Louis CK is simultaneously an innovator and a traditionalist. His latest project, the web series Horace And Pete, is in some respects one of his most radical gambits. Without any advance publicity, the comedian decided to bypass cable television entirely and release episodes of the series one at a time through his own network on a “pay as you go” system. The show’s coarse language and oft-despairing tone, meanwhile, separate it from traditional network comedies of the past. And yet Horace And Pete still has a touch of the familiar to it, starting with the star-studded cast, including sitcom veteran Alan Alda. The show’s setting, a humble East Coast neighborhood bar, cannot help but remind viewers of NBC’s long-running Cheers, one of the most beloved TV comedies of all time.
Filmmaker Dominick Nero made that connection explicit with what he’s calling a “sitcom recut” of Horace And Pete that uses a laugh track, simulated VHS tape glitches, and a familiar theme song to turn footage from CK’s show into a dark, alternate universe episode of Cheers. Nero explains his surrealist mashup this way:
Louie seems to be obsessed with revamping the traditional sitcom formula, from his ill-fated stint on HBO with Lucky Louie, to his retro-feeling work on FX’s Louie. But Horace And Pete is perhaps his most different-yet-familiar piece yet, and after hearing him speak about the Cheers influence on Jimmy Kimmel, it seemed like a no-brainer to recut his self-published show with a ’90s flair. But as I delved into the mashup process, the edit proved to be a bit more difficult than I’d expected; his show is both so dark and so obscene that it seemed to resist any sort of humorous recutting.
Indeed, the guffaws of the unseen (nonexistent) studio audience feel painfully out of place here. The people hooting and hollering at the characters’ disappointments and misfortunes must be the the most cold-hearted bastards imaginable. This is a place where everybody knows your name, but they think you’re an asshole.