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Posts tagged "scripted"

NBC’s Siberia premiered last night to rave reviews by Twitter fans (at least according to their commercial).

The show is a scripted drama parading itself as a reality TV show in the vein of Survivor. The premise is that 16 or so people (I don’t remember cause I don’t really care that much) are dropped in Siberia and have to live there with basically no rules AND THEN something terrible happens. The show then becomes a combination of Survivor meets any of those found footage movies like The Blair Witch Project or REC, but just not as good.

The creators should have spent a little more time watching the predecessor of this type of mock reality show gone wrong called Dead Set. Dead Set was a British series set during eviction night of Big Brother and also a zombie outbreak. Everything about Dead Set was perfect - the casting of the reality show ‘types’, the set, all the behind the scenes stuff that we all know must go on during the real taping of a show like Big Brother, and of course the zombies.

The satirical possibilities are abundant, and “Dead Set,” which was nominated for a Bafta (British Academy) award for best drama serial, deftly makes the connections between reality television and zombification. The screaming crowds that gather for the show’s “eviction” episode, waiting to taunt whichever cast member is voted out, become the zombies desperate to eat the housemates’ flesh. The show’s hateful producer (Andy Nyman) uses “Big Brother” psychology to manipulate a cast member into joining his escape plan. (“Do you know what they call you when you’re out of the room? Gollum.”) (via)

Maybe I’m jumping the gun here since it’s only been one episode, but everything Dead Set does right (even it’s first episode) Siberia does wrong. The attempts at humor are just that - attempts. I don’t care about any of the 16 ‘contestants’. The potential for smart commentary on Survivor or Survivor-type shows may still be coming, but I really don’t think so. 

Sunday TV in my house was a ritual in the early 2000’s, when my parents deemed I was old enough to watch The Sopranos: my dad would get home from work at a reasonable time, my sister and I would excuse ourselves from the friends we were hanging out with, my mother would cook a big dinner of sausage and peppers and polenta. We’d all make a feeble grasp at connecting with our Italian heritage—one of my father’s cherished past-times—and gather around the television to spend an hour together, once a week.

The only Sunday shows I follow now are Mad Men and Game of Thrones. When those air, usually my dad isn’t home yet. My sister spends those hours and most others in her room, and my mom falls asleep on the couch and catches up on DV-R around 6am. Sometimes we hash through what happened and who we hate most (Joffrey and Don) while I sift through the fridge for something I can call breakfast or lunch, but more often than not none of us are home at the same time to talk anymore.

Even though the Sopranos, in whatever piece of emotional alchemy it managed to formulate, had the power to make my family care about the same thing for 1/168th of a week, last night’s Mad Men made me realize the power of a show has nothing to do with inspiring a sense of community, but in forcing individual interpretation through silence, lingering, the absence of traditional dramatic stimuli.

Nothing could be more antithetical to Game of Thrones’ strategy of jumping between plot points to maintain a constant, over-compressed torrent of sex, yelling, and death. I came away from last night’s episode feeling entertained the way I would by a very good webgame: superficially invested, but mostly relishing the opportunity to be immediately gratified for minimal effort.

Whereas the deafeningly loud turn of this week’s Game of Thrones was Jaime’s reformation, evidenced by his saving Brienne from an actual bear in some sort of ridiculous gladiatorial arena, Mad Men’s was Don and his current extramarital fling Sylvia silently standing in an elevator. That’s all. She had just broken off their affair after Don went a step too far in exploiting her crumbling marriage, turning a hotel room into their bizarre sex dungeon. She takes a stand and we see Don beg—for sex, for her continued submission to him, or because he’s been forced to admit he’s emotionally invested—which, for a person as invested in appearing ‘strong’ as he is, is almost sickening to watch.

“It’s easy to give up something when you’re satisfied,” Don bargains. Sylvia retorts, “It’s easy to give up something when you’re ashamed.” And that should rightfully be the end of their interaction, but after a brief Joan scene in the boardroom of the newly merged company, we cut back to Don and Sylvia riding the elevator down. It’s something so simple but so vital: two people sharing space, each feeling a different kind of sadness. These are the circumstances under which strangers in movies become lovers, but here it’s the long, slow, terribly quiet descent into the estranged. They only people who would be able to understand their turmoil are themselves, the same people who would gain nothing by saying any more about it.

“What did you think of Don last night,” my mom will ask. “What an asshole,” I’ll say microwaving some leftovers. I’ll eat in my room.

TV is no longer a communal activity, in my house and in most houses, because we’ve focused our attention on being able to customize our entertainment consumption to our own schedules and tastes. Other people watch what you watch, but the reasons for talking about it with them seem less tangible. It’s not my intention to moralize and weigh the pros and cons of watching shows on your laptop in bed. What I can say is that Mad Men—perhaps unintentionally—is taking advantage of the way most people consume media now, by giving us scenes that feel too personal to be shared. 

Sunday TV in my house was a ritual in the early 2000’s, when my parents deemed I was old enough to watch The Sopranos: my dad would get home from work at a reasonable time, my sister and I would excuse ourselves from the friends we were hanging out with, my mother would cook a big dinner of sausage and peppers and polenta. We’d all make a feeble grasp at connecting with our Italian heritage—one of my father’s cherished past-times—and gather around the television to spend an hour together, once a week.

The only Sunday shows I follow now are Mad Men and Game of Thrones. When those air, usually my dad isn’t home yet. My sister spends those hours and most others in her room, and my mom falls asleep on the couch and catches up on DV-R around 6am. Sometimes we hash through what happened and who we hate most (Joffrey and Don) while I sift through the fridge for something I can call breakfast or lunch, but more often than not none of us are home at the same time to talk anymore.

Even though the Sopranos, in whatever piece of emotional alchemy it managed to formulate, had the power to make my family care about the same thing for 1/168th of a week, last night’s Mad Men made me realize the power of a show has nothing to do with inspiring a sense of community, but in forcing individual interpretation through silence, lingering, the absence of traditional dramatic stimuli.

Nothing could be more antithetical to Game of Thrones’ strategy of jumping between plot points to maintain a constant, over-compressed torrent of sex, yelling, and death. I came away from last night’s episode feeling entertained the way I would by a very good webgame: superficially invested, but mostly relishing the opportunity to be immediately gratified for minimal effort.

Whereas the deafeningly loud turn of this week’s Game of Thrones was Jaime’s reformation, evidenced by his saving Brienne from an actual bear in some sort of ridiculous gladiatorial arena, Mad Men’s was Don and his current extramarital fling Sylvia silently standing in an elevator. That’s all. She had just broken off their affair after Don went a step too far in exploiting her crumbling marriage, turning a hotel room into their bizarre sex dungeon. She takes a stand and we see Don beg—for sex, for her continued submission to him, or because he’s been forced to admit he’s emotionally invested—which, for a person as invested in appearing ‘strong’ as he is, is almost sickening to watch.

“It’s easy to give up something when you’re satisfied,” Don bargains. Sylvia retorts, “It’s easy to give up something when you’re ashamed.” And that should rightfully be the end of their interaction, but after a brief Joan scene in the boardroom of the newly merged company, we cut back to Don and Sylvia riding the elevator down. It’s something so simple but so vital: two people sharing space, each feeling a different kind of sadness. These are the circumstances under which strangers in movies become lovers, but here it’s the long, slow, terribly quiet descent into the estranged. They only people who would be able to understand their turmoil are themselves, the same people who would gain nothing by saying any more about it.

“What did you think of Don last night,” my mom will ask. “What an asshole,” I’ll say microwaving some leftovers. I’ll eat in my room.

TV is no longer a communal activity, in my house and in most houses, because we’ve focused our attention on being able to customize our entertainment consumption to our own schedules and tastes. Other people watch what you watch, but the reasons for talking about it with them seem less tangible. It’s not my intention to moralize and weigh the pros and cons of watching shows on your laptop in bed. What I can say is that Mad Men—perhaps unintentionally—is taking advantage of the way most people consume media now, by giving us scenes that feel too personal to be shared. 

Archer is one of those rare shows that’s capable of finding humor both high and low in its characters’ diverse and often self-inflicted quandaries, whether they’re dangerous missions in exotic locations, or just a bevy of HR complaints. Like anything great, Archer has its following on Tumblr, including copious gif sets from choice jokes, two different Fuck Yeah Archer blogs, and fandom crossovers like Sterling Archer Draper Price. Although show creator Adam Reed was indisposed (in his “writing cave” attempting to finished the season finale’s script) Matt Thompson, Executive Producer and collaborator with Reed on such wonderful shows as Sealab 2021 & Frisky Dingo was nice enough to answer our most pressing questions about Archer. 
How did you two start working together?Thompson: Adam and I were both working in the On-Air Promotions department at Cartoon Network (1994???). It was a really great place to work too. It still had that small, us against them feel as the network had not been around that long. At that time it was mostly a place to catch old Hanna Barbera cartoons as Adult Swim did not exist yet. Our boss, a really great guy named Stephen Croncota, decided to pair us together to make some small interstitial shows to wrap around things like the Smurfs. We came up with a talking hand show where my hand was a no nonsense cowboy and Adam’s hand was my wacky sidekick. I use to have tons of tape on this, but I can no longer find it. I did find one thing online, a promo we did for an upcoming show of ours.  It starts at the one minute mark.


A running theme in your shows has been high-flying settings (dangerous missions, world domination) mixed with the incredibly mundane (pay raises, political campaigns). What things have informed your choice to juxtapose those situations?The high-flying setting stuff comes from Adam’s love of Ian Fleming’s James Bond character. Not the one we have today (which is great too), but the original novel version of the character where he is much darker, much more of a misogynist. And Adam likes to have fun with that.  Additionally Adam is incredibly well traveled having spent recent time in the Middle East and Vietnam. And he speaks fluent Spanish and French.  

The mundane thing comes from the two of us running a small business as we have owned the company that makes all of our shows since 1999. We employ a staff and deal with standard small business stuff everyday: taxes, health insurance, paper jams, office colds. No matter what business you work in, I think people can all identify with someone at the office throwing a fit because we are out of staples.  

And we have always had fun putting those two things together - life and death danger goes to the HR department.


You mentioned in a previous interview that the characters were drawn from real people in Atlanta. Was that the process used Frisky Dingo? Why did you choose to create the characters that way?
We do create characters from real people in Atlanta… mostly. For example Cyril Figgis happens to run a series of very high end restarants in Atlanta. Pam Poovey has an antiques shop in a part of town  called the highlands. Ray Gillette is actually Lucky Yates who voices Dr. Krieger. Then our staff fills in a lot of the other characters. This year our lead character designer, Chi, actually appears in a couple of episodes as herself. 

It was slightly different on Frisky. Frisky was a little simpler. But the basics of the process are the same.  

We choose to create the characters this way because we were looking for something that a large staff could draw quickly that we would not have to worry as much about everyone’s different drawing styles. But now that our illustration staff has been together so long, they are making up a lot of characters out of thin air. Which is nice.


Walk us through the writing process of an episode of Archer.Adam sits down at his computer and bangs them out. He does a lot of this from home, where things are more quiet. People always ask me about how wacky our writers room meetings are. And then everyone is shocked to find out this is just one guy typing away.

Even if the scripts were not great (which they always are), he should be commended for the amount of actual words he writes in a year. 


Which character do you have the most fun writing for?I would think that Adam would say Pam. She is unfiltered, but yet she seems kind. I think she gets the best lines. 


Having the show set in an indeterminate time period allows you to draw on a lot of imagery—and technology—from diverse points in history. Has there ever been something you felt was too out of place?Hmmm…  not sure.  I know we had a big talk about cell phones early on.  Because we definitely wanted them and wanted them to exist.  At the same time, we did not want phone cords to exist.  But that was strictly out of them being a pain in the ass to deal with animation wise.   I think I am going to turn this over to our Art Director, Neal Holman, for better insight. 

Holman: In 203, Movie Star — the episode where the actress/assassin Rhona Thorne was “Amazing!” —- there is a shot of Cheryl and Pam watching an internet broadcast on their computers.   It didn’t stick out at the time, but in hindsight, that crossed over a line into familiar modernity that we try to avoid.  Most of the ISIS computers have the old MS DOS interface.  Malory’s computer and those in Signal Intelligence are the only machines that are supposed to have that level of technology (internet, satellite, etc.


You already got your wish in working with David Cross for the ‘Heart of Archness’ trilogy. Is there anyone else you’d like to have on the show?This season we are going to have Timothy Olyphant playing Archer’s best friend. And he was just great at the whole thing. Charming, funny, and attractive - ugh. Also, Anthony Bourdain plays a bastard celebrity chef in something this season. Adam wrote the part specifically for him as we think he is one of the coolest people on the planet. And for the two part season finale, we have a big secret casting coming. But I am going to hold on to that for a while.
There are a lot of people that I think are really great that we would love to do something with. But if I had to pick just one, I think it would be Daniel Craig. But I would want him in a role as far away from his James Bond character as possible. Something that would allow him and us to make fun of the spy stuff together. 


One of the coolest things about the show is its spectrum of humor, which can transition immediately from a Melville reference to dick jokes. How do you balance the two and do you see much of a difference between them?It is a really tricky balance and honestly  I do not know how Adam does it. Let me give you an example. Myself and producer Casey Willis avidly read almost every spec script we get. We do this because we are desperate to not have Adam writing so much as his fingers may literally fall off. Anyway, almost every time we read these scripts, there is something too gross in there: “jokes” about menstruation or jacking off monkeys… weird, un-funny shit. The writers are trying too hard to push the boundaries and would be better off just being clever. 

I do not know how Adam can write a fart joke and it comes out like it does not stink. But he does it. I think he is able to do this because he is a very bright guy that has no desire to please anyone but himself.  He does not hang out in LA; we all live and work in Atlanta. He does not have a Mercedes; he drives a russian made motorcycle with a sidecar (Ural). And he will frequently hand me a great book, urging me to read it. But then warn me that he just farted on it.


There are a lot of oddball references throughout the show, but one of the most unexpected was the ‘Archers of Loaf-cross’ (and on that note, Woodhouse’s apparent taste for Charles Mingus). What music are you into?Adam knew Archers of Loaf while he was in college at UNC Chapel Hill. Adam listens to a lot of classic stuff like Mingus and Sarah Vaughan. But really his tastes are all over. A LONG TIME ago we lived together and I remember a lot of G Love and Special Sauce mixed with the Rebirth Brass Band. But the thing I remember most about his music tastes are the things he hates: Pink Floyd and the The Doors come to mind.

I end up listening to a lot of sports talk radio during football season. But when that is all over, I return to Black Keys, Radiohead, and lately a lot of Alabama Shakes.


Will learning the identity of his biological father make Archer any kinder?No.


Have we seen the last of Baboo?Baboo will be back.  But there is now a new animal in the mix this season that Archer falls in love with. It comes in an episode late in the year. Basically it is Archer hanging out with Cujo.  

Plus have you seen this shirt we had Pam wear? We had an in-house design contest where the studio voted on which shirt design most people wanted for our Production Crew shirts.  This shirt was one of the runners up.  When we used it in a Pam tweet the other day, the internet was asking why it is not for sale on FX’s website.  We are asking them this as well.





Can you give us any details about the Archer/Bob’s Burgers crossover? How did you convince the networks it was a good idea?It was not the networks as much as convincing Loren Bouchard that we meant no harm to his Bob’s universe. Luckily he was super cool about the whole thing. And I can not wait for people to see it.  It will look like their restaurant and their characters, but we have “Archer-ized” them to exist in our world. 


And the requisite TV Hangover question: What’s your alcohol of choice and best hangover remedy? Bourbon. Always bourbon. For both Adam and myself. But I try my best to avoid it as I like staying married. But we just got some for the crew last week. If you have not heard of B&E Bourbon, google it immediately. They are made by a distillery in California named St. George Spirits. It is amazing.

Best hangover remedy: drink more bourbon. One of my favorite Archer lines: “If I stop drinking all at once, I’m afraid the cumulative hangover will kill me.”


Archer returns for a fourth season tonight at 10pm on FX.

Archer is one of those rare shows that’s capable of finding humor both high and low in its characters’ diverse and often self-inflicted quandaries, whether they’re dangerous missions in exotic locations, or just a bevy of HR complaints. Like anything great, Archer has its following on Tumblr, including copious gif sets from choice jokes, two different Fuck Yeah Archer blogs, and fandom crossovers like Sterling Archer Draper Price. Although show creator Adam Reed was indisposed (in his “writing cave” attempting to finished the season finale’s script) Matt Thompson, Executive Producer and collaborator with Reed on such wonderful shows as Sealab 2021 & Frisky Dingo was nice enough to answer our most pressing questions about Archer

How did you two start working together?
Thompson: Adam and I were both working in the On-Air Promotions department at Cartoon Network (1994???). It was a really great place to work too. It still had that small, us against them feel as the network had not been around that long. At that time it was mostly a place to catch old Hanna Barbera cartoons as Adult Swim did not exist yet. Our boss, a really great guy named Stephen Croncota, decided to pair us together to make some small interstitial shows to wrap around things like the Smurfs. We came up with a talking hand show where my hand was a no nonsense cowboy and Adam’s hand was my wacky sidekick. I use to have tons of tape on this, but I can no longer find it. I did find one thing online, a promo we did for an upcoming show of ours.  It starts at the one minute mark.


A running theme in your shows has been high-flying settings (dangerous missions, world domination) mixed with the incredibly mundane (pay raises, political campaigns). What things have informed your choice to juxtapose those situations?
The high-flying setting stuff comes from Adam’s love of Ian Fleming’s James Bond character. Not the one we have today (which is great too), but the original novel version of the character where he is much darker, much more of a misogynist. And Adam likes to have fun with that.  Additionally Adam is incredibly well traveled having spent recent time in the Middle East and Vietnam. And he speaks fluent Spanish and French.  

The mundane thing comes from the two of us running a small business as we have owned the company that makes all of our shows since 1999. We employ a staff and deal with standard small business stuff everyday: taxes, health insurance, paper jams, office colds. No matter what business you work in, I think people can all identify with someone at the office throwing a fit because we are out of staples.  

And we have always had fun putting those two things together - life and death danger goes to the HR department.


You mentioned in a previous interview that the characters were drawn from real people in Atlanta. Was that the process used Frisky Dingo? Why did you choose to create the characters that way?
We do create characters from real people in Atlanta… mostly. For example Cyril Figgis happens to run a series of very high end restarants in Atlanta. Pam Poovey has an antiques shop in a part of town  called the highlands. Ray Gillette is actually Lucky Yates who voices Dr. Krieger. Then our staff fills in a lot of the other characters. This year our lead character designer, Chi, actually appears in a couple of episodes as herself. 

It was slightly different on Frisky. Frisky was a little simpler. But the basics of the process are the same.  

We choose to create the characters this way because we were looking for something that a large staff could draw quickly that we would not have to worry as much about everyone’s different drawing styles. But now that our illustration staff has been together so long, they are making up a lot of characters out of thin air. Which is nice.


Walk us through the writing process of an episode of Archer.
Adam sits down at his computer and bangs them out. He does a lot of this from home, where things are more quiet. People always ask me about how wacky our writers room meetings are. And then everyone is shocked to find out this is just one guy typing away.

Even if the scripts were not great (which they always are), he should be commended for the amount of actual words he writes in a year. 


Which character do you have the most fun writing for?
I would think that Adam would say Pam. She is unfiltered, but yet she seems kind. I think she gets the best lines. 


Having the show set in an indeterminate time period allows you to draw on a lot of imagery—and technology—from diverse points in history. Has there ever been something you felt was too out of place?
Hmmm…  not sure.  I know we had a big talk about cell phones early on.  Because we definitely wanted them and wanted them to exist.  At the same time, we did not want phone cords to exist.  But that was strictly out of them being a pain in the ass to deal with animation wise.   I think I am going to turn this over to our Art Director, Neal Holman, for better insight. 

Holman: In 203, Movie Star — the episode where the actress/assassin Rhona Thorne was “Amazing!” —- there is a shot of Cheryl and Pam watching an internet broadcast on their computers.   It didn’t stick out at the time, but in hindsight, that crossed over a line into familiar modernity that we try to avoid.  Most of the ISIS computers have the old MS DOS interface.  Malory’s computer and those in Signal Intelligence are the only machines that are supposed to have that level of technology (internet, satellite, etc.


You already got your wish in working with David Cross for the ‘Heart of Archness’ trilogy. Is there anyone else you’d like to have on the show?
This season we are going to have Timothy Olyphant playing Archer’s best friend. And he was just great at the whole thing. Charming, funny, and attractive - ugh. Also, Anthony Bourdain plays a bastard celebrity chef in something this season. Adam wrote the part specifically for him as we think he is one of the coolest people on the planet. And for the two part season finale, we have a big secret casting coming. But I am going to hold on to that for a while.

There are a lot of people that I think are really great that we would love to do something with. But if I had to pick just one, I think it would be Daniel Craig. But I would want him in a role as far away from his James Bond character as possible. Something that would allow him and us to make fun of the spy stuff together. 


One of the coolest things about the show is its spectrum of humor, which can transition immediately from a Melville reference to dick jokes. How do you balance the two and do you see much of a difference between them?
It is a really tricky balance and honestly  I do not know how Adam does it. Let me give you an example. Myself and producer Casey Willis avidly read almost every spec script we get. We do this because we are desperate to not have Adam writing so much as his fingers may literally fall off. Anyway, almost every time we read these scripts, there is something too gross in there: “jokes” about menstruation or jacking off monkeys… weird, un-funny shit. The writers are trying too hard to push the boundaries and would be better off just being clever. 

I do not know how Adam can write a fart joke and it comes out like it does not stink. But he does it. I think he is able to do this because he is a very bright guy that has no desire to please anyone but himself.  He does not hang out in LA; we all live and work in Atlanta. He does not have a Mercedes; he drives a russian made motorcycle with a sidecar (Ural). And he will frequently hand me a great book, urging me to read it. But then warn me that he just farted on it.


There are a lot of oddball references throughout the show, but one of the most unexpected was the ‘Archers of Loaf-cross’ (and on that note, Woodhouse’s apparent taste for Charles Mingus). What music are you into?
Adam knew Archers of Loaf while he was in college at UNC Chapel Hill. Adam listens to a lot of classic stuff like Mingus and Sarah Vaughan. But really his tastes are all over. A LONG TIME ago we lived together and I remember a lot of G Love and Special Sauce mixed with the Rebirth Brass Band. But the thing I remember most about his music tastes are the things he hates: Pink Floyd and the The Doors come to mind.

I end up listening to a lot of sports talk radio during football season. But when that is all over, I return to Black Keys, Radiohead, and lately a lot of Alabama Shakes.


Will learning the identity of his biological father make Archer any kinder?
No.


Have we seen the last of Baboo?
Baboo will be back.  But there is now a new animal in the mix this season that Archer falls in love with. It comes in an episode late in the year. Basically it is Archer hanging out with Cujo.  

Plus have you seen this shirt we had Pam wear? We had an in-house design contest where the studio voted on which shirt design most people wanted for our Production Crew shirts.  This shirt was one of the runners up.  When we used it in a Pam tweet the other day, the internet was asking why it is not for sale on FX’s website.  We are asking them this as well.
image
Can you give us any details about the Archer/Bob’s Burgers crossover? How did you convince the networks it was a good idea?
It was not the networks as much as convincing Loren Bouchard that we meant no harm to his Bob’s universe. Luckily he was super cool about the whole thing. And I can not wait for people to see it.  It will look like their restaurant and their characters, but we have “Archer-ized” them to exist in our world. 


And the requisite TV Hangover question: What’s your alcohol of choice and best hangover remedy? 
Bourbon. Always bourbon. For both Adam and myself. But I try my best to avoid it as I like staying married. But we just got some for the crew last week. If you have not heard of B&E Bourbon, google it immediately. They are made by a distillery in California named St. George Spirits. It is amazing.

Best hangover remedy: drink more bourbon. One of my favorite Archer lines: “If I stop drinking all at once, I’m afraid the cumulative hangover will kill me.”


Archer returns for a fourth season tonight at 10pm on FX.

The first season of MTV’s Underemployed went out without a bang but at least it gave us some amazingly awful dialogue. 

I call shenanigans, Revolution.  I’m pretty sure it would take longer than an hour and 45 minutes for eight people and four torches to start running out of oxygen in a CAVERNOUS TUNNEL THAT ONCE CARRIED TRAINS AND PROBABLY HAS SEVERAL OTHER TUNNELS BRANCHING OFF IT THAT WE CAN’T SEE. OTHERWISE WHY WOULD MYLES AND THAT OTHER GUY WHO IS ALREADY DEAD BE COMPARING MAN PARTS ABOUT WHO KNOWS THE SUBWAY TUNNELS BEST. Also I’m pretty sure that you would know you were suffocating before you started having hallucinations about how tortured you are. But I live in an electric world still, so what do I know from trouble. 

I should preface this by saying that I really couldn’t care less about football outside of The League and Friday Night Lights. When I watch The League, I represent at least some portion of the show’s fanbase that is watching without getting a single one of the references getting thrown around. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the show.  I was totally surprised by how much I actually like it which is why it took me two seasons of prodding before I got into it.  
Now I count The League as one of my favorite shows on TV.  When I put on FX on Thursday nights in the fall, I’m now more interested in The League than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This is not something I ever expected to happen to me when I first heard that FX was going to have a show about a fantasy football league.  I’ve not only never participated in a fantasy league, but my limited knowledge of how the game of football is played has been cobbled together through watching movies and TV shows.   
As near I can tell, The League has two main segments to its audience with some healthy overlap. The show appeals to sportsfans (duh) because if it didn’t, it would kind of be a complete flop given its premise. But someone like me who knows next to nothing about football can watch an episode and laugh at the more out-there jokes without getting lost in the sports references (which have gotten sparser as the show has gone on).
I think that even at its densest amount of sports talk and jargon, the show never alienates the kind of viewer that might be tuning in because they’re a big fan of Nick Kroll or Paul Scheer. Even when the comedy is at its broadest and Taco is throwing monkeys from moving cars, the average jock tuning in after Sunny can find something amusing in that too.  
If the show tipped the balance any further in either direction it would run the risk of alienating a major part of its audience, I think.  But it does a fine job of mixing the more absurd humor with the topical sports references/jokes. 
This isn’t to say, of course, that these two types of viewers are mutually exclusive. I know lots of people who are big sports fans and also appreciate the show’s comedy for being one of the funniest on TV right now, and I imagine that to them, the show is even more spectacular than I think it is.    
There are certain aspects of the show that I know appeal to my friends who are in fantasy football leagues and know what it’s like to orchestrate elaborate three-way trades and accuse each other of colluding to get the number one pick in the draft.  And while I can understand these situations and process why they would be entertaining to some people, I’m more interested in what scheme/invention/Vinegar Strokes Symphony Taco is working on or what ridiculous new fad Andre is going to be engrossed in.  
Many of The League’s best episodes, at least to me, happen to have very little to do with fantasy football, which sounds counterintuitive considering the show has a very basic premise.  “The Expert Witness” and “High School Reunion” are standouts yet they pretty much ignore the fantasy football aspect of the show, which is a testament to just how good it can be.
Having Jeff Goldblum do a terrific guest spot as Nick Kroll’s father is insanely funny and a pitch-perfect bit of casting.  That episode doesn’t even have a little to do with football. And yet, “Sunday at Ruxin’s” (an episode heavy on the fantasy football stuff) is also one of my favorites.   
The League is a show about sports that doesn’t even need to address sports to succeed.  As it’s evolved over the past three seasons, the show has established the competitive childishness of its characters and then started showing us how they’d behave in more everyday situations, outside of the fantasy universe. But each episode contains enough player references to keep the average viewer/sportsfan entertained. That’s the genius part of the show.      
Besides being a funny show for someone like me, it’s also given me enough sports culture knowledge to fake my way through conversations about sports a male in his early twenties would otherwise be expected to be able to take part in.  I’ve encountered people in my life whom I’ve had very little in common with as far as television shows go (but who am I kidding, that’s all I really try and bond over) but who share a love for The League that we can use to jump start a conversation.  
So thank you, Jeff Schaffer for creating a sports show for sports illiterate people and making small talk that much easier for me.
Guest post by Matt Ern. The League returns tonight at 10:30pm on FX. 

I should preface this by saying that I really couldn’t care less about football outside of The League and Friday Night Lights. When I watch The League, I represent at least some portion of the show’s fanbase that is watching without getting a single one of the references getting thrown around. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the show.  I was totally surprised by how much I actually like it which is why it took me two seasons of prodding before I got into it.  

Now I count The League as one of my favorite shows on TV.  When I put on FX on Thursday nights in the fall, I’m now more interested in The League than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This is not something I ever expected to happen to me when I first heard that FX was going to have a show about a fantasy football league.  I’ve not only never participated in a fantasy league, but my limited knowledge of how the game of football is played has been cobbled together through watching movies and TV shows.   

As near I can tell, The League has two main segments to its audience with some healthy overlap. The show appeals to sportsfans (duh) because if it didn’t, it would kind of be a complete flop given its premise. But someone like me who knows next to nothing about football can watch an episode and laugh at the more out-there jokes without getting lost in the sports references (which have gotten sparser as the show has gone on).

I think that even at its densest amount of sports talk and jargon, the show never alienates the kind of viewer that might be tuning in because they’re a big fan of Nick Kroll or Paul Scheer. Even when the comedy is at its broadest and Taco is throwing monkeys from moving cars, the average jock tuning in after Sunny can find something amusing in that too.  

If the show tipped the balance any further in either direction it would run the risk of alienating a major part of its audience, I think.  But it does a fine job of mixing the more absurd humor with the topical sports references/jokes. 

This isn’t to say, of course, that these two types of viewers are mutually exclusive. I know lots of people who are big sports fans and also appreciate the show’s comedy for being one of the funniest on TV right now, and I imagine that to them, the show is even more spectacular than I think it is.    

There are certain aspects of the show that I know appeal to my friends who are in fantasy football leagues and know what it’s like to orchestrate elaborate three-way trades and accuse each other of colluding to get the number one pick in the draft.  And while I can understand these situations and process why they would be entertaining to some people, I’m more interested in what scheme/invention/Vinegar Strokes Symphony Taco is working on or what ridiculous new fad Andre is going to be engrossed in.  

Many of The League’s best episodes, at least to me, happen to have very little to do with fantasy football, which sounds counterintuitive considering the show has a very basic premise.  “The Expert Witness” and “High School Reunion” are standouts yet they pretty much ignore the fantasy football aspect of the show, which is a testament to just how good it can be.

Having Jeff Goldblum do a terrific guest spot as Nick Kroll’s father is insanely funny and a pitch-perfect bit of casting.  That episode doesn’t even have a little to do with football. And yet, “Sunday at Ruxin’s” (an episode heavy on the fantasy football stuff) is also one of my favorites.   

The League is a show about sports that doesn’t even need to address sports to succeed.  As it’s evolved over the past three seasons, the show has established the competitive childishness of its characters and then started showing us how they’d behave in more everyday situations, outside of the fantasy universe. But each episode contains enough player references to keep the average viewer/sportsfan entertained. That’s the genius part of the show.      

Besides being a funny show for someone like me, it’s also given me enough sports culture knowledge to fake my way through conversations about sports a male in his early twenties would otherwise be expected to be able to take part in.  I’ve encountered people in my life whom I’ve had very little in common with as far as television shows go (but who am I kidding, that’s all I really try and bond over) but who share a love for The League that we can use to jump start a conversation.  

So thank you, Jeff Schaffer for creating a sports show for sports illiterate people and making small talk that much easier for me.

Guest post by Matt Ern. The League returns tonight at 10:30pm on FX. 

It’s no secret that Bob’s Burgers is a favorite among the TV Hangover crew and Tumblr in general. It makes sense because not only is the show consistently and uproariously funny, but it’s also so perfectly strange. The characters are comfortably uncomfortable with themselves and it’s one of the few shows on television to reallynail down that awkward feeling of adolescence and portray it with a mixture of laughs and heart. Of course the show is popular on Tumblr, a site where most users embrace their weirdness instead of hiding behind it. This character trait is one that the Belcher children seem to share and the Belcher parents encourage. Scroll through your dashboard and you’re bound to find someone excited about their upcoming Belcher Halloween costume; post a picture of Tina and within minutes you’ll have a ton of “GPOY” reblogs. In addition to the handful of fanmade Bob’s Burgers blogs, the writers themselves created Behind Bob’s Burgers. It’s a refreshing blog, one that isn’t run by an out-of-touch network or a bored intern but rather run by the writers themselves who post exclusive sneak peeks, fan art, give away t-shirts, and (most importantly) engage with the community. They were also kind enough to answer a few of our ridiculous questions. 

Much of the cast are accomplished comedians. Is it intimidating to write for them, and how many of their lines are ad-libbed?
JON SCHREODER: Yes, very. But they are as giving as they are hilarious, so it’s not as scary as you’d think. They improvise a lot of their lines, and we keep just about all of the network-friendly ones.

 

How are you able to balance the absurdity of the comedy with how genuinely charming the relationship within the Belcher family is?
MIKE BENNER: There is a warm, beating, gooey heart at the center of our show. We go to some unsavory places and meet unseemly characters, but there’s always affection for them. The show is really just about a struggling, loving, supportive family that is really amused by one another. But also transvestite prostitutes.
JON SCHROEDER: Luckily, those things seem to go hand-in-hand, which is a credit to Loren Bouchard for creating such wonderfully flawed yet beautiful characters.

 

How much of Walter & Perry from Home Movies carried over into the creation of Ollie & Andy Pesto? What’s so successful about that dynamic?
JON SCHROEDER: You’re living in the past, man. Get with the times.

 

Have any of you worked in the food industry? Tell us a story about something odd/awful that happened during that job.
WENDY MOLYNEUX: I used to work at The Squat & Gobble, which is a breakfast place in the Upper Haight in San Francisco. One day a homeless woman came in seeming pretty agitated and started picking off people’s plates pretty aggressively. I told her I’d make her a big box of food if she’d wait outside. Feeling pretty full of myself about my altruism, a few minutes later I took her a styrofoam container filled with home fries, etc. She took it, looked me square in the eye and said, “Thank you. When you get off work today, I’m gonna come back here and stab you in the heart.”
KIT BOSS: Before becoming a TV writer, I worked in a slaughterhouse. However, nothing odd or awful ever happened in my six years there. It was a beautiful, ennobling experience, and I miss it every day.
MIKE BENNER: I’ve never worked in a restaurant, but I did grow up working in my family’s hardware store for most of my childhood. One night, my brother was ringing up an old lady at the register when I noticed a well-dressed but not fully with it old man smoking a cigarette in the store. Then I noticed turds rolling out of his pant leg. He was smoking, pooping, and standing in the plumbing aisle, muttering to himself. I didn’t know what to do, other than to ask him to finish his cigarette outside, and he shuffled out the front door. As I was cleaning up the poop, the old lady from earlier asked what I did with her husband was, as if I murdered him. I told her I asked him to finish his smoke outside, and she yelled at me that he was a veteran and should be allowed to smoke wherever he wants. I was already cleaning up her husband’s poop, so I felt maybe she could have been a bit nicer. Is that awful enough?
JON SCHROEDER: Do the words “employee of the month, May of ‘92 at the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf TGI Fridays” mean anything to you?

 

Has anyone actually attempted to make the Meatsiah? 
JON SCHROEDER: Yeah, John Madden. It’s replaced his Turducken.

 

Weirdest thing in your writers room?
MIKE BENNER: A Hamburglar cookie jar that contains the soul of writer Scott Jacobson. If the cookie jar breaks, he dies.
JON SCHROEDER: Two competing medical-type drawings of how farts are made, on a white board that is supposed to be used for story breaking.
KIT BOSS: We have several splinters of the True Cross, an early landscape painting by Adolph Hitler, a life preserver from the S.S. Andrea Doria, and a Hamburglar cookie jar. But the most unusual thing is probably an early draft of a “Bob’s Burgers” Season 1 script with no fart jokes.

 

Have you ever worried that there are a finite number of burger puns?
JON SCHROEDER: No Whey (served on a bun with no whey)

 

What shows did you grow up watching?
JON SCHROEDER: Cheers, Family Ties, Miami Vice, Alf, Get a Life, Bakersfield PD.
MIKE BENNER: Cheers, The Simpsons, Get A Life, Night Court, Seinfeld, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Saturday Night Live… I had a habit of faking sick at least one day a week to stay home and watch reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, Abbot & Costello, and perhaps most embarrassingly, Mama’s Family.

 

Tumblr is full of Bob’s Burgers related blogs — Texts From Bob’s Burgers, Ask Tina Belcher, Of House Belcher, etc. — and the show has a huge fanbase on the site. Were you conscious of this before you decided create a Tumblr? Do you think that Tumblr (and other social media sites) has had a big impact in bringing attention to the show?
MIKE BENNER: Tumblr is great because it seems like it sits at the crossroads of superfandom and creativity. It’s not enough for people on Tumblr to be fans of something, they have to create stuff about it, which is great. Ask Tina Belcher is funny and infinitely flattering and makes us feel nice in our inside parts. Natasha Allegri is a super talented artist on Adventure Time who’s really big on Tumblr, and she does a bunch of great Bob’s Burgers fan art that we enjoy. We love it all and we love the people that create it, which is why we started a Tumblr that exists pretty much solely to give t-shirts to those people.

 
What is your dream TV crossover episode? We’ve all voted Bob’s Burgers meets SVU.
MIKE BENNER: SVU is a show about sex crimes against children so I don’t even want to think about how it relates to Bob’s Burgers, you sickos.


Who is your dream guest celebrity voice to get on the show?
MIKE BENNER: Um, Kevin Kline, much? What more do we need?
JON SCHROEDER: Samuel Jackson, Sir Ian McKellan, Carol Burnett.

 

What was it like when you got the call (or email? telegram? whatever) to join the staff of Bob’s Burgers?
JON SCHROEDER: An answer to prayer. I really, really wanted this job. I was vacationing in Mexico, which I couldn’t afford when I got the good news. Lots of cerveza followed.
MIKE BENNER: That was the day I finally stopped cutting. Thanks, Loren and Jim.

 

While all of the characters have dedicated fanbases, it seems that Tina Belcher became the breakout — especially on the internet. Why do you think it is that viewers latched on to her the most?
JON SCHROEDER: I think she’s just very relatable. She is honest, wears her heart on her sleeve, delightfully nerdy and destined for greatness.
MIKE BENNER: Tina is the embodiment of everyone’s awkward teenage years. But unlike teenage me, teenage you, and teenage everyone else, she is almost pretty much okay with who she is as a person. She’s not ashamed of being really into horses and writing erotic fan fiction. I wish I was like Tina when I was a teenager. I wish I was like her as an adult.

 

Who decides the name of the store to the left of Bob’s Burgers for every title sequence?
JON SCHREODER: David Schwimmer. Loren Bouchard lost some weird parlour bet to him.
KIT BOSS: Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Barbara Hackman Franklin.
MIKE BENNER: All the storefronts so far have been failed business that Loren Bouchard has actually owned, operated, and subsequently closed.

 

What’s your alcohol of choice and best hangover remedy? 
JON SCHROEDER: Beer, and Beer with an Advil floater.
MIKE BENNER: Any bourbon drink that grandmas like: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Ginger, whatever. As for hangover remedies, I find going for a nice long drive before I go to bed helps me avoid hangovers in the morning. 

Bob’s Burgers airs Sundays at 8:30 on Fox. Be sure to check out the trailer for their upcoming Halloween episode (which we’re already predicting will go down in history as one of our favorite holiday episodes). You can follow the writers on both Tumblr and Twitter

As if to assuage any unfounded fears that Louie would attempt anything so close to traditional storytelling as a three-part arc again, the season finale “New Years Eve” plays out as the messiest, most fragmented episode of the series so far. Taking place over approximately six days, one (possibly two) dream sequence(s), a flashback, and five distinct locations, the episode achieves whatever could be called “tying loose ends” within the plausibility of the show’s universe. Bear with me, this is gonna run a little long.

We open cold to Louie, swathed in blankets, sipping distractedly on coffee, and looking troubled. We’re not sure exactly what is happening (or has happened), but he’s wearing the sort of depression that a Northeast winter buries you in by inches, until leaving or staying in bed both feel insurmountable. His children, Jane and Lilly, are opening their Christmas presents. As the gifts are hastily ripped open, we jump backward in time to CK’s frustrating preparations for this day: fighting for a stuffed animal in a mobbed toy store, falling asleep covered in seasonal wrapping paper, and a 3-minute montage of Louie attempting to repair a doll thats eyes have fallen into its own head.

The last gift—which Louie points out is from him and not from Santa—is an illustrated book for Jane about a duck named Ping who lives with his mother and father and multiple siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins on the Yangtze River. “It looks like it’s so nice to live on that river,” Jane notes, entranced with beauty of the illustration. “Yeah, it does, doesn’t it,” Louie echoes, the way a parent kindly dismisses a child. The familial aspect of Ping takes on new meaning as Janet and Patrick come to pick up Lilly and Jane shortly thereafter for a two-week trip somewhere abroad. Louie stares at the four of them as the elevator doors close—husband next to wife, children in front, composed like a perfect Christmas card he’s been cropped out of. The kids are gone. He goes back to his apartment, pushes the Christmas tree out of the window, closes the shades, and lets himself be enveloped by darkness and bed-ness. 

He’s awakened by a phonecall from his younger sister Debbie (Amy Poehler) who invites Louie to join her, her husband, and her children in spending New Years in Mexico with their grandmother. Despite her genuine worry over his spending New Years “all alone” Louie declines and goes back to bed, where he dreams of his daughters—grown up and beautiful—meeting for coffee. They too obsess over Louie’s fundamental all alone-ness: “all he does is sit in that big old chair and eat pinwheel cookies.” The words, “we’re probably kind up fucked up from having that kind of a dad,” rouse CK from his sleep, and the TV news informs us that it’s New Years Eve. Presumably, Louie stayed in bed for the better part of a week.

Some spark has been lit. Whether it’s the revelation that his dream could be reality in twenty years, or that the news anchor dares him to put a gun in his mouth, Louie rises from bed and, fully clothed, takes a cold shower. As the water cascades down the top of his head he lets out a yell—the physical pain of the freezing water allowing him to vocalize a more primal sorrow—and cut to Louie packing a single suitcase with abandon. 

On the bus, Louie has his eyes closed. His hands rest on top of the telescoping handle to his rolling suitcase that is framed to look like a cane. The old man from his dream sequence—the dried husk he might become—seems not so far away. He’s secretly waiting for the energy of someone more helpless or broken to buoy him against the current of depression, and lo and behold his erstwhile beau, Liz (Parker Posey), enters the bus. They’re mutually excited by the chance encounter. As old man Louie rises to greet her, she begins bleeding profusely from the nose. An ambulance takes them both to a nearby hospital where Liz very abruptly flatlines and dies after delivering the heart-wrenching, “…bye?” As Louie exits the room, doctors, patients, residents and other hospital folk count down the new year, cheering and laughing as he mulls over the death of someone who’s both a near stranger and an important part of his life. Just as season two ended with Pamela leaving the show, season three sees Liz leaving the world. He’s free of romantic entanglements.

Louie awakens in the airport terminal. He checks the board for a flight to Mexico but his eyes wander to ‘Beijing, China’ which is scheduled to leave at the same time. 

And suddenly, he’s in China, in a dreamlike state. With Ping in mind, Louie asks people on the street to direct him to the Yangtze, which he believes they don’t understand because of his poor pronunciation (when, in fact, the Yangtze does not flow through Beijing). When a man offers to drive him there and they arrive at something more closely resembling a bog, Louie simply continues walking, ending up at a small house in the most rural of rural-looking places. An old woman beckons him inside and the family within seems overjoyed by his presence. They immediately hand him a bowl and begin filling it with food. They speak to him slowly in Mandarin and he repeats the syllables without understanding them, which causes them all to laugh (probably a classic case of the locals fucking with a stranger). 

Whether or not the Beijing sequence is a dream is unimportant. Why is it happening? Because Louie is seeking a sense of family and belonging. The episode up to that point serves to sever his ties to New York. The children and his ex-wife are away, his love interest is dead, and his career (both Letterman, and stand-up in general, as evidenced by the absence of the Comedy Cellar as a location) is on hiatus. Not even his usual bouts of depression seem to suffice anymore. So he runs. He runs as far as he can from what he knows, because his life and his family are, temporarily, beyond his repair. Flying out to his daughters or arranging a date would be, in light of the circumstances, utterly inappropriate. 

If he’s seeking belonging, why does the episode not end with Louie, in Mexico, with his sister and grandmother, rather than with this surrogate family of strangers who he can’t even interact with? Because his sister is trying to dote over him, to nurse his depression. At the core, Louie knows it’s time for him to stand on his own two legs, even if that means doing something kind of stupid. Stupid is always preferable to self-destructive. 

Does the episode do a good job of conveying this idea? Not really. It’s tries to portray the reckless, possible-mid-life-crisis move of rushing to Beijing with one miserably packed suitcase as a pyrrhic victory over spending the entire winter eating junk food in bed. But Louie is such a tourist in his own life throughout the episode that the third act feels like a geographic rather than emotional move. Likewise, the departure of Liz is not handled as tactfully as Pamela, nor do we really care about Liz. I’ve seen Louie’s “I was brought into existence to know you, and that’s enough,” speech to Pamela reblogged more than Doctor Who gifs (which is probably a reflection of who I follow); conversely, I had to look up the name of Parker Posey’s character at least three times while writing this (which is a reflection of how little an impact she’s made on this season’s plot). There’s something ugly about a fat white dude mooching food off of poor rural Chinese people, especially when it’s framed as some sort of path to self-discovery. Regardless, we know that Louie’s failings and obligations will be waiting for him when he returns to New York, growing bigger and worse the longer he tries to ignore them. 

Guest post by Bryan Menegus, who blogs here.