Columentary (title sadly not pending) is a weekly feature, in which I’ll listen to the commentary track of a sitcom, and divulge, through pretty pictures and less pretty words, the behind-the-scenes secrets the creators, writers, and cast discuss about their show. If you’ve ever wondered what the Home Improvement crew was eating when they came up with the idea to have Tim Allen grunt, this is for you.
Show: Home Movies
Episode: “Get Away from My Mom” (S01E01)
Original Airdate: April 26, 1999
Episode Plot: Eight-year-old Brendon, who spends his days making home movies, discovers that his mom, Paula, is dating his soccer coach, Coach McGuirk.
Players Involved: Loren Bouchard, creator and writer; Brendon Small, creator, writer, and voice of Brendon; and H. Jon Benjamin, voice of Coach McGuirk.
The blue dot you see above ends up moving all crazy like across the screen — which it wasn’t supposed to be. Bouchard calls it a “happy accident,” just one of many throughout Home Movies. The next scene reveals the dot to be Brendon, the show’s main character.
At the beginning of the show, all the characters, including Brendon and Coach McGuirk, have higher voices than they would later on in the series, when they’d get progressively lower. It’s especially noticeable with Coach, which Benjamin attributes to “hard living.”
Fans of the show recognize this character as Shannon, Brendon’s bully-turned friend voiced by Emo Philips. But in the first episode, Shannon was an unnamed background character. Bouchard and Small eventually turned the background blob into a foreground squiggle with FEELINGS to save money. Why design someone new when you can just reuse one of your old creations?
Bouchard voiced Brendon’s baby sister, Josie, but they auditioned tons of “old character actors,” like “that guy who played Dracula” and “that guy who played the thief in Conan the Destroyer,” who came really close to getting the role. I assume they’re talking about Tracey Walker, who also played Sheriff Walter Chechekevitch on Reno 911!
“[UPN] was very nice. They just canceled us.”
There was “a sweatshop above” the studio where they filmed, according to Benjamin, in Watertown, Massachusetts. Like most things that come from Benjamin’s mouth, I have no idea if he’s kidding or not.
When they were developing the first eight minutes of this episode, Loren & Co. had no idea what they were doing. Essentially everything was written and illustrated on the spot, with tons of improvisations. This technique is called “retroscripting.” Coach McGuirk wasn’t even originally intended as a recurring character. Also, there is no violin in that violin case.
“If you’re an artist out there, notice the use of red.”
Benjamin: “Look at what she’s eating. I think it’s a shrimp and a Goldfish.”
Small: “I think it’s a candy cane and a little shoe.”
During this scene, Benjamin reminiscences about how he negotiated his Home Movies salary with Bouchard at a bar. He was not very good at it. He was paid in peanuts and shoelace toppers. I made that last sentence up.
This was the final scene of the first eight minutes Bouchard and Small showed to UPN. The network (FORMER network) liked it so much that they gave Home Movies a “five, count ‘em five episode” production order.
Like Coach McGuirk, Melissa (voiced by Melissa Bardin Galsky) wasn’t originally intended to appear in more than one episode, but “she was so funny” with Small and Benjamin, according to Bouchard, “that she earned a spot on the show.” Good thing, too, because before she got the gig, Galsky was working as a talent scout for Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, as well as Jonathan’s assistant, too.
“If you look closely in that shot, you can see him scratching his buttocks a thousand times.”
Bouchard: “This whole scene was originally animated in all gold and some yellow, and we had to redo it because they were like, ‘Why does he have such a girly, metrosexual office?’”
Benjamin: “I swear to God, I have never watched a whole episode of Home Movies.”
Benjamin: “This whole show is about selling pills to people.”
During this scene, the guys are talking about when UPN flew out Paula Poundstone (who voiced Brendon’s mom, Paula, for the show’s first five episodes, before being replaced by Janine Ditullo) to record an in-person electronic press kit with Small & Co., and somehow the conversation switches over to discussing a Dilbert party, presumably thrown by the network. (Dilbert aired on UPN from 1999-2000.) And by somehow, I mean Benjamin brings it up, and adds, “There was an ice sculpture for Dilbert. Which if you ever seen that, you know what waste is all about.”
Small: “A lot of telephone talk on Home Movies. Why’s that, Loren?”
Bouchard: “Phone scenes, always funny.”
Bouchard: “That’s the first time anyone ever ran in Soup2Nuts,” the production company founded by Tom Snyder, known for its use of “Squigglevision.” Other notable Soup2Nuts series include Dr. Katz and WordGirl.
That’s history, folks.
Josh Kurp wishes he was H. Jon Benjamin