THE MILLERS: Greg Garcia on Making the Shift Back to Multi-Cam Comedy and What to Expect From the Show - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE MILLERS: Greg Garcia on Making the Shift Back to Multi-Cam Comedy and What to Expect From the Show

October 3, 2013 by  

CBS is bringing in some very familiar names for its newest comedy: Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, and Margo Martindale star in THE MILLERS, a comedy from RAISING HOPE creator Greg Garcia about a newly divorced man whose life is derailed when his parents arrive…and promptly split up.

I spoke with Garcia about making the shift back to a multi-cam series, what adjustments he’s made to the show, what viewers can expect this season, and more…

You were working on two pilots during the last pilot season. How much of your focus was split over the past pilot season?
Greg Garcia: Doing two pilots wasn’t that bad. Everyone was like, “Two pilots are going to be so stressful,” but the truth of the matter is it’s a lot easier than being in production of a show. You’re in production of a show, you’re worried about the next three stories, you’re editing last week’s episode, you’re prepping the next week, there’s so many things going on. Production is very hard. With pilots, the scripts are written, you have a great production staff that’s putting everything together, and you don’t have to worry about the second episode or the episode you did before. So the actual doing of two pilots was easy. It was a strange process because you go from single-camera to multi-cam, so it’s two different worlds. So that was weird. And then once you’re done, you find yourself loving both the things you did and the people you did them with, and you don’t want…I’ve never done two pilots before, so you’re looking at it and going, “There’s a very good chance one of these won’t get on.” And you know that going into it. They’re both for the same network, how divided are the people going to want you to be? And you also know after you shoot them, you did one that looks like a CBS comedy and you did one that doesn’t look like a CBS comedy. There were a lot of people who were fans of the one that didn’t get on as well; I still love it, I’m so proud of it. But the other one got picked. And I love this one. So there’s no losing, but it is a bummer. I was asking if we can try to get [the pilot] on somewhere. It’s got Stephen Fry who’s amazing. It’s got Rupert Grint. It’s got a built-in fanbase for these people. Let’s put it on Netflix, let’s put it on iTunes, I just want some people to see it, because I’m proud of it.

Hopefully that works out. As you mentioned, this is a comedy that looks like a CBS show, so what has that shift been like for you? While you’ve done a multi-cam show before, you’ve spent much of the past decade on single-camera shows.
GG: I didn’t think about it too much as I was writing it, other than the fact that you know what your production limits are, which I’m figuring out as we break stories. Because my mind is now in a sense of “let’s cut away to this flashback” or “let’s do this,” and it’s like, we can’t do that, we have to shoot in front of an audience and we only have so much time to shoot this thing. We only have a crew for two days, as opposed to five. We do some pre-shooting, especially in [Arnett’s character, Nate’s] newscasting. But that’s the main thing for me to adjust to, production-wise.

Writing, even when you’re breaking stories, you let things breathe a lot more in scenes. You take time to get everybody’s perspective about things. There may be ultimately less things that happen in a story, but a lot more talking about and investigating character reactions and how it’s impacting everybody. Sometimes I’ll be breaking a story now and I’m like, “Is that an act break? We’ve only done three scenes, could that be an act break?” On a single-cam, we would have had 14 scenes by then. It’s been a lot of fun getting back into that world. You try to not get into that situation where you’re just — which I think some four-camera shows do — setting up jokes, setting up jokes, setting up jokes. And so hopefully, you’re still finding character-based stuff, and you’re getting comedy off of people’s emotions and reactions and what they’re going through.

Now that you see the cast you have to play these characters, how has that expanded what you’re writing for them?
I think my goal is — and I think everybody’s goal is when you do a four-camera show — is that this is going to be in the world of CHEERS and RAYMOND and SEINFELD. Just like there are good and bad single-camera shows, there are good and bad four-camera shows. And so you try and write it in that way. And then when I got Will and Beau and Margo and J.B. [Smoove]. Then all of a sudden, you look at it and go, this does have the potential to be something, because this is a great cast. They’re all so talented, and they bring such credibility with them already that it really puts the ball back in my court, like, don’t screw this up. So it’s exciting because of the potential I feel there is with this cast, and then it puts more pressure back on you, because it’s like, I’ve got to do these people proud. And that’s how I’ve felt about all of my shows. That’s what gets me up in the morning, that’s what stresses me out about writing scripts and stories. Always, it’s the cast. I see them every day. I want them to be able to say these things on stage and believe in them. The network, the studio, the audience, hopefully they’re all happy, too. But what causes me anxiety is the cast.

You’ve been blunt that you underwrote the roles of Nate’s sister and brother-in-law in the original pilot, which is why you ended up recasting those actors. What can you say about what the new version of these characters will bring?
GG: I’ve defined them a little bit more. They own a food store/yoga place, and in a small Virginia town, it’s not thriving. They’re not hippies by any stretch of the imagination….but they are certainly more free-spirits than Will and Margo[‘s characters] are.

And they’re more fun than I had written them. My sister is a very fun person. She runs around her house in kangaroo pajamas. She has a yeti statue that she had in front of her house, and it got stolen, so her and her friends did a candle-light vigil for it and put up missing  posters for it. For RAISING HOPE, for the premiere, she had a big premiere party at her house. And she had a velvet rope section for VIP with very nice champagne and very nice hors d’oeuvres in that section. And she wouldn’t let anyone in it, because there were no VIPs who came to her party. They had to sit outside [the section] and look at it. She’s funny. She’s fun. I want the character that Jayma [Mays is] going to play to be more like that. I wish I would have done a better job with that in the pilot.

That’s good to know. What can you tease about what viewers can expect from the first season of the show?
GG: So far we’ve worked on a lot of family stories. It feels like anytime you do a new show…you want to kind of restate the premise the first two, three, four episodes, because not everybody watches the first episode. They watch the second episode. So you put a lot of pressure on yourself to restate the premise. I think we found a way to do it so we don’t bore the people that have seen the other ones, but delve into the ripple effect of the divorce of the parents. So a lot of family stuff. Ultimately, I think we’ll get into dating for both the parents and Will. We have a story that flirts with it a little bit. I figure there’s lot of time — hopefully — to deal with that. As a writer, it’s not my wheelhouse, dating stories, so I have to look to the staff to help me out with that stuff. I think I’ve been out on maybe four or five actual dates in my life, whereas I’ve had my mother’s voice in my head my whole life, so those stories come a lot easier for me.

And if anyone’s a little uncertain about watching the show, if someone was coming into THE MILLERS absolutely unaware of any of the actors or your previous work, what is your best pitch to them to get them to tune in?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. [Joking] I think my best pitch would be, everybody who watches THE BIG BANG THEORY, stick around for a half-hour. That’s all we need. Stick around. All I’m asking is for you to sit still. Rest. It’s been a long day. Look, and if you have to go for a walk, leave the TV on. I think if we could just get 100% of THE BIG BANG THEORY audience…I’ve already told people if we lose 80% of [TBBT] audience, it’ll still be the highest-rated show I’ve ever created so I’ll be happy. But I know it’ll be a disaster for the network. So that’s my plea. Just stay in your seat. Changing the channel is a pain in the ass. Just kick back, relax, and get your snack, and just enjoy.

THE MILLERS airs Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS.

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