On January 30th, fans of Louis CK got an email from him, where he announced that the first episode of his new show, Horace and Pete, was on his website for $5. No promotion, no launch, nothing. No one knew what to expect. It turned out, it was a show shot like a sitcom, with no laughing track, no comedy (at least that wasn’t the point), and unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. Many have described it as a mixture of television and theatre, or as as Cheers meets The Iceman Comet. But it is more than that. Horace and Pete is without a doubt the most important and innovative show in a very long time.
The show is set in a bar, Horace and Pete’s, that has been in the heart of Brooklyn for a hundred years. Since 1916 it has been run by two brothers, who then leave the bar to their children after they die – all named Horace and Pete. Louis CK and Steve Buscemi play the eighth generation Horace and Pete, respectively. As multiple characters walk in and out of the bar, discussing Trump, ISIS, and everything that is relevant in America today, no show feels so immediate and urgent. Alan Alda plays the brothers’ uncle (also named Pete of course), Jessica Lange plays Marsha, late Horace’s (senior) last girlfriend, and the theme song was written by Paul Simon especially for the show.
Without spoiling anything for future viewers, I can say the show often zooms out of the lives of the main characters to portray snippets of costumers’ lives, in situations and dialogues that are so brutally real, the viewer is frozen in front of the screen. A self-concious failed actor, a couple on a blind date, a group of hipsters ironically enjoying the old bar, and plain random people give a glimpse of their lives.
Episode 6 features a woman, whose identity is unknown to the audience, give a 15-minute long monologue about her life, one of the many extraordinary performances of the show. The viewer is thrown into these situations without warning, and despite the initial disorientation, Louis CK delivers. Every time. He wrote and directed every episode, and with a formidable cast around him, created something extraordinary. He brought to television (if I can use that word, for lack of a better one) a level of realism that was probably inconceivable before.
Horace and Pete perfectly captures the best and the worst of people, it’s honest in every way, it shows you dysfunctional families and mental illness like nothing before it, it may be considered offensive, it may make you angry, it may make you cry, it will kick you in the gut, it is brutal, and you absolutely have to watch it!