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Series / Horace and Pete

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Horace and Pete is a 2016 American dramedy web miniseries created, written and directed by Louis C.K., starring C.K. and Steve Buscemi as Horace Wittel VIII and Pete Wittel, current owners of the one hundred year old family bar Horace and Pete's. Throughout the ten-episode series, Horace struggles with his sense of responsibility for the family business and his relationships with his dysfunctional family. While its predecessor Louie was a dark comedy, Horace and Pete crosses the line into full blown tragedy.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: In the finale, we see that Present-day Horace and Pete's father fits this to a tee.
  • And I Must Scream: Pete's description of living in the mental hospital (before Probitol enabled him to be OK) makes it 100% clear that not being in control of his mind is hell on Earth for him. This makes it extra sad when he ends up killing Horace, and will most likely end up living the rest of his life in a mental institution or prison.
  • Black Comedy: A vast majority of whatever comedy there is is this, thanks to the dark nature of the show.
  • Chekhov's Gun : The bar doesn't serve mixed drinks, and therefore doesn't stock the limes and lemons that usually go with them. Comes into play in the last episode. Big time.
  • Downer Ending: Arguably one of the all-time worst. Pete is believed to be dead, then shows up again, obviously badly shaken but mostly alright, only to kill Horace with a steak knife and wind up back in a mental institution, probably for life, as the drug that helps him function is no longer available. None of the tension between any of the characters of the three living generations present over the ten episodes is resolved, no one forgives anyone else or reconciles their differences or lets go of their emotional baggage, with the possible exception of Horace IX, who shows up just a little too late, the bar closes down for good, and pretty much no character ends the series on a happy note. The series ends with Sylvia finally breaking down and sobbing.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Wittels.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Pete is revealed to be Uncle Pete's son, not his nephew.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When she first shows up, Sylvia implies that Present-day Horace and Pete's father was abusive. In the flashback portion of the finale, we see in sickening detail how.
    • After Pete goes missing, we're treated to a fantasy in his head where he's at the bar just going about life. This fantasy seals that the bar is his "safe space" mentally and he never wants to leave. After he's presumed dead by police, he later resurfaces at the bar. Things go really downhill from there.
    • Pete goes off his meds and becomes a danger to people. While in a psychotic episode, he beats up his girlfriend. In the finale, he resurfaces at the bar in the middle of another psychotic episode and kills Horace.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In the finale, when a mentally unstable Pete grabs a knife after coming back to the bar and Horace attempts to restrain him, we fade to black. We find out Pete killed Horace with the knife later.
  • G-Rated Mental Illness: Averted. Throughout the series Pete struggles with his mental illness, which leads to violent outbursts. In fact, it ends very badly for all concerned.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Uncle Pete
  • Hope Spot: After being presumed dead, Pete shows up at the bar. However, he is clearly off his rocker. Horace is so happy to see Pete after believing he's dead, and doesn't treat Pete as a danger until Pete picks up a knife laying on the bar. Horace tries to restrain him, but Pete ends up killing him.
  • Jerkass: The whole cast, pretty much.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sylvia tries to get Horace to let go of the bar, partly for money. But it's later apparent it's really because to her the legacy Horace is trying to uphold just isn't worth his life. Horace and Pete's fathers were pretty much scum who are owed nothing, and Horace should think about starting fresh. Thanks to Pete's psychotic episode in the finale, however, Horace dies before he can let go of the bar.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Turns out Uncle Pete is actually Pete's father, not his uncle. He gave Pete to his brother's family because he didn't like children.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Mara, played by Amy Sedaris, who, Louis CK has stated, heavily ad-libbed her performance (including the memorable smile she coaxes out of him) and wasn't really acting at all, but merely being herself.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Super-liberal and feminist Alan Alda as the racist, abusive Uncle Pete. Originally intended for Joe Pesci, who passed on the role; Alan Alda's agent recommended him to Louis CK for the specific purpose of playing against type. It seems to have worked.
  • Mood Whiplash: An absolutely crushing example in the finale. When Pete shows up at the bar after having been written off by the police as dead, Horace is bursting with joy to see him and of course doesn't think to restrain him or anything. Pete is in the middle of a psychotic break, and ends up killing Horace with a knife that was out at the bar.
  • Racist Grandpa: Uncle Pete, as well as the previous generation's Horace, although, while both are reprehensible jerkasses beyond reproach, they are equal-opportunity jerkasses, and, in the flashback scene, the crowd in their day was actually more diverse than in the present. While the racial and homophobic slurs are thrown about more or less constantly, it's a two-way street, and while customers get thrown out for a variety of reasons, both trivial and legitimate, more or less anyone who can tolerate their abuse is welcome.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Several conversations in the bar refer to real life news events that happened at the time the show was written.
  • Ret Irony: It's implied that that Horace decided to finally sell the bar and cash out before Pete walked in and ended up killing him.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: While there are spots of hope for those around them, Horace and Pete fall into this big time. Horace ends up dead at Pete's hand after one of Pete's psychotic episodes, and Pete goes to either a mental institution or prison for presumably the rest of his life.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: This is apparent for poor Pete. He endured a really shitty childhood being brought up by the abusive Horace VII, and later ended up in a mental hospital for 5 years. He had a good 10 year stretch on the outside thanks to a drug called Probitol which helped his sickness. But when it's found Probitol damages the organs over time, it's mandated that Pete stop getting it and go back to the mental hospital after his current dose runs out. Thanks to a misguided attempt to "cure" him from a woman who loved him, he went off his meds and became a danger to people (even beating said woman). He goes missing, and even his policeman friend tells the rest of the family that he must be dead. However, he shows up at the bar while in the middle of a psychotic episode and ends up killing Horace. He will likely end up in a mental institution for the rest of his life, which was his worst fear. Even if another drug like Probitol comes along, a mentally-healthy Pete will live with the memory of killing Horace.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Louie, and a worthy one at that. Contains many similarities, including the general (if much darker) tone, oddball side characters, anomalistic episodes (including one, the entirety which is a conversation between two characters), a divorced protagonist and father of two who is often shamed, humbled and used as the butt of all jokes, and scenes that function more as comedic shorts rather than parts of a single episode.
    • Could also be considered a Spiritual Successor to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as it takes place in a bar (which even looks a bit like Paddy's Pub), features a "three guys, one girl" cast of largely unlikable characters who show no real love or loyalty towards one another, one of whom is a crotchety old man who turns out to be the father of the woobie of the group. Also present is the tendency to use actors' real first names for the characters they play.
  • Those Two Guys: Kurt and Leon, sometimes joined by Tom, Nick or some unnamed (often female) extra. There are almost always at least two or three characters seated at the far end of the bar playing this role, usually dispensing typical semi-drunken and pseudo-insightful commentary on politics, religion or society, or just watching bemusedly while two other patrons bicker and argue and fight.