First things first: neither Seth MacFarlane nor Ricky Blitt can be seen in the above photo. Clockwise, you’re looking at Erinn Hayes, Lenny Clarke, Rob Corddry, Linda Hart, and Keir Gilchrist, known collectively as the cast of Fox’s new sitcom, “The Winner.” Blitt, meanwhile, is the show’s creator, while MacFarlane’s serving as executive producer. This means that they’re very busy people…too busy, in fact, to waste time having publicity photos taken. (In particular, MacFarlane has his hands full with both “Family Guy” and “American Dad!”) Maybe that’s for the best, though. There’s probably a very good reason that they’re known for their work behind the camera rather than in front of it. But enough cheap shots. Thankfully, both guys briefly interrupted their schedules to do a teleconference to hype “The Winner,” and Bullz-Eye was able to ask them a few questions about the origins of the show, how a dude from “The Daily Show” (Corddry) ended up in the lead role, and whether MacFarlane is going to drop dead from exhaustion anytime soon. (Let’s hope not. After all, who would care for the manatees…?)
Bullz-Eye: Hi, guys.
Seth MacFarlane and Ricky Blitt: Hi there!
BE: Ricky, “The Winner” actually began life as “Becoming Glenn”…
BE: …at which point it was starring Johnny Galecki. That was, I guess, about three years ago.
BE: What happened between the show’s original conception and now?
RB: First of all, Johnny refused my advances, so he’s not in the show. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding. What happened was, it started off as a…and I’ve done some articles about this where I said that, initially, it started off as a single-camera show, which…I have such reverence for multi-camera shows, and I feel it was the wrong format for it. And Johnny Galecki, by the way, who is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with and seen…I’m happy that there was an interview recently, where they were just talking about the show, and they said, “Even Johnny agreed that he was too young for the part.” I feel there’s some kind of irony and struggle that the guy has to be over 30 and look over 30…and Johnny, at the time, was 27 going on 21. So he realized he was far too young to sell what the concept of the show was. But in this way, we got to do the show exactly in the format it was intended. You have to sort of…I think the analogy that we’ve always made is that, if “Seinfeld” had come on, it would be dead in the water if it was a single-camera show, because they weren’t doing some of those tricks. They were just trying to have characters talk. Certain shows need, by their format or concept, to be single-camera…but this one had people talking to each other, and you didn’t want to distract it with camera stuff, or not have to move around and do, like, 60 scenes per show. I love the classic sitcoms that don’t do that.
BE: Was Rob Corddry your first choice as a replacement?
RB: No, the funny thing about it is, Rob is so unbelievably good in it that anybody who watches the show says, “This must’ve been a development project,” like we did it for Rob. But Rob was the very last person who put himself on tape, and…I had never seen him on “The Daily Show,” which is ridiculous, but I had never seen him on that, and I watched a lot of his tapes after that. But he was the last person who put himself on tape; there were, like, four finalists for the part, and then somebody…my casting girls called me up, really excited, and said, “You have to come down, this guy Rob that we love just put himself on tape from New York.” We were told from his agent that he was turning down a lot of stuff, and he didn’t like a lot of stuff, and then we found out…I looked at Rob, showed him to Seth right after, and I just couldn’t…I couldn’t believe how perfect…he’s the guy who, really, for four years, I’d been thinking, “Who can perfectly channel this and be likeable and not do it too broad, like a literal man-child or something?” He’s just so…I think it’s going to be so eye-opening for people who are used to that faux kind of jerk persona, the condescending thing he does on “The Daily Show.” And he’s so kinda sweet and vulnerable, aside from being really incredibly funny. Like, it was so lucky that…we were ready to go with…all four other actors were really good, but Rob is just in another league. But he was the very last person who put himself on tape.
SM: I thought he was just dreadful, and Ricky had to talk me into him.
RB: (Laughs) By the way, Rob had refused Seth’s advances, also, so he’s a little biased.
BE: Seth, is your goal to be this generation’s Norman Lear? Because this is your third show currently airing on Fox that you’re executive-producing.
SM: Uh, you’ve uttered the name of one of my heroes. If I could even come close, that would be certainly a goal. He’s actually…Norman Lear has actually been a great friend to me and to “Family Guy,” and, uh, yeah, there are three right now, and I have every intention of getting more under way...and as a long-term goal, absolutely, that would be something I would strive for.
BE: And the flip side, I guess, is to wonder if you feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin by doing so many shows.
SM: If I were physically…me, myself… stretching myself too thin, it would be one thing, but “American Dad” is run on a day-to-day basis by Mike Barker and Matt Weisman, and “The Winner” is obviously run by Ricky. Were I physically trying to run three shows at once, I’d probably be dead…but, luckily, that’s not how it operates. Some people are very, very heavily into trying to do everything at once. To me, to be working with multiple shows, it’s a much better system to set gears in place and let them run on their own.
BE: And, then, this last one’s for both of you: what’s it like working with Lenny Clarke?
RB: Lenny, by the way, he would come up to me every day…and he’s this hulk of a guy who’s, like, a foot taller than me…and he would come over to me and go, “Thank you for my job…thank you for my job…” And he’s one of these guys who can do it in a way that’s just so genuine and sweet, because he’s just such a nice guy. He’s so goddamned funny to be around, and he’s so, like, moment by moment, just have comments like, “No swearing in front of the kid,” who laughs his ass off. He’s really funny, but…you can tell with somebody if it’s a pose or not. Like, the Farrellys, who’ve worked with him a lot, said he’s one of these genuine guys who never talks about all the charity work he does, but he just has such a good heart, and that comes across every second of every day.
SM: You know, he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve met. He’s one of those guys who, whenever you’re around him, he makes you laugh.
RB: Somebody during the TCA (Television Critics Association) had asked him about the show, and he said, “Look, I’m hoping this works out, because otherwise it’s elderly porn for me.” And that’s a moment of what it’s like to be with Lenny Clarke.