Join or Sign In
Sign in to customize your TV listings
Davidson's pal John Mulaney joins him for a frank chat about addiction
[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Bupkis. Read at your own risk!]
Peacock's new series Bupkis, the mostly autobiographical comedy from Saturday Night Live vet and gossip column target Pete Davidson, gets off to a very raunchy start.
Just a few minutes into the first episode, Pete (the TV character) ejaculates full force onto his mother (Edie Falco) while making love to his hand during a virtual reality session before the credits even roll. It's a scene that would make any adult site proud (even though she's not his stepmother), and it's a fair indicator of what one might expect over the next eight episodes: all things rude, crude, and lewd, dude. Bupkis is Pete Davidson unfiltered as he struggles with fame and more so with drugs and partying, taking real parts of his life and dramatizing them for television so we can, presumably, understand the enigma that is Pete Davidson better.
But Pete cumming on Nurse Jackie isn't the best part of Bupkis. It isn't even a good part of Bupkis. (It is, however, the grossest part.) Though Bupkis is consistently entertaining, it's not consistently great, because it can't settle on a tone and the humor sometimes spends too much time swirling around in the murky toilet water of a frat house. But when it's good, it's good, and there are two moments specifically that are great.
The series is at its best when Pete Davidson uses Pete as his proxy to confront his obvious issues and has honest conversations about feelings and celebrity — whether it's the women he beds, the public's perception of him, or the poor decisions he repeatedly makes. Following the trying-too-hard-to-impress antics of the series premiere, which also includes Pete being asked to provide the thrusting motion so that his momentarily paralyzed uncle (Brad Garrett) can complete coitus with the prostitute Pete hired for his grandfather (Joe Pesci), the second episode turns the dial all the way to the other side with "Do As I Say, Not As I Do," an emotional flashback episode ripped straight out of Pete Davidson's life.
The Ultimate Guide to What to Watch on Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and More in May 2023
Set in Staten Island in late September 2001, just weeks after the country was under attack and the World Trade Center towers leveled, the episode follows an elementary school-aged Pete and his family as they attend his aunt's wedding to his future uncle (Bobby Cannavale). We learn that Pete's father, a firefighter, ran into one of the buildings on Sept. 11 and never came out, a detail that is true in Pete Davidson's real life. The episode wisely doesn't spend its time honoring Pete's father, but instead puts the focus on how Pete copes with the trauma, which, as you can guess, is not well, yet simultaneously admirable. There are no tears, but there is plenty of anger and confusion. He won't smile for the wedding photos. He yells out Jim Carrey quotes during moments of silence. Searching for a father figure, he latches on to his coke-snorting new uncle. Searching for an escape, he samples the booze left in glasses on the many tables. Searching for a release, he jerkily dances to "Cotton Eye Joe." No one seems to know what to do with Pete, so he's left to fend for himself, except when his uncle teaches him how to pee in a urinal or takes him with him on a drug run. As far as father figures go, it could be better, but as we see their bond form, it's also clear it could be worse.
Pete Davidson doesn't make that an excuse for his behavior later in his life, but it is his explanation. And in the context of the first season, it's the groundwork for his permanent adolescence and the origin story for his substance abuse problems and commitment issues. He makes jokes to get attention. He drinks to cope. Grown-up Pete hasn't changed much from that 7-year-old version of himself, and later in the episiode, he admits that he doesn't know if he ever will. The episode ends with our first glimpses of his father in flashbacks as his mother meets him and later as he's playing with young Pete, followed by real photos of the actual aunt and uncle's wedding, with an awkward, beanpole Pete Davidson surrounded by his mother, sister, uncles, and grandparents. He's having a blast. In that moment, Bupkis finds its real focus as a show about a troubled young man supported by his family, a notion not realized by Pete, the Bupkis version, until the season finale.
Later in the season, in the penultimate episode, Pete decides he's gone too far and considers rehab after falling into the open grave of his uncle's dead dog (I'm assuming that's a fabrication, but I'm really hoping it's not). One of the steps he's asked to take is to cut off relationships with his no-good friends, so he mistakenly infers that he's supposed to say farewell to pal John Mulaney, whom he worked with on Saturday Night Live. The two share the best scene of the season when they're seated at a restaurant, speaking openly about their addiction problems for five minutes in what initially seems like an odd pairing but quickly makes a whole lot of sense.
Mulaney, who surprised fans when he checked himself into rehab for alcohol, cocaine, and prescription drug abuse in December 2020, is revelatory here, giving a one-man show to an audience of Pete. The advice he bestows upon Pete is doused with hard truths, from a man who went through it. Their lives are not nearly the same, but they're going through the same core things. While Pete's issues with substances are clear to the world, John hid his from everyone, and no one, he says, will ever know if he is or isn't on drugs. Pete embraces his image, while John lived a lie. Whenever John worried that Pete would spiral like he did, he would also see paparazzi pictures of him out having a good time for all the world to see. "How many times have I seen you just fall off a building and land on your feet, or into the arms of a Juicy sweats model?" he asks him.
Pete, on the precipice of actually doing something right for himself for once, tells John he wants a normal life, to which John replies that's bullsh--. John understands that overcoming drug addiction doesn't mean changing who you are; it means changing how you behave. "You'll continue to be this bright, talented light that seems in crisis to everyone in the outside world, and we'll all take care of you. And I'll continue to be this seemingly OK guy, all buttoned up, but inside having a f---ing crisis all the time."
It's advice that the show could use, too. As John tells Pete, "Your life is fascinating. I don't know what it's like to live it, but god damn do we have fun watching it." These two moments — rich with honesty we don't normally get to see from the series' star — show that Bupkis, much like Pete Davidson, is still very much a work in progress, but very much worth keeping an eye on.
All eight episodes of Bupkis are now streaming on Peacock.