HBO’s ‘Crashing’ explores pain, everyday life through comedy

Posted on Apr 27 2017 - 8:08pm by Daniel Payne

Pete Holmes, like so many comedians before, has now morphed his life and craft into a television series. Unlike many sitcoms before him, though, Holmes’ show breaks free of genre by dealing honestly with and making light of difficult subjects.

“Crashing” follows Holmes as he deals with the collapse of his marriage. He is forced out of his home to become a comedian with no income. Other comedians, such as Artie Lange, T. J. Miller and Sarah Silverman, help him along the way as he works to pick up the pieces of his life and achieve his dream of comic fame.

The show’s concept is loosely based around Holmes’ own life. The series opens as Holmes, playing himself, walks in on his wife having an affair. Holmes is immediately confronted with a conflict that most comedies would wait several seasons to introduce.

The problems that ensue aren’t taken as lightly as one might expect in a comedy. Holmes has firsthand experience of the extreme pain of his marriage ending, and his insight reveals the seriousness that comes with such situations.


Pete Holmes and T.J. Miller, stars of HBO’s ‘Crashing.’ (Photo courtesy: HBO)

That doesn’t, of course, mean the show isn’t funny. The humor is just different than most comedies. It is more awkward, more real and feels like standup comedy.

Instead of creating staged jokes or over-the-top personalities, “Crashing” focuses on situations that are both comical and heartbreaking, making it a moving, compelling show that keeps the audience on its toes.

Holmes’ character – a well-meaning yet failing average Joe – brings an awkwardness that is funny yet realistic, much like the series’ script, cinematography and general style.

That’s what makes this show more than just entertainment; it transforms it into a sort of art form.

Though it won’t get as many laughs per episode as its competitors, “Crashing” is moving in its likeness to everyday life. Whether it’s Holmes’ frustration turning the fan on instead of the light in the bathroom after a hard day or the awkward pauses in the dinner with his overly involved parents, the show is willing to lose some entertainment value to preserve empathy in the audience for the characters.

The willingness to be more realistic than funny sets “Crashing” apart from other shows of the same genre. It ends most episodes more like a drama, with little resolution, leaving the viewer waiting on the next episode for some sense of closure.

In the first season, that closure never seems to come. While some conflicts resolve, the season ends with more questions than it had at the beginning. This keeps the viewer interested in the plot’s continuation next episode.

While these cliffhangers amplify the show’s realism, they can be frustrating to the viewer. It isn’t a show that relieves stress or allows an escape from the real world.

Instead, it plunges the viewer deep into the ugliness and stress of the human experience. Holmes works to reveal the world through comedic lenses by not taking life so seriously and being able to laugh with the knowledge that another day will come.

The ability to face the most difficult circumstances in life through comedy reveals a deeper perspective than most people associate with standup. Holmes gives a voice to this perspective in its fullness by portraying the hilarious, heartbreaking realities of life and people’s ability to cope with it through laughter.

The second season of “Crashing” has been approved by HBO and is currently in production.

Rating: B-