The Austin Chronicle

The Cable Guy: Paul Scheer

By Leah Churner, June 1, 2012, Screens

ATX presenter Paul Scheer is everywhere. In addition to his two current shows on cable, he performs regularly at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles, hosts a biweekly film appreciation podcast, "How Does This Get Made?", and appears in Piranha 3DD, which opens this weekend.

On Saturday at the Alamo, Scheer and his co-star Nick Kroll will screen an episode of The League, FX's sitcom about fantasy football, which begins its fourth season in the fall. Created by Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm writer/director/producer Jeff Schaffer and wife Jackie Marcus Schaffer, this addictive ensemble show is like the next generation of Seinfeld – with instant classic coinages ("deep Googler"), a raunchy cable flavor, and Curb's semi-improvised format. As the show's large contingent of female and non-NFL-oriented fans can attest, The League is not just a guy show about sports. Football is more of a MacGuffin, like the hockey in Slap Shot.

Scheer plays Dr. Andre Nowzick, an insecure plastic surgeon. Andre is prey to Ed Hardy fashions, hideous art, and dangerous fitness trends. He worries aloud about the other guys "stealing his thunder" but is a Pollyanna at heart. Scheer likens him to Wile E. Coyote, and says he has total creative freedom to develop Andre through improv, "with the exception of making him cool."

The second show Scheer will promote at ATX is NTSF:SD:SUV::, which holds the record for most colons in a show title and is heading into its second season on Adult Swim. He both executive produces and stars as counterterrorism agent Trent Hauser. "It's a combination of 24 and CSI and a little bit of Law & Order," he explains via phone. "There's a glut of police procedurals and so much to parody. People on those shows are so desentitized to violence. Every week David Caruso looks at a dead body and makes a one-liner, like, "I guess she was late to the pool party." It's like, "No! She's drowned! Go solve the murder, don't crack a joke!"

"But it's hard to compete with them on the violence level and the crazy level," Scheer says. "On CSI: Miami, somebody gets killed in outer space and somebody has to go up into space and solve the murder. That's like a premise on our show!"

Scheer suggests the problem is endemic to network TV. "I think the reason all these police procedurals get so crazy is that they're doing so many of them. I've never worked full-time on a network show, but when you're in the network system, you have to do 22 episodes in a season. You're going to get burned out. You don't have a chance to do quality control, refresh yourself, and take breaks."

Cable, by contrast, "fosters a sense of letting the creators do the show the way they want to. Your scripts don't have to be approved by a million different people. At FX, I only have to answer to two [sets of] people – the show creators and the head of the network. At Adult Swim, I answer to the head of the network only. That allows you to get a much more unfiltered voice out there."

Scheer has good reason to believe in the cable model. "They just announced at our upfronts that Adult Swim is the #1 cable network for 18-34 year old males. They dominate that space and have huge ad revenues, while the networks' ratings are falling. On cable, people are working for cheaper and are happier for it. Shorter orders and smaller payouts. I think it's all going to even out."

For an extended interview with Paul Scheer, see

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