Going into Bupkis, I wasn’t sure what a series loosely about Pete Davidson would look like. Would it lean into the framework of a traditional comedy series? Would it tap into a deeper side of Pete than we’ve come to know over the years? Would it embrace Pete’s persona head on or show a side we’ve never seen? I came out of these eight episodes surprised and impressed with lots of thoughts. I am mostly excited to see the discourse which comes about from the series.
On one hand, the show is what you expect it to be. An exploration of Pete Davidson, the persona we’ve come to know from Saturday Night Live and the news making headlines. On the other hand, it is full of unexpected moments that continue to push Pete to a place we haven’t seen him as an actor. He plays vulnerable well, opening himself up in ways you probably wouldn’t expect. Then a scene later, you can see his real smile break through where he’s actually laughing and enjoying the moment.
Some of the more traditional sitcom plots fall a little short, feeling sometimes uneven, compared to the more out there and ambitious stories. It really shines when it embraces the people around Pete, the stories based on his true life, and the bigger stars that are sprinkled all throughout the first season. Surprising emotional depth and real moments come about when the story focuses on those who come in and out of Pete’s life. It uses these side characters as a platform to make the universe feel bigger, and provide more backstory and depth to build upon with Pete.
There are plenty of hilariously awkward and laugh out loud moments when the story sticks to the traditional comedy series angle. The best parts though are when the honest moments break through the darker ones. The lines may be slightly blurred between character Pete and the real life Pete, but it all feels real. He shows the different layers of himself through different interactions and scenarios he finds himself in. It all highlights the person Pete is portrayed as to the public, the person he strives to become and the real person struggling with all the directions he’s pulled in professionally and personally.
I found myself most engaged in the episodes which lean into Edie Falco as Pete’s mom. She convincingly plays Pete’s mother, with her love for him and all of her fears for her son. The chemistry as mother and son is one of the brightest spots. Joe Pesci playing Pete’s grandfather brings the honest truth into Pete’s life as well. Sometimes it’s blunt and unprovoked, other times it’s exactly what Pete needs to hear. Joe Pesci’s scenes with Edie Falco also shine. Their scenes together, along with other family members, including one played by Bobby Cannavale, focusing on different aspects of family, provide for some great and memorable moments. Pete could have easily been overshadowed by the bigger names and talent, but he always holds his own.
Seeing all the celebrities that pop in and out is a testament to Pete’s broad appeal, and star power Pete has in real life that he has been able to build up over his career. The series has famous comedians, politicians, musicians and more showing up when you least expect it. Having the assortment of celebrities pop in and out both grounds the show, somehow giving it more body and levity, while also highlighting the absurdity of Pete’s life. My favorite appearances come from Ray Romano and John Mulaney. They bring out more of the deeper sides of the story, while also providing a lot of laughs.
There’s a momentum that subtly builds as the season progresses. I found myself wanting more as I continued watching. If anything, I don’t think the first episode is the best representation of the series that is to come. I have a feeling some of the audience will be put off by the opening act of the series, but then again, if you know Pete at all, you probably expect it. The series manages to find a nice balance midway where it truly finds its voice and confidence. Some of the product placements throughout the series were a bit too obvious, and took me out a bit, but there is enough solid storytelling and acting to pull you right back in.
There were many moments towards the end of Pete Davidson’s run on SNL which hinted at Pete’s growth on camera and potential for the future. I was pleasantly surprised with Bupkis and how far he’s come and how committed he was to this role. It may not be a stretch playing an exaggerated version of yourself, but this one felt like he pushed himself to give it all, and it was something he believed in. Bupkis is well worth giving a chance.
Bupkis premieres May 4 on Peacock with all eight episodes.