When you think of sitcoms, cable horror channel FEARnet may leap to mind. But rising cult move makers Adam Green and Joe Lynch think they can change your mind with Holliston, the network's first original show.
This isn't a spoof of a sitcom, but a real, multi-camera sitcom, complete with laugh track, ridiculous situations, some very knowing fourth-wall breaking, and a guest list of horror icons (hey, if you're a genre director, why not have Bill Moseley as a crazy advertiser, or Candyman's Tony Todd as the world's most annoying couch surfer.) The result is half Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, half Monty Python (or, for those of you with a more in-depth knowledge of British comedy, half The Young Ones.)
Think of it as the show you hoped The Big Bang Theory would be. Instead of the weirdly clean-cut geeks of the prime time smash, Green (creator of the Hatchet franchise) and Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Chillerama) play basically their slightly younger selves: Horror movie slobs with a penchant for obscure film references and gruesome cinema, hoping to kickstart their stalled movie career by working at the local cable station. Joe is supported by his oddly chirpy girlfriend Laura (Laura Ortiz, The Hills Have Eyes), while Adam pines for his high school love Corri (Corri English, The Bedford Diaries.) Luckily, Adam has his invisible friend Oderus Urungus (yup, the lead singer with Gwar) living in his bedroom closet. Yeah, things get weird.
The duo brought a snippet of the show to the Alamo Drafthouse last November for their big Chillerama launch/Veterans Hall fundraiser. Now the first episode airs tonight, April 3, at 9.30pm Central (don't worry if your cable provider pulls an epic fail on the FEARnet access: The show will be available for download on iTunes.)
Even with the premier imminent, the pair are already planning season two, and have a host of other projects in the works. Aside from script polishes on the Chris Columbus-produced adaptation of junior horror novel Killer Pizza, Green is in pre-production on Hatchet III and knee-deep in his first documentary, Digging up the Marrow. Meanwhile Lynch is readying to shoot his first action-adventure, Everly starring Kate Hudson, plus his ultimate geekbait comedy Knights of Badassdom (Danny Pudi from Community, Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones and Summer Glau from, well, everything) should be slaying them in the aisles later this year. And they still took times to talk to the Chronicle about Holliston, FEARnet and their love for bodily fluids.
Austin Chronicle: This may be the most vomity sitcom I have ever seen.
Adam Green: Put that on the DVD box cover. Yeah, I was kinda going for that. I just want to make the most vomity sitcom possible. Originally in episode three there was even more throwing up, and we we cut it back so you only see me throwing up once. But if you think about episode two and the throwing up, well, one of the things that Corri English pointed out was that we were very worried after the pilot was, will the male audience like her or not, because she is clearly breaking the main character's heart. That's a very tough thing to play with, because you want to show both sides of the relationship equally. I feel like we did a good job with that because nobody's really the bad guy in that situation, but the best way to humble the hot girl and make her accessible to the people who could never get a girl like that is to get her to throw up on herself. She really gets tortured a lot, like throwing up on herself, and the thing with the piece of gum in episode two? Not only did she get the piece of gum last, but it got spit directly into her mouth. We're so mean to the hot girl and it wasn't intentional, but she pointed it out. 'It's pretty interesting how much you torture me.' Yeah, I guess so.
Joe Lynch: I think Adam was working through a lot of issues. This whole show is one big therapy session for Green and I hoping we can finally have some conversations about movies again, because it's always been 'Boo-hoo, my girlfriend this that and the other thing.' Well, do a fucking show about it man. So now we can hopefully get back to talking about Cannibal Holocaust. Or Cannonball Run. Or the mashup of the two.
But what I love about it is that both these girls were friends of ours before we started this – more Adam's than mine. I got to hang out with Corri more and obviously Laura more and we became a family. But the fact that we put these girls through the ringer, well, I don't know if you've seen the Road to Frightfest shorts or anything else we've done, but we're pretty self-deprecating about doing awful things to ourselves. But the fact that these two girls were so unbelievably game for anything. Corri, this isn't her wheelhouse, so to speak. She's known as a comedic actress, a dramatic actress and a country star. She doesn't normally go, 'You know what you need, girl? You need vomit. That, I think, is what's really going to break you through.' The fact that they're doing that, the fact that they're doing the whackiest shit but they were always so game for it and so excited to really branch out like that, it made us closer together but it also made Adam and I go, 'What can we do next?' The shit that we've already discussed for season two, it's definitely going to push the boundaries of good taste but we know that those two girls are going to be excited to do it. But, again, it's not coming from a place of 'We need to shock you.' It's just coming from what we find funny. Fortunately we find body fluids extremely funny.
AC: You came from a low-budget film making background, especially with the shorts
JL: Correction, that's no-budget
AC: Did that experience working on a tight budget make it easier to sell it to FEARnet, knowing that you'd be able to say 'Hey, we can do everything, we can even mix up the vomit'?
AG: One of the ways that we were able to accommodate it was, rather than trying to 12 episodes on the budget that we had, we did six episodes so it would be just as good as any network sitcom. I think that's part of the beauty of the show, that it doesn't feel low-budget, it looks and feels like anything you would see on a major network. We knew what our limitations were, and if we'd tried to push it any further chances are good that it would have started to feel low budget. But it never felt like we were working with a low budget on this show. It felt just as pro as anything else. I used to do a lot of sitcom writing and I've worked on sitcoms where they spending upwards of $1.5 million on a 22 minute episode. So I felt like we were going to feel really, really strained with the budget we did have, but it's really not that low budget. Ren-Mar Studios where we shot, it's the same place they shot I Love Lucy, the same place they shot The Andy Griffith Show, the same place they shot the first four episodes of Seinfeld, so everything was real. If you want to compare it to the shorts, it was like doing a studio movie compared to the shorts.
JL: It was the Tim and Eric movie compared to the Tim and Eric Show. We had billions of dollars at our disposal and when we were shooting, we were surrounded by David Fincher shooting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Underworld movie was shooting pickups, and we were literally in the middle of Hollywood and there's Holliston in this nice little enclave. But never once did anyone walk on set and say, 'Eurgh, this is budge." I think a lot of this is testament to the fact that Adam and Corri and Will Barratt and Sarah [Elbert] the producers and the family at ArieScope, they know efficiency. They know how much to spend, when to spend it and where does that money have to go. I've seen that done on Chillerama and when they worked with Peter Block on Frozen I think that meant he felt comfortable with going 'Look, I know you're not promising me the world for dimes, but at least I know what you guys are saying you can do can actually be done.' The first time he came on set, I could tell he was shocked because he was like, 'I can't believe this is happening' but at the same time it was 'Of course it's gonna happen, it's ArieScope.' And I think that's the model that needs to be applied to all of Hollywood, is just efficiency. You just don't need to spend all that money in the places it normally gets spent now. Just put all that money on-screen. And thank god, because we got to pull off six episodes for a fraction of the cost that you'd expect this to be.
AC: I was talking to one film maker who admitted that the movie he was told to say cost $6 million he actually made for $600,000. You're not allowed to ruin the myth that you can't make a good movie for less than seven figures.
AG: You're never supposed to admit your budget until years later. I've been through that for a lot of movies that I've made. Even like Hatchet II: They made us say that we made that movie for $5 million. We made that movie for $800,000. With this, there's nothing to hide. We had a good budget, but we only did six episodes. The only difference is that we did six monster-sized episodes. Because we didn't have to fit with a companion show that we had to go along with or fit a certain format because we're the first original show on this network and it was a blank canvas, some of the episodes are 35 minutes, some of them are 37, some of them are 40. Whereas the normal network sitcom is 22 minutes and that's it. So each episode is really twice as long as the average network show. It's six episodes, but it feels like 12 in a good way.
AC: That's one of the things that really works for the show. Sometimes you'll watch a traditional sitcom and think, 'Wait, is a scene or a gag missing there?' Holliston never feels like its suffering that rush.
AG: That was, again, the beauty of FEARnet. They never put anything on us, they never said "you have to do this or that,' it was 'make the show that you're happy with.' So when the pilot ended up being 40 minutes, the version of episode two that we were happiest with ended up being 35 minutes. They never said 'Look, if you're going to do 40 minutes, they all have to be 40 minutes.' They were like, 'If the version of episode two that you're happiest with is 35, then that's what it's going to be.' It's unheard of but it's also kind of our secret weapon, because a lot of critics we've spoken to and all the screenings we've done where people say stuff like, for only six episodes, it feels so developed. It feels like a full season. There's so much room to play with the jokes, the characters are so well developed, the chemistry's there. That's why, if I had to cut that pilot down to 22 minutes, it would be nearly as good as it is. The heart would have been sucked out of it and it would just have been the story. 'Corri's back, Adam hires a hooker, hilarity ensues. Done.'
JL: And Joe's cut out completely.
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