Metro Weekly

‘Bupkis’ Review: For Pete’s Sake

Peacock's Pete Davidson-centric 'Bupkis' starts out tight and funny, on its way to unraveling with both a bang and a whimper.

Pete Davidson and Joe Pesci in Bupkis -Photo: Heidi Gutman / Peacock
Pete Davidson and Joe Pesci in Bupkis -Photo: Heidi Gutman / Peacock

A highly fictionalized, exaggerated, half-hour comedy series version of the life of Pete Davidson, Bupkis (★★☆☆☆) had me then it lost me.

Co-created by and starring the former SNL funnyman, the show first sinks its hooks in with an easily accessible premise — man-boy celebrity Pete lives like a king of Staten Island, ensconced in his mom Amy’s basement, of the house he bought — and spot-on casting for the lively cast of New Yawk characters that populate Pete’s world.

Television’s OG Jersey housewife, Sopranos and Nurse Jackie Emmy-winner Edie Falco plays Amy, a 9/11 widow and high school guidance counselor on top of being Pete’s mom, best friend, roommate, cheerleader, shadow agent, and enforcer, if necessary. To often extreme and funny ends, Amy stays ready to take care of and protect her boy, while overlooking his younger sister Casey (Oona Roche), who’s used to it but over it.

Amy comes by her toughness naturally, courtesy of her proudly Italian-American dad, Joe, the show’s comedy breakout in the masterful hands of Joe Pesci. Where Falco’s Amy can spiral with nervous energy, like her son and her mother Marie (Jane Curtin, also well-cast), Joe is unflappable. That is, unless anyone dares cramp the old guy’s style by asking him to put out his ever-present cigarette.

Sometimes that person is Pete. In episode one, Grandpa Joe informs Pete he’s dying, and that spending more time with his grandson tops his list of things he’d like to do with however long he has left.

Writer-creators Davidson, Judah Miller, and Dave Sirus (both of whom also worked on Davidson’s equally self-referential, Judd Apatow-produced feature comedy The King of Staten Island) spin Joe and Pete’s grandfather-son bonding into the series’ most satisfying thread. More often than not, Joe’s running buddy Roy (a game Brad Garrett) is in tow for, or spearheading, their shenanigans, some resulting in the wickedly weird humor that, at least initially, snaps and zings.

But around mid-season, the comedy sours along with Pete’s mood, as the show excavates his painful past, present-day addictions, and self-destructive tendencies. At first, tracing young Pete’s dark preoccupation with mortality back to the tragedy of his firefighter dad’s heroic death at the World Trade Center, the show earns sympathy for adult Pete with its honesty.

Joe Pesci and Edie Falco in Bupkis

The frequent flashbacks also provide plum roles for Bobby Cannavale, as Pete’s “Do as I say, not as I do” Uncle Tommy, and young Preston Brodrick, another comic breakout as a rascally pre-teen Pete. Bupkis treads on firm ground balancing its psychological study of young Pete with zany situations involving grownup Pete, Amy, Joe, Roy, and Pete’s entourage of Staten Island misfits.

Then, gradually, the tonal balance shifts, and the show overreaches in its mission to get to the bottom of Pete Davidson, giving us “serious psychological drama” that thespian Davidson can’t convincingly carry. Director Jason Orley lays it on thick with an extended bleak black-and-white segment, seemingly satirizing the turn into self-seriousness while leaning hard into it.

Zany situations give way to arthouse visions, drug trips, and dream sequences, usually featuring cameos from famous faces. Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker turns in a surprisingly ripe comic performance as just one of the celebrities Pete meets in rehab. On the other hand, Simon Rex is obnoxious as hell — on purpose, but still — as a gun-toting creep named Crispy in one Fast & the Furious-inspired episode.

There are seemingly scores of other celeb cameos (no doubt assisted by executive producer Lorne Michaels’ crack team), a cool flex for promos but ultimately not as big a boon to the show as one might hope. There’s really no call for Ray Romano to pop up playing himself as often as he does, and with so little impact on the laughs.

As a twist on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage, which is name-checked more than once, Bupkis starts as a tight, funny exploration of celebrity culture, and one particular celebrity who’s as famous now for being famous as he is for being funny. Bupkis wants to tear open the wounds to peer at the pain fueling the funny, but it gets lost in ripping things apart, rather than coherently holding its pieces together.

Bupkis season one, episodes 1-8, are available for streaming on Peacock. Visit

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