Sometimes it can be hard to see the dividing line between reality, scripted television, and the celebrity spin machine. While old-world Hollywood might have been full of mystery as people hungered for that morsel of a celebrity’s personal life, today’s social media-influenced world has everyone knowing the moment has revealed the next big secret. In the new Peacock series Bupkis, showrunner Judah Miller reveals why this Pete Davidson show walks a delicate balance of relatable and slight nonsense while taking viewers on a relentless ride.
While the word bupkis might be known to some, others might be unfamiliar with the Yiddish term. Even as the show’s opening disclaimer alludes to the story about to be told, the reality is that people often wonder what is real and what is exaggerated in the Hollywood spotlight. Call it spin, speculation, or just fiction, separating the person from the character is not always an easy task.
In the Pete Davidson world, that concept can be debated. While the man from Staten Island might be one of the most well-known faces across the globe, he was not always on the red carpet. The story behind the man could be more compelling than the headlines seen in the tabloids. But, where does that line between revealing too much and humanizing the person find a happy medium?
As part of the launch of Bupkis, I spoke with showrunner Judah Miller. While Miller has worked with Davidson previously, the new Peacock series is unlike the other works. After watching a few episodes, viewers will laugh, possibly cry, and will turn their heads during a few uncomfortable moments.
That range of emotions was intentional. Miller shared, “We wanted the show to have a relentless quality to it, a relentlessness of comedy or relentlessness of sometimes cringe moments. It was important to us that we had the show continually escalate and build because it felt like that was the most accurate way to depict what it’s like to be in Pete’s orbit. His life seems to be constantly escalating at a relentless pace.”
While there might be absurd and ridiculous moments, those comedic highs are balanced with emotional turmoil. It is a slice of reality, set in fictional storytelling. In some ways, that relatable nature is what makes the show captivating. Many people have experienced that satisfying high only to be thrust to the ground at a moment’s notice.
In some ways, the show’s title captures what the series is trying to portray. The Yiddish term, Bupkis, really means nothing. Although there can be another slant, it is a word that can fit many situations.
Miller shared, “The idea came from Pete. In some ways, it was inspired by Pete’s grandfather’s character being a very important, instrumental character in the show and the arc of the first season. It is a word that Pete’s actual grandfather would use, so Pete suggested it.”
“It is a word that really means nothing and you say that you don’t know bupkis or you don’t know bupkis about bupkis. It is relevant to the show in a couple of ways. Voice by Stacy Keach, the use in the legal disclaimer has a community effect but it also has that meaning of nonsense or nothingness. Pete is trying to maneuver his way through all the insanity that surrounds him. It gets to the core of the meaningful things.”
One of the story arcs throughout the season is the difference between public image and real life. Speaking to this dichotomy, Miller said, “one of the themes that we are exploring in the season is that disparity between Pete’s public image and person and the person that his friends and family know him to be. I think that it is something relatable whether people are famous or not.”
“Through media and technology, there are public selves and private selves. Those images are not always completely aligned with each other.”
Within the context of the story, “Pete is trying to move to the next stage in his life, trying to run away from a feeling, try to solve something that cannot be solved. He’s trying to connect with his family, overcome obstacles. Many families can relate to family dysfunctions. I think that there is a lot reflected in the show that the audience can relate to regardless of fame.”
As viewers watch the Peacock show Bupkis, the storylines, celebrity cameos, and humorous moments will get attention. But, the quiet, introspective scenes deserve a second or third moment to ponder. Whether or not the scenes are based on reality or total bupkis, each episode will leave a lasting impression and something to talk about around the family dinner table during Sunday supper.
Bupkis airs on Peacock. Season 1 has eight episodes. It stars Pete Davidson, Edie Falco, and Joe Pesci and has a plethora of celebrity cameos.