Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Fred Topel
Netflix presented its new Judd Apatow-produced series Love to the Television Critics Association on Sunday. The show stars Paul Rust (who created the series) and Gillian Jacobs as single people working in the entertainment industry who meet awkwardly and develop a relationship. After the panel Apatow spoke with reporters further, and praised the new television climate that allows shows to blend comedy and drama more commonly. When he was producing network shows, it was much harder.
“When we did Freaks and Geeks, our show seemed crazy to everybody,” Apatow said. “It was just a vibe that didn’t exist on television and as a result, there wasn’t a lot of energy behind making it survive. The same with Undeclared. It was a single-camera show about college but there were no other single-camera shows to put it with because it didn’t exist. It was just us, Bernie Mac and Malcolm in the Middle so I’m glad there’s tons of them now.”
After the jump, Apatow also discusses the freedoms of working with Netflix, the recurring themes in his work, his daughter’s role in Love, and his upcoming pilot for HBO.
Some episodes of Love that have already been released to press run over 30 minutes. The pilot is 40. That is another freedom of streaming, though producing on pay cable is flexible too.
“We’ve done some [episodes of Girls] that go over on HBO but I think there’s no reason why they can’t go over on Netflix because the shows don’t run anywhere but Netflix,” Apatow said. “I think on other channels, there’s always the possibility that they’ll be seen on basic cable or they’re going to sell them in other countries and they all have to be 23 minutes at some point. With Netflix, they’re just shown on Netflix so then you have the ability to just make the story the appropriate length. Then you don’t have to butcher out the last 30 minutes to hit the time, and that is a painful thing.”
While Girls episodes now run long, Apatow lost those battles when he was a writer and producer on The Larry Sanders Show. “I remember many Larry Sanders Shows where I thought it would be better if it would be 33 minutes. Garry [Shandling] never agreed with me. He always thought the show was better shorter. That’s one of the few things we disagreed about. I like things slower, but it is a nice aspect to streaming, that you’re not a slave to certain target types. HBO is pretty flexible too. A lot of times those shows can be anywhere from 23 to 30 minutes so there’s leeway there as well.”
For decades, TV audiences accepted that a half-hour show was really only 22 minutes of content, plus commercial breaks. “Most of the shows that go over 30 are only like 31 or 32. There’s only one episode that’s 40 but most of them are between that 29 to 31 range. I think the difference between 22 and 30 is massive with storytelling. It’s very hard to go deep emotionally in 22 minutes. You can get a lot done in that extra eight minutes.”
The subject of Love may seem familiar to Apatow fans, from movies like Knocked Up and This is 40, and shows like Girls. “I always have a lot of ideas about couples in conflict. I just think it’s endlessly interesting because it is about not just romance. It’s just about people trying to figure out how to make their lives work and the difficulty people have facing their own emotional problems. We’re always trying to ignore how crazy we are. Then when you get in a relationship, the other person says, ‘You’re f***ing crazy.’ You have to either fight with them or try to heal yourself. I think that’s endlessly interesting.”
Some have pointed out that Jacobs and Rust fit a common Hollywood trope of a beautiful woman dating a nerd or geek. Pointing out that he too is married to a beautiful movie star, Apatow has a deeper take on their dynamic. “I think a lot of times it’s not really about geeks and beautiful women. It’s really more about sometimes people seek out a man who appears like he’ll be nice, and then he turns out to be more complicated than that.”
As audiences see more and more episodes of Love, they will realize that it covers the moments that most rom-coms skip over. “It’s just about following it day by day and that’s the fun of it. Where you might skip three months, we don’t. We just keep going the next day. Sometimes it feels like maybe a couple of days have passed but we’re really going from emotion to emotion, like ‘excited that he called’ or ‘there was a date and it felt weird’ and really exploring it.”
Iris Apatow, Apatow’s younger daughter, appears in Love as a difficult starlet on a TV show. “I wanted to use her in it and we were trying to think of fun jobs. It all happens at the same time. What’s a fun job? Who are fun people? What could this look like? Iris is really talented and really hilarious now. It isn’t an enormous amount of days on set and I think that she’ll add something to the show. Just like knowing Paul Rust or Gillian, I think the work is better when you know people intimately. You just know some angles and aspects of their personalities that will be fun to show on the show.”
Apatow also produced a pilot with writer Pete Holmes for HBO. If the network orders it to series, Apatow plans to shoot the show on film, as he did his recent movie Trainwreck.
“We made a big choices that we wanted to do that TV show on film because no one’s doing TV shows on film and it looks way better. You can’t even compare. It looks completely different and way better. It isn’t that much more expensive. It really isn’t. It’s a little bit but it’s worth it I think.”
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