In his continuing bid to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, Louis C.K. went ahead and released a web series out of thin air. Horace and Pete is the story of 2 middle-aged guys (CK and Steve Buscemi) who run a bar together. Sounds cute, right? Like Cheers? Not so much. While the show is funny and snappy it’s also extremely dark, delving deep into the fear and misery which are the lifeblood of C.K.’s universes. Only the first two hour-long episodes have been released but they are so nuanced, so complex, that I’ve already gone back twice to re-watch them. The show is as good as shows get. It’s one of the best web series ever made. And it teaches us absolutely nothing useful about independent projects.
Successful entertainers live in a separate universe. It isn’t necessarily better than ours, but the rules are different. I’m not only speaking of the law, here, I’m talking about the rules that actually govern our society; the social contract as it relates to personal space, privacy and physical contact is applied entirely differently to famous people. If you come up to me on the street and ask me to pose for a photo with you I can say “no” with no fear of repercussion. If anything, YOU’RE the weird one for even asking the question. If I’m Louis C.K., though, and I don’t want to pose with you, I owe you some sort of explanation.
On the other hand, if Louis C.K. wants to make and distribute his own content, well, he can do that as easily as breathing. Louis deserves a ton of credit for his longstanding and pioneering dedication to the idea of artists self-distributing their work. It’s a great idea…but it won’t work for you.
One of the things distribution companies handle is promotion: they not only get people to watch your show, they’re the ones who tell everybody about it in the first place. The other thing they do is find places to actually host the show. If you’re rich and famous and you have a website, if your show is brimming with well known Hollywood talent…well, all that work has already been done for you, so by all means cut out the middleman.
People wrapped up in the dream of making their name from a series going viral will point to this as an example of a show succeeding without the aid of the clunky, imbalanced hosting platforms we’re all trying to figure out, but those people are delusional. You don’t have Louis’ reach, his money or his friends or you wouldn’t be grasping at these straws. Lots of people have tried this distribution model. It has yet to work for a regular person.
Horace and Pete is an excellent show. I love that we can buy the episodes directly from Louis. The distribution model serves as an interesting bridge between premium subscription services and people with YouTube channels but it isn’t a bridge we can all use. This one is for celebrities only.
By Kyle Price-Livingston