Give Pete Davidson a bit of credit for making himself the least interesting part of a series about being Pete Davidson. Much of that has to do with the all-star cast with which the former “SNL” star has swaddled himself in “Bupkis,” a frequently funny and later somewhat tiresome Peacock comedy, which only serves to reinforce the sense the comic’s tabloid-friendly offscreen life generally remains more interesting than any of his onscreen exploits.
Having already played a version of himself in the Peacock movie “The King of Staten Island,” Davidson certainly doesn’t seem overly concerned about stretching his acting chops. The main appeal here, given the unabashed self-absorption of the exercise, hinges on the casting, with Edie Falco (“The Sopranos”) and Joe Pesci as his mom and grandpa, plus an assortment of high-profile cameos, from Ray Romano to Jon Stewart to John Mulaney, which conjure the lion’s share of the laughs.
Davidson is introduced Google-ing himself, chafing at living in the public eye while residing (uncomfortably at times, as an early sequence demonstrates) with his mom. The idea of Davidson existing in an extended state of adolescence runs throughout the show, prompting his grandpa to gently chide him by saying, “You run around like a kid and you’re not a kid anymore. You’re a man.”
The title “Bupkis” is intended to indicate that viewers aren’t necessarily supposed to take the series at face value, but the sporadic use of biographical photos underscores that the show (produced and written by Davidson, Judah Miller and Dave Sirus under the stewardship of “SNL” patriarch Lorne Michaels) offers snapshots of Davidson’s life, including the loss of his father on September 11 and a wedding the young Pete had to attend in its aftermath.
The series proves considerably stronger when it leans toward the inconsequential and gleefully crude, relying on the heavy hitters in the cast, or those who just drop by (among them Bobby Cannavale and Steve Buscemi), to carry the load. There’s also some good stuff spoofing Hollywood, as one episode hinges on Davidson getting cast in a J.J. Abrams movie, before the role turns out to be considerably less than he envisioned.
Laughing at himself is great to a point, which includes addressing the fact that people seem more interested in who he dates than what he does. By contrast, “Bupkis” sags when it zeroes in on Davidson and his substance-abuse issues toward the end, which can’t help but feel as if the show is drifting, perhaps unavoidably, into the almost cliched “A Star is Born” quadrant of celebrity biography.
For Davidson, lampooning his image has practically become a full-time job, to the exclusion of demonstrating what else he can do, and Peacock appears quite content to cash in on that. “Bupkis” is at times very funny, but when it comes to getting to know more about Pete Davidson, the show’s admirable qualities are more in spite of that than because of it.
“Bupkis” premieres May 4 on Peacock.