“The Atheist” – Crashing Review

  HBO

HBO

Chad White

Crashing
“The Atheist”
Season 2, Episode 1
HBO

Safe search medium.

No matter what age you are, you’re bound to continually find things out about yourself. You could go your whole life not knowing you’re allergic to beer, have your first one at 21 and break out in hives. Or go to the top of a tall building, peer out of a window and find out you have a fear of heights. These things happen all the time. In the return of the excellent Crashing, Pete finds out he may be questioning the one thing he’s found consistent his entire life: his faith. The HBO show returns with a strong philosophy while setting up what the rest of the season is going to be about.

Followers of Pete Holmes in real life know that he’s a devout Christian turned spiritual being with experiences of everything in between. For seven years, Holmes has made his podcast You Made It Weird into a place where longform philosophical, comedic, therapeutic discussions are held. He makes it a point to read Rob Bell or Ram Dass and use what he’s learned in conversation to further his education. He then relates his own experiences – sometimes for episodes in a row. Some find it pretentious and annoying but many listeners enjoy it (this reviewer welcomes the discussion no matter how many hours long). The talks are what make “Pete” Pete. And now we can finally see these on screen.

Jamie Lee joins the cast as Ally, a comedian with a defined goal in mind. Pete – flushed with the little power he has - lets her on stage because she wants to tape herself but she ends up hating the club. Later in the episode, they end up sleeping together (mirroring their real life relationship years ago). It’s strange seeing Pete with authority at the club. He’s still on the same level as Aparna Nancherla and Jermaine Fowler’s Anaya and Russell but he essentially watches the struggling club when the owner’s not around. This is a guy who now lives in his ex-wife’s ex-lover’s garage where he lives in fear of jerking off to too hardcore of porn while also dealing with the fear of having the door open, slapping ice cream around a Coldstone Creamery during the day – admittedly trying to avoid tips due to the mandatory singing, - and barking at night. It’s not a marvelous life.

The thesis of the first episode back stays in the same area as the finale where Pete is at an impasse belief-wise. Everything he’s ever believed is up in the air yet he still blindly chooses to follow it because it’s all he’s ever known. A chat with Penn Jillette leaves Pete with as many questions as answers (a followup conversation with Doug Benson doesn’t help either). He drowns his sorrows in alcohol at a burlesque party with Artie Lange, Dave Attell, Rachel Feinstein, Jay Oakerson, and Keith Robinson (the real takeaway here is that he can at least call these people quasi-friends). But, even with his many doubts and questions, this newly formed version of Pete leads to him – albeit drunkenly – doing something sober, childish Pete would never have done. He hits on Ally, calling her “lady hot” and adding that she can’t be hot and funny, and eventually gets her to take him home. This is a far cry from the momma’s boy we saw last season.

Should you watch “The Atheist?”

At some point, this show is going to turn into the podcast but I’m fine with that. Crashing is good. This week’s script from credited writers Holmes and producer Judd Apatow and story editor Jamie Lee is funny and self-effacing. The direction from Ryan McFaul is unobtrusive until the memorable burlesque and sex scenes. “The Atheist” one to be watched.