights in a row, but he also writes, directs, and edits a critically acclaimed tv show Louie. He hasn't stopped there. Instead Louie has put out another self created show called Horace and Pete.

    Horace and Pete is a pretty experimental project even for a creator whose show is often described as surreal. H&P is only available on Louie's website and are pay per view. The first episode runs 67 minutes and costs $5. Each remaining episode runs progressively 10 minutes shorter and costs $3. Stylistically the show is a strange set up for television in 2016. The set is plain and the lighting is flat and it's clearly a multicam but there are never any shot reverse shots, only different angles. This lack of cutting and this open set design makes the show feel more like a recorded play than an episode of television.
The show is about a bar in New York called Horace and Pete's which was founded 100 years ago by a Horace and operated in conjunction with his brother Pete. It has passed down for generations to the current Horace and Pete's, Horace portrayed by Louis CK and Pete portrayed by Steve Buscemi. 
The cast is filled with older comedy and drama stars: Alan Alda plays a curmudgeonly Uncle Pete, Steven Wright plays a bar patron, Edie Falco plays Horace's sister, and Jessica Lange as the dead Horace's old girlfriend. All the actors obviously have the entire script memorized and their are no cuts to help with lines or no close ups to convey emotion.
     Thematically the show is sort of an anti-Cheers. There is a surprising amount of topical discussion, in the first episode the bar patrons discuss Trump and the coming election and the Super Bowl. However this banter is the only place, if any, the jokes lie. Steve Buscemi's character is the only one that seems likable and he's having a mental breakdown. The family drama hinges on keeping with the old and going with the new and none of the characters seem to like each other very much. If Louie is a surrealist comedy, Horace and Pete is a tragic play.
     I wrote about Horace and Pete because it's something I'm trying to do with this thesis. I usually make comedies, between stand up and sketches that's what people know me for. I, like Louie, want to try something new and more realistic. But I'm not sure I like Horace and Pete. It's draining and gives me a sense of anxiety as all the characters fail to get along. Hopefully I can make a film that is emotional significant, yet not emotionally taxing.

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