Last weekend, Louis C.K. became the Beyonce of the comedy world by surprise-releasing an entirely new show on his website called Horace and Pete.
Like his FX series Louie, C.K. created, wrote, and directed the show, and stars as Horace, who runs a 100-year-old Brooklyn bar with his brother Pete (Steve Buscemi). The first, 67-minute episode dives into the family’s dark history, while introducing us to a colorful cast of patrons and fellow family members, including bigoted barkeep Uncle Pete (Alan Alda). Rounding out the terrific cast are Jessica Lange, Edie Falco, comedian Steven Wright, and guest stars Aidy Bryant, Rebecca Hall and Nick DiPaolo. Oh, and Paul Simon sings the theme song.
With that much star power, it’s hard to imagine how Horace and Pete was kept so diligently under wraps. It appeared without warning or fanfare, leaving everyone to wonder, “Where the hell did this thing come from?” and more importantly, “Will there be more?”
In a note posted to his website on Thursday, C.K. offered a thoughtful and forthright explanation for the surprise, explaining that he wanted audiences to experience the show without any preconceived notions.
“As a writer, there’s always a weird feeling that as you unfold the story and reveal the characters and the tone, you always know that the audience will never get the benefit of seeing it the way you wrote it because they always know so much before they watch it,” he wrote. “So making this show and just posting it out of the blue gave me the rare opportunity to give you that experience of discovery.”
C.K. also addressed the price of the series: The first episode was charged at a flat rate of $5, but he said he’s lowered the price of the second episode to $2, with subsequent episodes priced at $3.
“The dirty unmovable fact is that this show is fucking expensive… Horace and Pete is a full on TV production with four broadcast cameras, two beautiful sets and a state of the art control room and a very talented and skilled crew and a hall-of-fame cast,” he explained. “Basically this is a hand-made, one guy paid for it version of a thing that is usually made by a giant corporation. I charged five dollars because I need to recoup some of the cost in order for us to stay in production.”
One of the most startling aspects of the first episode was how contemporary it felt. Characters referenced this weekend’s Super Bowl and the recent Iowa caucus, making it clear that the episode was shot, and probably written, just a few days before its release. C.K. confirmed that episode two will have a similarly tight turnaround, revealing it’s being filmed at this very moment.
“Enjoy episode 2 of Horace and Pete. We’re shooting it now,” he wrote. “You’ll get it on Saturday morning.”
It’s still unclear how many episodes C.K. has planned for the series, but fans of his comedy should hop on the bandwagon sooner rather than later (especially with Louie on an "extended hiatus"). Though the first episode was shrouded in mystery, it soon became clear that C.K. has created something wholly refreshing with Horace and Pete — if anything, it’s like Cheers, but way sadder. Even the look of it is different, with sparse set designs and a slow-burning pace that resembles a play more than a television show. Like Louie, there’s an air of melancholy to the story, but there’s a lot of heart, too. That’s why it’s worth coming back for another round.