For one reason or another, we can’t seem to look away from the perplexing life and career of Pete Davidson. It’s impossible to say what it is exactly that’s kept the young comedian in so many headlines for so long. Is it his rise from Saturday Night Live to indie films like Bodies Bodies Bodies and Hollywood blockbusters like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts? Or is it just the fascination with his high-profile dating life, where he’s been with everyone from Ariana Grande to Kim Kardashian to Kate Beckinsale? Probably the latter. But those hoping for a kiss-and-tell-all of Davidson’s various romantic relationships will have to keep dreaming. His new comedy series Bupkis, while based on his real life, respectfully steers clear of divulging any gossipy details in favor of examining Pete Davidson as a person, warts and all.
No one seems more confused or conflicted about his rapid ascension to celebrity status than the man himself, and Bupkis attempts to shed some light on what exactly it means to be Pete Davidson – the good, the bad, and the weird. Spread throughout eight brief episodes, the Peacock original series takes place in a somewhat fictionalized version of Pete’s current life. Pete (Davidson playing himself) is a self-deprecating stoner type living at home with his mom, Amy (Edie Falco). Well, technically, she lives with him, as do a variety of his fair weather friends who mostly just hang out in the basement and help themselves to his weed.
Amy may be considerably lenient, but she is a worrier, especially towards her father, Pete’s grandfather Poppy (the one and only Joe Pesci). Infinitely wise and impressively foul-mouthed, Poppy acts as one of Pete’s surrogate father figures, alongside a pair of scene-stealing uncles played by Brad Garrett and Bobby Cannavale. Pete is torn between two worlds; the constantly moving world of celebrity and the world he grew up in back on Staten Island, the latter of which he seems to have less and less time for. As for things between him and his girlfriend, played by real-life partner Chase Sui Wonders? It’s complicated.
Everything seems to be complicated in Pete’s life, which is part of what makes the more dramatic portions of Bupkis the strongest and most effective part of the series. The most talked about aspect of the show is of course Joe Pesci, who hasn’t starred in a role since Martin Scorsese’s 2019 film The Irishman, having famously retired from acting many years prior. Furthermore, he hasn’t starred on television in nearly four decades. And funny enough, his last TV appearance was on SNL in 1997, that show’s creator Lorne Michaels also serving as an executive producer on Bupkis.
What exactly about Bupkis convinced the Hollywood legend to come out of his self-imposed exile? Who knows. Though he brings his A-game nonetheless, adding some much needed gravitas to what is mostly a pretty silly endeavor. Pesci possesses some solid chemistry with Pete Davidson as well, acting as a blunt but loving guide to the directionless star. Not surprisingly, Bupkis is usually at its best whenever Pesci is onscreen, especially when he gets to share scenes with the equally iconic Edie Falco.
Unfortunately, the rest of the series is frustratingly uneven, mostly when it comes to its comedy. Besides far too many of the jokes feeling a bit uninspired and clunky, Bupkis struggles to figure out a consistent tone or set any real parameters for the heightened reality it all takes place in. An episode that spoofs the Fast & Furious franchise would normally be funny but it goes so far beyond anything else in the show (think car chases and rocket launchers) that it stands out as a weird outlier among the bunch.
Showrunner Judah Miller (King of the Hill, American Dad!) and Dave Sirus (SNL, The King of Staten Island) join Davidson in the writing of his semi-autobiographical series, so you know it’s not without a few genuinely big laughs. Though for the most part, the humor is considerably undercooked. Bupkis doesn’t really find its groove until the final trio of episodes, where it’s finally able to bring its ideas of fame, family, and unhappiness together in a successfully touching way. It’s the only time the show feels truly honest and lives up to the premise. Likewise, it’s when Davidson finally feels like he steps into his own as an onscreen performer. It’s just a real shame that it all comes a bit too late.
An impressive and humorous revolving door of fun guest actor appearances – including John Mulaney, Kenan Thompson, Ray Romano, Jon Stewart, Sebastian Stan, Steve Buscemi, Simon Rex, Paul Walter Hauser, Machine Gun Kelly, Charlamagne tha God, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Charlie Day, and even former Vice President Al Gore – may keep things lively enough for some viewers to quickly binge through Bupkis on Peacock. However, this comedy series has a considerably hard time rising above a lukewarm temperature. It abruptly ends just as it’s gaining some real traction and momentum, so perhaps a more refined second season could help Pete Davidson’s Bupkis really come into its own as a self-examination on the complexities of fame.