These days, cable networks have their work cut out for them in the perpetual content battle against the big streaming giants. With Netflix, Prime and HBO dominating the original content conversation, it seems the days of network dominance are a distant memory. And yet, in this cord-cutting dystopia, FX and its partner network FXX have risen above the crowd and emerged as a giant in their own right with original shows like Atlanta and the comedy hit, What We Do in the Shadows. The networks' most recent, and perhaps most unexpected hit, Dave, was recently green-lit for a second season following the overwhelming success of its first.
Dave, created by rapper Lil Dicky and executive produced by Kevin Hart, recently surpassed Donald Glover's Atlanta as the highest-rated FX show ever. The self-titled series tells the hilarious, semi-autobiographical, and often emotional story of Dave Burd, aka Lil Dicky's rise from unknown satirical internet rapper to full-blown stardom. In this funhouse mirror retelling of his own life, Burd explores not only his personal journey to and through fame but delves into broader issues of race, sex, and mental health in a disarmingly honest self-reflection.
The multilayered premise may seem like a stretch for anyone only mildly aware of the Jewish suburban rapper whose stage name is a penis joke and who's most noteworthy hits would put him squarely in the category of comedy rap. Yet, Lil Dicky has always viewed himself as a serious rapper and artist, even from his earliest moments in the industry. Take, for instance, this freestyle on Sway in the Morning from 2015, in which Burd displays a level of lyrical talent and swagger most casual fans remain unaware of to this day. Still, even day-one "dickheads" (the unfortunate moniker for Dicky's hardcore fans) probably didn't expect Dave to wander into such loaded content matter with his self-named comedy show.
One prominent example throughout the season was the real story of GaTa, a fan favorite and perhaps the true star of season one. GaTa, played by himself, is Lil Dicky's onstage hype man both in the show and in reality. As in real life, GaTa is revealed to suffer from bipolar depression in an emotional episode five, largely considered the highlight of the season. The episode explores not only the frightening reality of manic episodes and GaTa's struggle to find a balance between out of control and totally lethargic, but also confronts the added trauma of battling mental illness as a black man.
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On a more wildly personal level, Burd uses Dave to confront the matter of his literal "Lil Dicky." The show explores the rapper's very real struggle with hypospadias, a rare condition in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis instead of the tip, as well as scarring and damage created by childhood surgeries. Though only alluded to throughout his career, and in a mostly comedic context, Burd's very real physical and emotional traumas are explored at length throughout the show.
Despite these and other heavy personal and cultural thematic elements, the show's massive success ultimately comes down to its comedy. Dave manages to get deep, consistent laughs with each episode. Its writing and direction tackle issues like sexual repression and cultural appropriation by white rappers with the same levity and charm Dicky has always brought to his music.
While some have written the show off as a white Atalanta, both the show's subject matter and approach to storytelling are uniquely its own. Both may be FXX shows created by and starring famous rappers, but whereas Atlanta is an entirely fictional narrative that implements unorthodox storytelling to sometimes tackle issues of race and class, Dave is a loosely autobiographical self-reflection exploring the very real experiences of both its creator and minor characters.
While no release date has been given for season two, FX has confirmed its return in 2021. For now, the first season of Dave is available to steam on Hulu.