The arc of FXX’s “Dave,” the highest-rated comedy on the network, has been interesting to watch. When it premiered in March 2020, critics largely dismissed it at first, but came around as the program developed into something richer, funnier, and smarter over the course of its first season. It even ended up making a few ‘best of the year’ lists, including ours. The show is back on June 16th and the good news is that not only does it avoid the sophomore slump that often afflicts artists like Lil Dicky, but it actually seems like it’s growing in ways that Dave Burd himself would barely recognize. The show is still about the weird side of fame—what it does to friendships, relationships, and business dynamics—but it feels more aware of the flaws of the first half of that first season, one that was criticized for the way it almost elevated Burd’s selfish stupidity. Burd and his team here haven’t made Dave more likable—in fact, the opposite may be true—but he’s increasingly surrounded by people who call him on his shit, which makes for sharper humor that feels like it’s taking risks with more confidence, even as Lil Dicky himself lacks exactly that.
“Dave” is a fictionalized version of the life of Dave Burd aka Lil Dicky, a rapper who blew up for the YouTube generation. With a self-deprecating sense of humor that recalls a less destructive version of Marshall Mathers, he released an album hesitantly called Professional Rapper in 2015, and has worked with Snoop Dogg, T-Pain, Ariana Grande, Kevin Hart, Benny Blanco, and many more. The version of Lil Dicky on “Dave” is more comedically exaggerated—his biggest hit is titled “My Dick Sucks”—but the show definitely riffs on Burd’s real life, including supporting turns from his hype man GaTa and his producer Benny Blanco. The show has a relatively small cast, centering most of its set-ups around Burd and how he impacts his inner circle, which includes GaTa, his manager Mike (Andrew Santino), ex-girlfriend Ally (Taylor Misiak), DJ Elz (Travis “Taco” Bennett), and friend Emma (Christine Ko).
The second season opens with Dave and his team overseas, trying to break into the lucrative K-Pop scene with a song called “I Took a Shit in Korea.” Right from the beginning of the season, Burd and his writers are clearly interrogating Lil Dicky’s largely selfish behavior, reflected in how he treats friends, collaborators, and even an entire culture. He’s that guy who thinks he knows everything about the cruel underbelly of K-Pop, but has no idea what he’s talking about, and when his translator ends up getting taken by authorities, it’s unsurprising that Burd is more concerned about the fact that he had his laptop than the guy’s personal safety. The second season of “Dave” has broken him up with Ally, and that seems to have sent him into even more selfish behavior, but the writing feels more sharply critical of that at the same time.
Take the insane third episode, which features more bare man butts than I’ve seen on television maybe ever. Blanco and Burd run around the former’s house, naked, getting up to trouble that includes shoving things in their butts. It’s juvenile, physical humor but then the show takes a step back from it when GaTa and Tones show up and the conversation turns to how bromances are different between Black people. Burd’s general lack of interest in the cultures that he’s arguably appropriating reaches its peak in an extended guest appearance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who asks to meet Lil Dicky after he hears his name in a song and ends up basically interviewing the rapper about what the hell he’s doing with his career and life. Watching Burd go from excited fanboy to stressed over being asked serious questions that he never asks himself is very entertaining.
In its initial reviews, “Dave” drew some unfavorable comparisons to “Atlanta,” another FX show about a rapper and his inner circle, but most shows would draw unfavorable comparisons to one of the best programs of the ‘10s. "Dave" is not quite as ambitious as “Atlanta” and often resorts to physical humor or juvenile jokes, but the start of the second season actually made me wonder if it could eventually be.
Four episodes screened for review. Season two premieres on June 16 on FXX, with episodes on Hulu the next day.