Eastbound and Down doesn’t really feel like a normal TV show. And there’s good reason for that! Danny McBride and Jody Hill write the show as if it’s a long movie, and from the get-go they knew they wanted three seasons, with each representing an act with its own arc. Their process sounds pretty unique and is definitely fascinating. Here’s McBride from a new GQ interview:
From the get go we knew no one was going to greenlight me and Jody to make a fuckin’ four-hour movie. So we thought: let’s make a TV show and stretch it out. We’d done The Foot Fist Way together, and we really had a good time writing that character, the sort of anti-hero with a corrupt moral compass. And we felt like we were just starting to get into exploring that sort of character by the time we were already done shooting the movie. So for us, we saw things like the British “Office,” and how that story unfolds in a very small, compact package, and I think we started to kind of look at how to tell a story that wouldn’t have to be jammed into the conventional hour-and-a-half arc of a character.We always kind of saw it as something that would have a short run, something that would only be about three seasons, and each season would pretty much be an act in the tale, making this three-act structure for this bigger story that we wanted to tell. We don’t write just one episode at a time — it’s just kind of like writing one really long screenplay. The trick is, each episode needs to stand on its own, and there’s some theme or plot in every episode, but together they need to work together to tell the bigger story that we’re trying to tell. So when we start writing Episode 5 and everything changes, we have to go back to Episode 2 and 3 and set everything up that we didn’t see coming.
It’s another way that the line between TV and movies is getting blurred; with more opportunities to experiment with the form, there are fewer and fewer reasons to settle for a story that begins and ends in 90 minutes.