In the first episode of Comedy Central’s new series, Big Time in Hollywood, FL, we are introduced to the naive 30-year-old filmmakers Jack and Ben [Alex Anfanger and Lenny Jacobson] whose passion for film-making and monetary desires quickly evolve into a cryptic and violent mishap.
It all starts when the two brothers are asked to move out by their loving parents Alan and Diana [Stephen Tobolowsky and Kathy Baker]. They realize that the only way to keep their support is to come up with a drug-addiction ruse, leading them to visit a Narcotics Anonymous meeting where they meet former addict, and aspiring actor, Jimmy Staats [Ben Stiller].
With the aid of Staats and their dense, but lovable, friend Del [Jon Bass], they devise a way to get a hold of their parents’ cash. However, Staats’ fate as their confidant, as an actor, and as their friend is ultimately compromised. If you have yet to watch the episode, stop now. Watch it. Laugh/cry/scream. Come back here. Read this.
Previously, we discussed the making of the series with writers and creators Anfanger and Dan Schimpf, and we now look to the inner-workings of the first episode of their series.
When Ben Stiller Gets Shot
DAN SCHIMPF: I remember talking about what needed to happen that first episode and we both felt pretty strongly that Jimmy Staats [Ben Stiller] needed to get gunned down a million times in the first episode.
ALEX ANFANGER: The show really goes in and out of a similar tone throughout the rest of the season. And it’s important to punch hard at the end of that first episode. That does set the tone of the show and I think it lets people know we are going to live in this world.
DAN SCHIMPF: In the grand scheme of things, the tone of the show is very different than what the expectation is of when you start watching it. It was very important for Alex and I to have in that first episode something that really shattered what the expectation of the show was. When he gets shot a million times, it really betrays your expectation of the normal comedic progression.
ALEX ANFANGER: We’ll be watching things together, and typically, when we’re watching, we’ll say, wouldn’t it be funny if this happened? If this character, what if he pulled the trigger? You know they’re not going to in this situation, but what if they did? What is going to happen to this story if you’re dealing with this character actually pulling the trigger?
DAN SCHIMPF: Either it’s just a big misunderstanding, and the boys don’t get their $20,000 dollars, and they’ll go home, and they’ll try again tomorrow. They’ll try to do whatever scene they want to do. Or something extreme happens, and it just resets, and it’s like every episode is this new crazy adventure. Alex and I, we’re both really interested in the idea that something really bad and terrible had happened here, and they don’t get to ever walk away from that. It just complicates everything that happens thereafter. There’s no reset button.
Piecing It Together From the Start
DAN SCHIMPF: We were really happy with our [writers] room. And really, the process of writing each individual script boiled down to actually outlining the entire season first as a group. That was the big key for us because things that happen in episode three impact things that happen in Episode 7. And things that happen in Episode 1 impact things that happen in Episode 9. We all, as a group, needed to be familiar with the story before we went off and wrote each individual script. That process was the most interactive part of it. We would spend weeks just trying to break the season as a whole as opposed to each individual episode.
ALEX ANFANGER: Especially with a serialized show like this, you make one choice later on and it can end up impacting things that happen early. You really need to work on the whole thing almost as if it’s a movie.
DAN SCHIMPF: We made a discovery in the sixth episode that really impacted how we made the first five. Not that we had to start over, but to a certain extent, we had to go back to the beginning and make sure that everything still makes sense. That happened a lot. But if we weren’t all doing that simultaneously, I think it would have made it a lot messier.
ALEX ANFANGER: It’s hard. Really hard. I think back on the process of writing, and a lot of it is, you get down certain avenues that you’re really excited about then you realize that it doesn’t sync up with something else, and if you try to make it work, it seems forced. It’s like battling it out and figuring out how to get the best story and the right story for all the characters.
Meeting The Parents
ALEX ANFANGER: In the dinner scene, it’s another example of how, in the beginning of the show, you don’t really know what the show is going to be yet. When the father says, “You guys are going to have to move out of the house and find jobs,” I’m pretty sure you’re not expecting them to say, “Fuck you, Dad. He molested me. You should divorce him.” It’s not the typical reaction you would expect.
DAN SCHIMPF: Their dad is a sweetheart.
ALEX ANFANGER: He definitely did not molest any children.
DAN SCHIMPF: He’s a really nice guy and loves his children so much and tries to provide for them, but doesn’t have any sort of vocabulary of how to defend himself. And so that’s how you can imagine the path of where they’ve gotten to. They have taken advantage of him.
ALEX ANFANGER: And a major part of Alan was giving him courage to stand up for himself along the way. Not that it turns out well for him. But he does. Part of his arc is to build himself up and have the courage to stand up for himself.
DAN SCHIMPF: They’re basically starting a tantrum at that point. They’re starting a 12-year-old tantrum at their parents. And it feels like what it’s always been like whenever Alan has to deliver bad news to him.
ALEX ANFANGER: They have more respect for their mother because she is the firmer one. They can’t get away with anything. But also, a lot of it is the way young kids interact with their parents. As the story progresses, you see them become more reflective. Ultimately, what’s underneath it for Ben and for Jack is a ton of love for their father. It’s just disguised in this way that they can walk all over him. At some point, ultimately, if anything where to actually happen with Alan, they would be completely devastated. But it’s the same way a kid is like, “Shut up. You’re stupid. I hate you.” Underneath all of that is just pure love.
Del, The Essential Best Friend
ALEX ANFANGER: Ben is a little bit older, and Jack has this friend who he grew up with in elementary school and was always a weird kid. Jack was also a weird kid, but clearly had found somebody to be his best friend/assistant. Early on, it feels like Jack pulled Del into that role, and they’ve been best friends ever since.
DAN SCHIMPF: Del is a nice and sweet kind of guy and doesn’t seem like he has a ton of friends. Deep down, Jack loves and cares for Del, but anytime Jack can sink his teeth into somebody, he gets an ego boost out of it. And I think Jack is a lonely guy.
ALEX ANFANGER: There’s a documentary called American Movie that I saw years ago. I watched American Movie again recently and realized that subconsciously a big influence of the Del/Jack relationship and character was the relationship from this documentary. It’s about this guy who creates terrible movies and he does it with his friend, and there’s this guy in it who is his friend, and a real human being, who is exactly like Del.
DAN SCHIMPF: Del has this loyalty that you would want from any friend. Un-relentlessly loyal.
ALEX ANFANGER: And fearless. Because he has to be. Jack and Ben have conditioned him that way. But he’s a fearless, loyal friend, and they’re horrible to him. Also the world is horrible to him!
DAN SCHIMPF: Another example of how we like to have the best people get shit on.
Wondering what comes next? Tune in tomorrow (Wednesdays) at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central, and follow all the latest on Big Time In Hollywood, FL on the Comedy Central app.