David Caspe Talks NBC's MARRY ME and Lessons From HAPPY ENDINGS - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

David Caspe Talks NBC’s MARRY ME and Lessons From HAPPY ENDINGS

October 14, 2014 by  


It may be inevitable, when describing David Caspe’s new NBC comedy, MARRY ME, to compare it to his ABC comedy HAPPY ENDINGS. Not only is Caspe drawing from the same acting pool (his real-life wife, Casey Wilson, plays female lead Annie, while HAPPY ENDINGS guest stars Ken Marino, John Gemberling, and Sarah Wright round out the core ensemble), but he is also playing with a variation on the wedding motif that we saw famously begin (and end each season of) his former show. And for some audiences (cough, me), it’s still so hard to let go of HAPPY ENDINGS, that we want to see it elsewhere.

HAPPY ENDINGS was how Caspe was introduced to television audiences, and MARRY ME is how they will get to know the version of him that has grown up and learned a lot from his first television show. But I think you should get to know him and his work even deeper than that, so I set out to talk with him about both — how they are different, but also how one influences the other — about the importance of the opening titles, and how and why MARRY ME stands on its own, whether you loved, hated, or weren’t even aware of HAPPY ENDINGS…

MARRY ME is very tightly focused in the pilot episode on a couple who you know by the title will be working towards a marriage. They’re obviously at the center. But you have such a talented comedic cast, how will they be coming into play?
David Caspe: The biggest thing I learned from [HAPPY ENDINGS] — and from working out here in general —  is get funny people. I purposely cast hilarious people in every part and for that reason, not only do they make everything we write funnier, but they also, when you’re on set, they are going to add really great stuff.

My life has changed a lot. When I did HAPPY ENDINGS I was the perpetually single guy — never been in a serious relationship — and now I’m married. So, I think a lot of the jokes and stuff will come from that, but we still have single characters on the show. I think Sarah Wright in some ways will be a different type of single girl than Penny, but will be equally challenged. John Gemberling…plays a divorced guy — so that’s sort of a different kind of single. We’re breaking stuff where he’s trying to get his ex-wife, played by Danielle Schneider, who is great, back… And Tymberlee Hill is another whole kind of single woman.

The pilot introduces the central Annie/Jake relationship in a way that could have had them breaking up instead of getting engaged. It’s a make or break moment for the characters but also the audience — either you’re on-board with this relationship or you’re not.
DC: A lot of times you see a couple on TV or a movie or something, and you don’t really see the ugly fights, you know? And this was, to me, the ugly fight — which I think is interesting. It was risky, and we had a lot of people saying it’s not going to work, but I really like those fucking ugly fights where she goes after your mom, and you talk about you getting caught masturbating, and shit like that. I don’t know, I think is really interesting, so I would love to maintain that — the reality that you find in a couple.

Would you say that style is the key thing that sets MARRY ME apart from the other rom-coms coming this fall?
DC: The cast is insane, and I think it makes a big difference. And then to have two comedians at the center of the show — true hilarious comedians — is huge. Usually they don’t let you do that, you know? And I think it makes a big difference. I think their chemistry that you feel on the show — a big part of it is that they’ve both come from a comedy background and are able to talk over each other in a way that just kind of makes it feel like they’ve known each other forever. That’s something I like about our show.

And about your opening titles. Those set  you apart because you did them at the pilot stage…
DC: It’s a huge cheat! [But] it came from a place that you will understand because you referenced it a second ago: the fact that started with such a hardcore fight, everybody was very concerned that we love this couple…I have flashbacks in the show [and] the network asked, “Is there another flashback that we could do somewhere just to make them love the couple?” It was a great note — and we came up with the idea to do [titles] basically right after the fight — which I think is also kind of funny, too, to see this horrible moment and then see this loving moment.

Seth Gordon just shot the shit out of it. That stuff was all picked up like literally when we were shooting a scene, and we had a turn around. [We’d say,] “Let’s run outside and real quickly re-dress everybody and shoot a couple of things with them.” So, that was all picked up on the fly and the editors did a great job cutting it together. And then we put music to it. My sister watched it the first time she watched the show, and she said she teared up when she saw that. If you got them tearing up four minutes in, then I think you care about the couple and you allow them to fight like that. So, it was actually a big thing. But also the secondary thing that it did was make it feel like a finished show because it felt like a credit sequence.

You are certainly no stranger to doing episodes about wedding planning — or actual wedding episodes themselves — but how much are you consciously thinking things like, “Oh I don’t want to do a wedding dress shopping episode because I’ve already done that?”
DC: As long as there is a fresh take on an event, I don’t care [about repetition]. Every event or every subject has been talked about, so it’s a question of do we have a funny way to do it. There will definitely be homages to HAPPY ENDINGS, but this is a very different show.

This proposal was so different from [HAPPY ENDINGS]. And honestly, you try to set up a show [and] a lot of times you need a big idea that seems interesting and different and fresh that you can go pitch. But then by episode two, it has to disappear, unless you want to make a show that is very stylized, which I don’t necessarily want to do. So, for this, it was just a funny idea for a proposal gone wrong, but the title is a misnomer. I like the title a lot, but it implies that the show is just about marriage [and it’s more]. Going forward, the story is about a couple and their friends.

And speaking of HAPPY ENDINGS, had you known the third season finale was actually a series finale, would you have done a different wedding — perhaps an event for the core characters, rather than for characters we had never met before?
DC: Jonathan [Groff, HAPPY ENDINGS executive producer] had a saying that was “eat your big crabs first.” When we were in the room and we’re like, “We have this story idea, but maybe that’s more next year.” If it was good, let’s just do it. Eat your big crabs first; you never know if you’ll be allowed to do it [later]. I didn’t know that we were going to be canceled. Obviously, I should have known because we were moved to Fridays, but when you’re in it, you have that weird survivalist foxhole thing like, “Well, no one is on Fridays, maybe people will watch it and we’ll get renewed.” So, I didn’t really know, but we always sort of built toward whatever our finale was could be a series finale.

What I like about it is that it ended where they were all friends dancing together. Whereas if it was Penny’s wedding, [for example], it would be focused on [her] moving on with another guy. What was cool about the ending was it was just that group of friends. It had started with Dave and Alex trying to be friends, and it ended with Dave and Alex agreeing to be friends. There was something sort of nice about… the element of, you have great relationships in your life and a lot of times they end, but that doesn’t take away the time that was great. So, I like the idea that they were good together for a time, and they were, and now they are friends… It was always more about the group in that show than Dave and Alex, so I think it’s great that they have that final moment of, “I don’t want to meet someone new; tonight I just want to dance with my friend.” The final shot is just the six friends dancing, which is kind of cool. I like it [as] the end.

I remember sitting and editing that show, and I didn’t know that we were canceled yet. But I will say that when that song kicked in…and everyone came on [the dance floor] I remember getting a little teary in the editing room because I was like, “Wow. That’s it. That’s it.”

MARRY ME premieres on NBC tonight at 9 PM.

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