Bruce McCulloch of Carpoolers: The TV Squad Interview - AUDIO
by Joel Keller, posted Oct 2nd 2007 11:28AM
When I wrapped up my interview with Bruce McCulloch -- executive producer of ABC's Carpoolers and a member of the legendary comedy troupe Kids In The Hall -- I asked him if there was anything else he might be working on. "Yeah, I'm going to have a heart attack next March, and I wanted people to know about that," he joked. For a guy who has worn a lot of hats in his career, nothing has kept him busier than being the boss.
Carpoolers, a single-camera comedy premiering on ABC tonight at 8:30 PM ET, is about four guys who use their carpool to explore what's going on in each other's lives. The show is McCulloch's brainchild, which means he's involved with everything from the writing to how many donuts will be on the craft services table. Yet he still has time to write and perform his own surreal works, as well as perform occasionally with the Kids, who have been together for almost a quarter-century.
I got a chance to speak to McCulloch last week, and we talked about what it's like to premiere after the season's most lambasted new show (Cavemen), what parts of himself he sees in each of his main characters, what it's like to work with Fred Goss and Jerry O'Connell (who spoke to our friends at AOL last week), and why the Kids have managed to stay together for so long. Highlights are after the jump, as well as an audio embed of the interview (35 minutes).
Here's the interview:
McCulloch is known for writing some pretty surreal sketches both on his own and with the Kids, and the thought process behind his creation of Carpoolers was no less surreal. Inspiration came when he was on a "man trip" with a buddy, where they talked about each others' lives. "We were coming home and were in traffic," he said, "and I had the image of an emotional breakdown in the carpool lane. That was sort of the start of it, and it sort of came fast. Within two weeks I was pitching it."
He felt that that there weren't enough characters on TV that reflected what men really do when they hang out with each other. In other words, not everyone is a Tim Taylor-esque alpha-male who only talks about sports and tools. "I think guys kind of do try to process their lives. I don't think guys necessarily just want to open a can of beer and not talk about their day," he said. "So I think I really did want to explore a landscape of guys who have emotional mistresses or think about that or wonder if their wives are happy or are kind of more ... you know, had more flaws at the core or are kind of more feminine in the fact that they're worrying about things."
But not to worry; he knows that men communicate differently than women. "I don't say to my friend, 'Well, tell me everything!' You know, I go, 'So how's your marriage going.... That Coldplay record sure is good...' We don't actually communicate like women. And I think that's why carpooling... because the idea that you spend time with strangers, who of course become friends... you let stuff out that you wouldn't normally let out, or people read it on your face."
McCulloch sees a little of himself in the main four characters: Gracen (Fred Goss), a mediator who does poorly when he gets in the middle of things; Laird (Jerry O'Connell), a "skirt-chaser" of a dentist who longs to get back with his ex-wife; Aubrey (Jerry Minor), who is so busy putting his family first that he loses himself; and Dougie (Tim Peper), the new guy who looks like he has the ideal young marriage but the cracks will start to show.
Goss was a guy that McCulloch and the other producers went after in a big way, as they were a fan of Goss' 2006 series Sons & Daughters. "I was interested in his brain and the way his brain works. He improvises and he makes things real, yet he walks around them in his own way.
"He's kind of my partner in some way," McCulloch continues. "Because he's a director himself, he can be really helpful, and at this point in his career he's enjoying being in the hands of good directors and not having to worry that we're in overtime or whatever, and just being able to explore a character."
O'Connell "is trembling with happiness" to be finally doing a comedy, according to McCulloch. "He really is in heaven. I always thought he was funny, and I didn't know how funny he was and how charming he was. If I was going to do a character who is perhaps a misogynist or a hound that i wanted someone with that kind of sparkles. He's so funny and so game, and I think he's really happy that someone saw him in a light that wasn't 'the boyfriend,' or 'the cop that does the right thing.'"
Speaking of O'Connell, we will meet Laird's ex, named Joannifer, later on in the season; she'll be played by O'Connell's wife, Rebecca Romijn. And some of McCulloch's fellow Kids will make appearances, like Scott Thompson and Dave Foley (another fellow Kid, Kevin McDonald, is a writer on the show).
Why has the Kids In The Hall been able to stay together for so long? They actually like each other, says McCulloch. "I think everybody's value -- as a reality of getting into your thirties and kind of seeing what the world is like -- you value your old friends more," he says. "Bands who break up often get back together, because they realize they had it really good." It's the reason why they still get together to perform benefit shows a few times per year. "We look for reasons to be together."
He does the work with KITH despite the crushing schedule of being a show-runner. "The hardest part of this entire process is that I can't be everywhere," he said. He feels it's a privilege to get to produce a series, whether it lasts 13 episodes or 100. He even has no qualms about Carpoolers slot behind Cavemen, the new season's most critically-drubbed pilot, because "a lot of people know about that show. I think the most heartbreaking thing a show can do is to not have people know about it or check it out."
Of course, because of his job, many other things have changed since KITH's heyday. Now he gets up at 4:40 AM to write, on advice of fellow show-runner Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl). "I used to get home drunk at 4:40," he joked.