'Happy Endings' Showrunner and EP Plot More Megan Mullally, Viral Marketing (Q&A)
With an official back 9 pick-up, David Caspe and Jonathan Groff ponder the niche comedy's time slot, break story for more Mullally and take viral cues from "How I Met Your Mother."
After two weeks of series highs in adults 18-49 and a previous order of an additional 6 scripts, ABC officially granted sophomore comedy Happy Endings a full 22-episode season on Thursday.
Creator and showrunner David Caspe and executive producer Jonathan Groff spoke with The Hollywood Reporter after the news, sounding off on the season so far and where they'd like to see it go from here.
The duo remain committed to retaining more of their Modern Family lead-in, though they agree that Happy Endings has proven a surprisingly appropriate bridge between the flagship comedy and soapy freshman Revenge.
They also plan to extend the life of episodes with more online tie-ins (Groff spent two years as a consulting producer on How I Met Your Mother) and confirm that they've written for an additional appearance from guest star Megan Mullally -- though her new job on Breaking In might make that problematic.
The Hollywood Reporter: What was the dialogue with the network like prior to the pick-up?
Jonathan Groff: David and I didn't really engage in it that much. Our day-to-day executives at ABC seem to be champions of the show, so we just keep our heads down, try to make good shows and hope for the best with ratings. We were psyched that they promoted us more on our Halloween episode, which we think helped, and that the momentum carried over. They have a lot of shows. Suburgatory is doing really well, and they're in good shape. ABC has other options for midseason, so I think they wanted to make sure they could make all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
THR: How do you think the Modern Family lead-in is working for the show?
David Caspe: It's still a lot of pressure. We're still dropping more of that audience than we would like, so we hope that as more people find out about the show, we'll continue to build. We're fans of Modern Family, and obviously they have such a big lead in, it's great. The hope is that we can take greater advantage of that and get to stay there.
Groff: It's always a little tricky to be the show that follows them because they are such a big, broad-based hit, and we're definitely a little bit more specific. I think we have common ground with them in that, hopefully, we're funny, we're optimistic and you like the characters and root for them in the same way.
Maybe the network is seeing, for now anyways, that we're flowing well into Revenge, which is a cool show that I know a lot of people are getting excited about. Weirdly, we're a good bridge to that show.. It's female-driven and that's a big part of our audience. We have strong female cast. They're obviously totally different, but they don't seem incompatible. We're happy to stay there as long as they'll keep us there.
THR: Adam Pally's Twitter-based advertising campaign for the show sort of took on a life of its own. Did the network have any reaction to that?
Capse: Every show wants as much promotion as they can get, but it sort of is what it s. There are a lot of other shows, and the network knows how to market them. I think Pally's ads are funny. I think the network thinks they're funny, but we haven't actually talked to them about it at all. It's just something he and the cast started doing together.
Groff: We haven't talked to them about it, but we also haven't heard, "Hey, stop doing that." They're kind of tolerating it and maybe amused by it. I think they know that they have a lot of priorities, and any attention we can get for ourselves and any kind of chatter that Adam or any cast member can create with something novel, especially in a show with a younger target audience, is good. That's how shows get attention. You can't just do it with promos and stuff. I think they appreciate it.
THR: The show itself seems to be more invested in viral elements and web tie-ins this season. [Check out steakmehometonight.com] Is that you guys?
Groff: I'm just going to give a direct shout-out. I worked at How I Met Your Mother for two years, and those guys were great and really smart about that. Whatever website got mentioned, they would have some component online to make it seem real, like the show existed in the real world. They've done some remarkable stuff, and ours is just in its early stages. Sony studios has actually been great helping us build the sites and stuff. Call it an homage or rip-off, but my cop is to Carter [Bays] and Craig [Thomas] on that. My thought is that every show should be doing that. Why not make it real and add extra content if you can create it?
THR: Fred Savage just directed another two episodes. Is he in your pool of go-to collaborators now?
Caspe: I actually kind of grew up with him a little. His sister was my age, and I went to school with her. They moved away at a young age, obviously, because he went to do The Wonder Years. It's been really awesome to reconnect with him out here. He's an awesome director and the cast loves him. He's such a funny guy, so anytime he's available and willing to do the show, we use him.
THR: Megan Mullally's guest appearance seemed really well-received. Are there plans to bring her back?
Caspe: We have a story broken for Megan, and we're just hoping to make it work. It's just a matter of schedules for everyone. We absolutely love her, so we'll try to get her back as much as we can.
Groff: She's going to Breaking In, she's going to be a series regular, so we would probably need to grab her before that. It's the same studio [Sony], which is probably helpful. We loved having her. She's such a shot in the arm. And I honestly think having her in the third episode of the season was so lucky for us. If you were to look at the road map of how we got to the back 9, she's a part of it. We're trying to figure it out before she gets too busy.