‘Crashing’ Hits A High As Pete Learns About ‘Barking’

Some thoughts on tonight’s Crashing coming up just as soon as I find a good time to tell you that I’ve never seen The Wire

Of the six episodes HBO gave critics before the premiere, “Barking” was easily the most entertaining and fully-formed. It moves away from the big hook of Pete hanging out with more famous comics — Hannibal Buress cameos but doesn’t really interact with Pete, and Jermaine Fowler (now starring in CBS’ Superior Donuts) is, like Pete Holmes, playing a younger and less successful version of himself — but does something that’s even more interesting, in going into the granular and uncomfortable details of what a stand-up at Pete’s spot on the comedy food chain has to do just to get a few minutes on stage at a real show.

“Barking” is packed with detail and amusing incident, particularly the sequence where Pete fights the other comedian, which eventually results in another guy getting hit by a car while chasing Pete, and a sheepish Pete handing out more fliers to the looky-lous at the accident scene. But my favorite part of the episode may be the climax. Pete gets to go on stage, and the jazz fans he gave fliers to earlier turn up late to pack what had been a sparsely populated club, but Pete’s set is still nothing special. (Holmes has said in interviews that a lot of his stand-up material on the show is pulled from what he was doing in his act at this nascent stage of his own career.) It would be too easy to have him wrap up this weird evening by hitting a home run on stage, but Crashing wants to go step by step through the process of Pete becoming a good and successful comic, and that means that even when he lucks his way into a decent crowd, he’s still going to be just okay up there.

As I said in my initial review of the series, Crashing tends to be at its best when its focusing on Pete’s career. “Barking” was the first episode to do that entirely, and was the installment where I went from wary interest to full-blown enthusiasm for the series.

What did everybody else think, both of “Barking” and of the season so far?