In this Golden Age of American television, brought closer to us by Netflix and torrents, we have a plethora of options to watch. With PR exercises in the form of months of hype-building and spoilers, nothing is a surprise to the viewer anymore. Amidst all this early last year, came a web series created, written, directed and starred in by the comedic genius Louis CK. Released without preamble one day, without even a whiff of a production going on, to CK’s website, with an email dropped to his subscribers, “Horace and Pete is now available for download”.With a cast made up of toughened actors like Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Edie Falco and Jessica Lange, Horace and Pete is the story of two brothers who run a bar that has been in the family for over 100 years. The premise seems simple, but what comes out in the 10 episodes are anything but. The show is made up of extended monologues, engrossing discussions, agonizing confessions and heart-rending discourses, and deals with themes like mental illness, politics, abuse, racism and family dynamics. It’s unlike any other show you’ve ever seen.The direction, helmed by CK himself, is exemplary. The show is treated almost like a play, with an opening and a closing act. The sound of microphones brushing and fumbled lines here and there add to the feeling of a filmed stage play. The camera blocking techniques employed by CK show that he’s not just grappling in the dark. Long, harrowing takes and the absence of a laugh track make it almost a drama, but sharp retorts and witty asides make it more than that. The title track, written and performed by rock legend Paul Simon, draws you in to come and drown your sorrows in the bar.The show also brings to light how far CK has come as an actor. He plays an everyman, a compassionate, loving, flawed human being. In a show of big talkers, he casts himself as a listener. This comes to the forefront in the third episode, my favourite of the lot, which constitutes of a 50-minute long conversation between Horace and his ex-wife, played exceptionally by Laurie Metcalf. The episode begins with a brilliant extended monologue by Metcalf in which she tells Horace about cheating on her husband with her 80-year old father-in-law. The camera stays with her for a full 10 minutes before cutting to show CK’s uncomfortable expression. The rawness with which she delivers, eyes darting all over the place, guilt-ridden, flushed, stuttering, is utterly captivating. They part, and the episode seems to end on a sweet note. Until a moment later, it delivers a blow right in your face. Horace and Pete is full of such moments, and by the end, you’ll be glad you are wrecked.