Louis C.K. challenges web show norms with ‘Horace and Pete’

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - 2:17am

Upon watching the first episode of “Horace and Pete,” Louis C.K.’s newly released internet series available on his website, I was in awe. It was unlike anything I had seen on the screen before. But that's not entirely a positive thing.

“Horace and Pete” stars C.K. (“Louie”) as Horace and Steve Buscemi (“Fargo”) as Pete, the co-owners of a Brooklyn bar which has been passed down from generation to generation for the past 100 years. Things come to conflict when their sister Sylvia (Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”) wants to sell the bar.

One would generally expect a dark comedy from C.K. Perhaps, that is what “Horace and Pete” attempts to be, but it comes across more serious than funny. The situations aren’t dark and ironic like in “Louie.” There are occasional laughs here and there, like when the bar-goers discuss current events such as Donald Trump and liberalism versus conservatism. The show comes out on Saturdays and is recorded during the week prior, which allows the program to take advantage of real life issues and events to make it feel like you are actually in the bar with Horace and Pete.

The show is, in essence, a stage play on screen. There are basically two locations: the bar and the apartment above the bar. The furniture looks like a set. The camera angles and shots are limited by the confines of the set and the necessities of producing an entire hour long show every week. The choreography is that of a play. In a wide angle shot, people mill about the bar, entering and exiting the frame, occasionally making small remarks.

The stage aesthetic does create something profoundly different. It really does feel like a theatrical production and, as a result, feels intimate and realistic. Creator C.K. attempts to bring the viewer into the bar with the rest of the cast. After the first episode, I felt as if something brand new had been created. It seemed there could be a market for this type of show: the play brought to the screen for both those whom the theater is inaccessible, but also for those whom desire this hyperrealistic art. For the first hour and six minute episode, this aesthetic not only works, but is thought provoking and engaging in a unique way. After the first episode, the stage-on-screen aesthetic loses its charm and feels more like a poorly made TV show. The cause is not the medium — the Internet web series — but rather the lack of production value. The style has potential but, like the show itself, it is still in development.

This type of show, the play-on-screen show, has potential to fill the lack in television for hyper-realistic art. As a viewer, you feel as if you are in the bar observing the chaos. The separation between story and audience is blurred, immersing the viewer in the thick of things. With hyper-realism, creativity is limited for both the creator and the viewer. Plausibility is increased but at what cost? Hyper-realism allows for the detailed analytic exploration of the everyday world that might not otherwise be addressed in real life due to lack of time or other obstacles. By making reality into art, an awareness is created that allows for the viewer to be removed from that situation and think critically. This is where “Horace and Pete” is innovative and successful.