TV Review – Bupkis

Bupkis: pronoun – nothing at all.

And while each episode of comedian Pete Davidson’s new comedy series begins with a disclaimer about how some of the events of this show are inspired by true events in his life, the majority of what is about to take place during this 8-episode story, is indeed, Bupkis.

We live in a media age where comedy and drama have symbiotically joined forces to make some of the most engaging stories in film and television, with the likes of Judd Apatow being a spearhead for the now fittingly titled ‘dramedy’. Apatow even worked with Davidson for a fantastic, under-watched and under-appreciated semi-autobiographical 2020 film, The King of Staten Island, which while being inspired by elements of Davidson’s life, shared more similarities with the comedic tendencies of Apatow.

With Bupkis, which is created to Davidson, Judah Miller (American Dad!) and David Sirus (co-writer on The King of Staten Island) leans more into a heightened, over-the-top, and at points, truly insane sense of comedy that feels akin to the persona and characters that Davidson brought out on his Saturday Night Live days. However, Bupkis also uses its incredibly heightened nature to explore celebrity life, familial issues, sobriety, his own father’s death during 9/11, and modern media culture in a way that’s painted as ridiculous compared to everyday life, but solidly grounded in its universally emotional impact.

Davidson plays an alter ego of himself, living in a real-world that identifies that he worked on SNL, was engaged to Ariana Grande, and lives in his mother’s (Edie Falco, The Soprano’s) basement (who in a later episode, relishes in the fact that Marisa Tomei played her in The King of Staten Island). Each of the 8 episodes of Bupkis investigates a different aspect of Davidson’s life, from reconnecting with his dying grandfather (Joe Pesci, Goodfellas), TMZ running an article announcing his death, and a wild trip to Florida with his boys, plus many other aspects of celebrity life that usually only get the tabloid treatment.

The storytelling of Bupkis could almost be watched in a non-linear format, except for the first and final episodes acting as bookends to the series, as the life of Davidson is explored in such a chaotic, occasionally disconnected way, which at times feel quite accurately representative of the celebrity life. The up and downs of being someone who is so heavily in the limelight is often played for laughs by a truly committed Davidson, with the undertone that it’s not always the sunshine and rainbows that anyone outside of the inner circle of Hollywood life may assume it could be.

At times, the chaotic nature of the story and the way it’s presented can cause Bupkis’s tone to shift dramatically and feel a little unhinged. The first episode is pure comedy gold, with some outlandish and shocking moments that will undoubtedly have audiences cackling. But then in the second episode (which I would regard as the best in the show), focuses heavily on the drama, with a beautifully told story about a young Pete and the impact his uncle had on him after the death of his father (featuring a standout cameo performance from Bobby Cannivale). If you’re prepared for the back-and-forth tones of the first half of the season, the willingness to stay on this rollercoaster pays of in the later half of the season when the show finds more of it’s footing in a tonally balanced way. However, the fourth episode is wild and hilarious, despite feeling like the biggest tonal departure for the series.

It’s these moments where the blend of Davidson’s sharp, biting comedy and the more human, dramatic elements truly makes Bupkis shine. Watching Davidson navigate his way through insanity is entertaining and cathartic television. His interactions with his mother feel authentic, thanks to a phenomenal performance from Edie Falco, who is as dedicated to the material as Davidson. Falco flawlessly plays the ‘everyone’s mum’ with compassion, love, care, and ease, but also with the ‘taking no bullshit’, the protective parent that someone like Davidson obviously needed growing up, but also has the respect for the impact she had on his life.

In his limited screen time, Joe Pesci is also a scene stealer with some truly laugh-out-loud line deliveries and interactions with Pete. Pesci feels like he is really enjoying his comedic turn in Bupkis, and the relationship his character shares with Pete’s character is heart-warming. On top of having two fantastic lead co-stars, there is a myriad of guest cameos that not only add to that larger-than-life feeling of this heightened reality but feel like appropriate people to be on a show this crazy. Each episode features a brilliant cameo that will have you smiling when they jump onto the screen.

Bupkis takes the idea of self-referential humour and dials it up to 11, with Davidson fully committing to a show that breaks down the insanity of celebrity culture, but in an authentically dramatic way, also explores the impact it has (both negatively and positively) for himself and the people around him. Davidson really gets to chew up the scenery with a great lead performance, and having powerhouse actors like Edie Falco and Joe Pesci to support him isn’t a bad thing either. Despite some of its tonal inconsistencies throughout the series, Bupkis is a solid, binge-able dramedy that is well worth your time.

Bupkis premieres on BINGE Thursday May 4.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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