Big Time in Hollywood, FL, the story of two would-be filmmaker brothers attempting to extort $20,000 from their own mom and dad — and thus getting entangled in a number of high-profile criminal activities — is unlike anything Comedy Central has ever done. Melding slapstick and drama, season one saw characters Jack (Alex Anfanger) and Ben (Lenny Jacobson) robbing a house with Cuba Gooding Jr., talking to Jason Alexander about human trafficking, and fulfilling their dreams of stardom in the most perverse way (with a fake movie starring a chimp). We spoke to Jacobson about how the show’s finale came together, what we can expect if it gets picked up for season two, and who was really responsible for Jason Alexander saying “Fuck Seinfeld” in the penultimate episode. Spoilers for the finale ahead!
So, let’s talk about that finale.
I read the script for the finale and was like, “Oh this is great.” And then it didn’t hit me how crazy it was until — because the finale was so crazy and intricate, as you saw — we took an entire day to just walk through the finale so that everyone knew where they would be and what they were doing. So the day before we shot that final scene, the shootout, everyone came and walked through their positions. As they were going through it, [Alex Anfanger] and I were sitting there watching, not really doing anything, and I got up literally ten minutes after and was like, "Wow, this is a really great scene!"
Everything gets tied up pretty nicely — except that the cops still have the father, Alan Dolfe’s, file in the evidence room.
We wanted to wrap everything up, but of course like the rest of the show we always wanted to leave the cliffhanger. [Dan and Alex] came up with that a long time ago and somehow the arc was building toward it. Because of all the evidence against [Alan] — the angry phone call to Harvey Scoles, that time the lawyer was taking pictures of us at Thanksgiving dinner and he’s holding the knife — each little thing was slowly building to make it look like Alan had everything to do with it, which I love so much.
So that could easily be the story line for season two.
If we get a second season, I think that’s the direction it’s going to go in. Alex and Dan have some ideas, but I think the Alan file is obviously the big to-do — whether or not it gets them in a lot of trouble or not — because technically there are no witnesses left at the pier except for at the end, there’s one person who is technically still alive.
Right, that would be Marcus Giamatti's character, whom Del resuscitates.
Yeah, Detective Zdorki is still alive. That scene was actually the last thing we shot at the pier and they just decided toward the end to have him be alive instead of everyone being dead. Marcus was so excited, thinking it meant he would be a key witness or something in season two. And that’s a possibility, because technically he’s the only one who knows exactly how everything turned out.
So you’re currently waiting with bated breath for word about season two.
Yeah, it’s stressful with the waiting and all that weirdness. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully we’ll know next week or so. We knew coming in that it would be a polarizing show in some sense: It’s tough to be on cable and a half-hour comedy that’s not more of a serialized drama. You can’t show up five episodes in and say "Oh I love this show!" You have to go back and watch them all.
The cinematic nature of the show makes it great for binge-watching.
When you sit and watch it all at once it’s really great. You really appreciate the way that Dan and Alex use every little detail and nothing is done out of waste. Every move is either going to come back later or there’s a reason for it. Except maybe one or two things.
You know the shooting-star scene where Del and Darla are laying in the grass? They look up at a shooting star but it’s actually a plane on fire. A plane just burning. We didn’t know anything about that; Dan just went in and added it during editing. We were like, “Why?” and he was like, “I don’t know,” and that is why Dan is amazing. Dan is the quiet one, the one who doesn’t act, he’s the director and writer, but he has the weirder mind of everyone else. He comes up with all this sick or dark stuff that’s like “Where did that come from?”
Speaking of dark stuff, before the finale, there’s an incredible Jason Alexander cameo. It felt a lot like that scene from Boogie Nights where the drug deal goes awry.
Yeah, I kept saying that when I read the scene. All of us are the biggest Seinfeld fans. So it was really great to have him. Number one, he’s amazing in it. Most of the stuff he does in that episode, the script had been written in a certain way, but he added in a few of his own things. For example, the “Fuck Seinfeld” was all him. I don’t know if he’ll get in trouble for saying that or I’ll get in trouble for saying that, but as soon as he said that, we said, “That might be the best line of the entire season.” I jokingly wanted to get T-shirts with pictures of his face that say “Fuck Seinfeld.” I guess the ultimate compliment would be if someday Jerry Seinfeld went up to him and said, “Really? Fuck Seinfeld? I know you were playing a fake version of yourself but … ”
That’s amazing. Another incredible guest star (that met an unfortunate end) was Michael Madsen.
We got really lucky. Everyone who came in to play guest stars or big parts like Jason, Cuba, or Michael Madsen, they’re all playing exaggerated versions of themselves, but Madsen was an actual character. When they wrote the role of Harvey Scoles, Alex and Dan said it would be like “A Michael Madsen type.” And then the casting directors were like, “Okay, we’ll reach out to Michael Madsen.” They were like, “Wait, you can do that?”
Seems like there was some crossover between how the characters, Ben and Jack, react to famous actors, and how Alex and Dan reacted to them in real life.
Right, especially Cuba Gooding Jr. It was a pleasure to work with him. What you realize as you watch the season is how goddamn great he is and how he played the role so grounded and real. He doesn’t really try to get any laughs the entire season; you’re just watching him go through the most miserable three weeks of his life. That’s not him, obviously, but it’s so good that you forget that it’s not him. I don’t think the season would have been the same if he hadn’t come in the way he did, which was 150 mph and playing it so dark and real. Everything that happens towards the last half of the season, it almost becomes the story of how bad his career has gotten.
Yet, ironically, he’s the only famous guest star that doesn’t get killed off.
He’s the only who lives! [Laughs.] We told him, you know, you’re the one who lives so we could run into you another time, and he just said, “I don’t think I can ever come back.” He was so overwhelmed and exhausted by the time he finished shooting with us he was like, “I love you guys, but I’m never doing this ever again.” [Laughs.] “I’m never playing myself ever again.”
Wait, so he definitely wouldn’t come back?
Well, I don’t know! I think he would. We joked with him that we want to maybe have Jack and Ben run into him at the Oscars later on; maybe Jack and Ben make it that far, and when they see him he has electronic hands, like robot hands. Something like that.