Bupkis is uneven and certainly won’t be for everyone, but there’s a surprisingly honest and endearing satirical drama beneath all that excess.
This review of the Peacock series Bupkis Season 1 does not contain spoilers.
The question most commonly asked about the life and career of Pete Davidson is, simply, why Pete Davidson?
It’s a question worth asking, and in many respects, it’s the question that Bupkis, his new heightened and exaggerated semi-autobiographical Peacock sitcom, is built on. What’s the appeal? What do a litany of the world’s most beautiful women see in him? Why do those who love him adore him so much that they’re willing to forgive every transgression?
Bupkis doesn’t really answer any of these questions coherently. But it can’t, really, since the messy process of trying to find the answers is largely the point.
Bupkis Season 1 review and plot summary
Bupkis – the Yiddish word for “nothing” – is fictionalized but informed by “real people and events”. Davidson has lived a crazy enough life that the line between real anecdote and imagined set-piece is sometimes blurry. There’s an episode that turns into a Floridian Fast & Furious that certainly didn’t happen, but so many of the incidental details are so clearly informed by Davidson’s worldview, trauma, and specific anxieties that it feels oddly, sometimes uncomfortably personal nevertheless.
The key figures in Pete’s life – his mother, sister, grandpa, and various relatives and associates – are played by a laundry list of great character actors, none of whom are really related to him, but there’s an easy sense of familiarity there all the same. It makes for a strange vibe, halfway between a cozy hang-out and a dreamlike drug trip, and sometimes the show itself uses that hazy distinction for both comedic and dramatic purposes.
It’s a serialized story, with Pete gradually developing – or spiraling – as it goes along, and those around him struggling to adapt to and keep pace with his excesses. Previous events are called back to, and cameoing guest stars sometimes crop up more than once. But it doesn’t really solidify into a coherent narrative until the last few episodes, which for some might be too little too late.
Is Bupkis good or bad?
Bupkis is definitely at its worst when it’s almost anthological, a string of misadventures that play for gross-out humor, exaggerated pastiche – like the aforementioned Fast & Furious riff – or as a slightly disconnected personal side story.
Throughout, Pete grappling with both his career and basest impulses remains the connective thread, but it sometimes feels lost amid an Entourage re-do, as a very famous person and his bad-influence hanger-on friends live a life of luxury that they’re not mature enough to navigate.
The lonelier and more lost Bupkis allows Pete Davidson to become, the better it ends up being.
Is Bupkis worth watching?
The turning point is a sixth episode that not only viciously skewers soulless Hollywood moviemaking – Pete is sent to Canada over Christmas for last-minute reshoots on a J. J. Abrams Vietnam picture with Brad Pitt’s stunt double – but takes Pete to his lowest ebb, a spiral which continues through a penultimate episode that is a 30-minute soul-searching breakdown and a finale festooned with funny cameos and formal tricks.
That’s where you get the point. That’s where Bupkis morphs from a funny but not exactly noteworthy comedy to an introspective and sharp-toothed satirical drama. It might take a while to get there, but it’s worth sticking with Bupkis until it becomes more interesting and challenging, and suggests not only that there’s a lot more of Pete’s story, but that he also might have reached the stage of his life where he’s ready to tell it.
What did you think of Bupkis Season 1? Comment below.
You can watch this series with a subscription to Peacock.