Whilst some could accuse Pete Davidson of repeating (or, re-Pete-ing, sorry) himself in Bupkis, given that he already gave us an “inspired by” piece in 2020’s The King of Staten Island, his 8-episode dramedy series at least gives the actor/writer more breathing room to delve into what makes him tick and heighten the situation accordingly.
As laid out at the beginning of each episode that, “Whilst this program is inspired in part by real people and events, certain parts have been fictionalized solely for dramatic purposes and are not intended to reflect on any actual person or entity.” In short, it’s “Bupkis”, and it’s that blend of fact and fiction that keeps this tight, episodic narrative inherently interesting.
Aside from his humorous confessionals during the “Weekend Update” segment on Saturday Night Live during his 8 year stint on the long-running sketch program, Davidson was never truly able to flex his acting muscle in any capacity. Seemingly as unprofessional as former player Jimmy Fallon, who practically made breaking character his shtick throughout his seasons, Davidson never gave off the air as someone devoted to the craft of comedy. He exuded a certain charm, no question, but the Davidson of Bupkis feels like a different entity all together, and, honestly, it’s entirely welcome.
Davidson indeed bares himself throughout the 8 episodes of Bupkis, and his simple framing as a comedian from Staten Island who lives with his widowed mother is a pretty close-to-home description of the actor himself; like the real Davidson, this semi-autobiographical Pete has lost his firefighter father in the attacks of September 11. Said mother, Amy, as so tremendously played by Edie Falco, comes dangerously close to walking away with the series herself, with Davidson clearly enjoying highlighting his mother’s evident love for him – quite humorously at the expense of her successful, “normal” daughter – and her own penchant for the fame and wealth that has come from being Pete Davidson’s mother; “Don’t you know who I am?, she asks a maitre d’ during one scene. “Marisa Tomei played me in a movie!”, referencing the actress’s role in King of Staten Island.
It’s moments such as those, and when Davidson is the victim of a death announcement hoax, that straddle the line so tenderly between presenting comedy as entertainment and as a self-aware response to the craziness of celebrity. Bupkis is also at its strongest when it embraces Davidson’s more emotional story arcs, with the relationship between himself and his grandfather (Joe Pesci, a joy) serving as the series’ most consistent through-line.
And though Bupkis aims to be more than just a sitcom-style comedy, it certainly indulges in the crude humour one may readily expect throughout; without going into specifics, the first episode may test some viewers, but it is also not an indication as to where the following episodes will go, and if you stick with it you’ll be warmly rewarded. On the mention of sitcom-style though, the rotating roster of guest stars the show manages keeps things fascinatingly interesting, with some that perplex, others that amuse, and one in particular that speaks to a certain Staten Island archetype that Davidson evidently paints with natural, respectful strokes.
With Davidson himself earning the wrath of the keyboard warriors and their misguided commentary on his appearance over the years – this self-Google search starting the show off – which has subsequently led to many wondering how someone of his stature could be linked to the variety of societally-dubbed beautiful women he’s seemingly bedded, Bupkis, whilst not hyping its lead in that department, certainly makes for a great case as to why Davidson has been on the arms of the likes of Ariana Grande and Kate Beckinsale, to name but a few. He’s sincere, unassumingly charming and humble, and his willingness to be so open makes it supremely difficult to dislike him in any manner.
Whilst Bupkis may not convert anyone who has a disinterest or is indifferent to Davidson as a personality, his presence is a welcome one across the episodes and the calibre of talent he’s privileged to share time with may be (and should be) enough of a reason to give this “nothing” show some detailed attention.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Bupkis is now streaming on Peacock in the United States and Binge in Australia.