Weekly Watchlist: Dave
Over the past few months we’ve been able to absorb so much content. Our eyes glued to screens and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed and ambivalent to the what we’re taking in. A recurring question I’ve been asking myself is what things cut through the noise? What media still resonates with us enough to become noteworthy and sharp in our newly dulled world? For me, Dave has been exactly that. It’s content that has been so smart in the way it’s produced and delivered that it has easily separated itself from the pack in my eyes and it’s the least likely of packages to do so, as well.
What is it?
Dave is a television program on FX that chronicles stories of a satirical rapper, Dave Burd (a.k.a. Lil’ Dicky). You may recognize that name if you’re plugged into the music world at all — Lil’ Dicky is a real life act doing satirical/comedic rap and has features with Justin Bieber, Benny Blanco, and Brendon Urie (and many more). Dave pulls from much of the real-life experiences of Burd in a way that can sometimes blur what’s real and what’s sensationalized but there’s a strong case to be made that this is where the magic lies — the stories have a genuine heart to them and a pulse that bounces between absurd and heartfelt in a way that many other shows only wish they could.
But don’t let me get this far in without making it very clear that Dave is silly and irreverent in a way that only someone with such a crass and sophomoric rap moniker could produce. The secret sauce lies within the self-awareness of the joke though. There’s an earnestness in how Dave legitimately tries and cares at the things that are important to him (friendship, relationships, his rap career). There’s a subversion of expectations that societal norms set up when we see someone so fluent in silliness excel with proper execution.
How does it soar, when at its best?
Pulling the carpet out from beneath its audience is something that Dave does so well. If Dave was a 30 minute sitcom about the life of a satirical rapper, it would be fine, but it wouldn’t be special. Dave is special in the way that it marries themes and navigates such core-to-life themes (mental health, performative wokeness, relational intimacy, and identity) with nuance and ease. The range between episode three (a laugh out loud, raunchy, comedic episode about Dave navigating intimacy with his girlfriend) to episode five (a twenty-six minute rollercoaster of dramatic tension that chronicles Dave’s Hype-Man, Gata’s, struggle with mental health and bipolar episodes) is absolutely wild. The thing is, it works. It is authentic in handling every topic and has such consistent and tight conceptual framework throughout the first season. Everyone pulls their weight in this show, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how phenomenal Taylor Misiak’s performance of Ally is. It’s a treat, for sure.
Why should you care?
With all of my recommendations, I try and ask myself this question before I get too far into a post. “Why should others care about this?” — coming up with an answer for this led to a lot more untangling of my own thoughts than I had expected, but at the end of the day, the reason why I care about Dave is because it tries to be honest before trying to be anything else. It’s zany and off the wall in a charming way (like that of a friend who is really opening up with vulnerability and transparency for one of the first times in your friendship). There’s a self-awareness that it’s weird and something about it that really connects with our own inner-oddities. Dave won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s weird, it’s explicit, and it’s set in a niche part of modern subculture — that being said, it’s easily one of the best things I’ve watched in the past two years and it has become a weekly ritual this past month as Season Two extends its run.