How 'Horace and Pete' combines the best parts of live theater and serialized TV
A few thoughts on this week's Horace and Pete coming up just as soon as I come down from an acid trip...
Horace and Pete's bar is about tradition, and the inevitable passing of that tradition from one generation to the next. At that place, there's always been a Horace, and there's always been a Pete. You can get hard liquor or Budweiser; no other beers, and no mixed drinks. That's the way it's always been and, according to Uncle Pete at the start of the series, that's the way it was always going to be.
Horace and Pete the show, on the other hand, has been about what happens when real life gets in the way of those traditions. There's a Horace and a Pete running the place, but now there's also a Sylvia. Uncle Pete shot himself in the head. Budweiser's becoming so expensive, they might have to offer other beers to get the cost down. And, as we learn in this latest episode, Pete may not be around the bar for much longer, now that the side effects to his meds have become more than his doctors can stomach.
Though Horace has blown up his life a few times now, while Sylvia has been trying to sell the bar when she hasn't been dealing with cancer, it's Pete who's wanted to keep things status quo, if only his brain chemistry will let him. So getting the bad news about the Probitol, and the realization that he'd not only have to go back to the hospital, but go back to being like he was for too many years of his life, was understandably devastating for him, and Steve Buscemi played the hell out of it.
The writing, meanwhile, continues to play the long game with all these characters, bringing Tricia back in at a moment where Pete very badly needs to hear what she has to say, and where she's able to, for at least this moment, talk him out of following his father's path out of this life. Back when the first episode was released, it felt so complete to me that I wondered if there was even a need for Louis C.K. to tell more stories with these particular characters, but he's managed to find the happy middle between theatrical play and serialized TV drama, combining the best elements of both for something that has the immediacy of the former and the devastating build of the latter.
And yet, even in the midst of so dark a moment for Pete, episode 8 was able to find big laughs — some of them coming out of its own actors, whether Reg E. Cathey's infectious belly laugh as Sylvia's new friend Harold took note of the racial composition of Horace's living room, or Steven Wright and Kurt Metzger struggling to keep straight faces as the drunken barfly hurled one insult after another at Horace after getting cut off. The show still has that great C.K./Buscemi/Falco core, but it's able to provide plenty of opportunity for other people to come in and play, including both Cathey and Colman Domingo (a Broadway actor who's also in the cast of Fear the Walking Dead) as Pete's new doctor.
Sometimes, there's stability, like the continuation of Horace and Rhonda's relationship after their uncomfortable breakfast in episode 7, but on the whole, it's best not to get comfortable if you have anything to do with that bar, or this show. Which is lousy for them, and pretty great for us.
What did everybody else think?