Bupkis S1E5: For Your Amusement

As much as Bupkis has an underlying theme, it’s that of a damaged 29-year-old trying to get a tentative grasp on adulthood. So this week, Pete decides he wants to be a dad. Uncle Tommy is there to immediately talk him out of it — he’s that favorite TV staple, a middle-aged husband and father who’s completely given up — and can’t understand why anyone would trade in Pete’s responsibility-free life for the one he has. In Tommy’s mind, settling down involves giving up every good thing in life. Free time, money, friends. No dating supermodels, no jetting around the world. “I know you dream about killing yourself — that’s out the window!” In his cynical view, no one’s life ever got better because they had kids.

Amy gives her son the complete opposite — and equally bad — advice. She insists having a kid would “control your chaos” and solve all of Pete’s problems. She’s all ready to line up a surrogate and buy some of Kelly Clarkson’s eggs to get the job done. Pete’s willing to settle for an egg from his friend Nikki (Davidon’s Bodies Bodies Bodies costar Chase Sui Wonders, who to date has only been a background character).

Nikki’s happy to play the role of “the fun Dad,” who’s technically a parent to Pete’s kid but not all that involved in the day-to-day. But in the meantime, her brother has saddled her with his irresponsible girlfriend’s kid, who she abandoned to go to Costa Rica to do ayahuasca. “That’s so sad. People don’t know you can do ayahuasca in Queens,” Pete muses.

So Pete offers to take Nikki and 8-year-old Anna to an amusement park for the day, to “practice being a dad.” Things aren’t off to a good start when he pulls up in an SUV billowing pot smoke, with his entourage in tow. Pete’s buddies are predictably a bad influence, and Anna isn’t all that excited by rides and carnival games. But Pete finally gets a quiet moment with her and opens up — he may not know anything about being a dad, but he does know what it’s like to have an absent parent, to be a kid facing things entirely out of their control, and that childhood often sucks. But that struggle early on is what makes for an interesting adult — this is Anna’s origin story, a pep talk she actually responds to.  

But then his natural instincts kick in, and he terrifies the child by taking her on a roller coaster she’s not ready for. She lashes out at Pete, says she misses her mom, and there’s no easy resolution. Putting in half a day of effort doesn’t erase the fact that he’s a self-centered man-child who has no experience worrying about consequences or thinking of anyone but himself. And that’s where we leave things. It’s not the typical pat sitcom resolution where someone learns an important life lesson, but it’s also not Seinfeld-style “no hugs, no lessons” cynicism. It lands in between, in someplace a little more true-to-life. Pete’s aware of his flaws, he wants to be better, but he isn’t. At least not yet.

Stray thoughts
• We continue our theme of Amy being a shitty parent to her non-famous child, propositioning Casey to carry her brother’s baby for nine months, or as Casey puts it, “be a brood mare so Pete can ruin two lives?”

“I think having a baby would really focus him.”

“It’s a baby, not a fidget spinner.”

• Amy then takes things a step further around the bend and proposes to Pete’s ex Carly that she marry him and have his baby, despite her having a boyfriend. But not a boyfriend who’s above taking a hefty bribe to break up with her. Thus far, Amy’s been presented as the grounding influence in Pete’s life, but this week she’s worryingly unbalanced (which Carly doesn’t hesitate to call her out on).

• Stand-up comedy fixture Dave Attell has a cameo as an amusement park patron who heckles Pete for his poor parenting skills. It’s been a long time since he hosted Insomniac on Comedy Central and it’s nice to see him back on TV for a minute.