“I think you have to just make what you love and be bold and specific with your style and choices,” said Patrick Carlyle, co-creator and star of Couple Time, a web series-turned-Ellen-DeGeneres-EP’d Fox pilot. Obviously, the success of his and co-creator Allyn Rachel’s series of vignettes about common relationship minutia is proof to that pudding; the real life couple walks the damn walk.
Many talented writers would’ve dismissed the idea of a web series like Couple Time. They would’ve been driven away by the lack of a flashy hook, put off by the meandering dialogue necessitated by such an organic set-up, and ultimately afraid to bare all so idiosyncratically, wondering “what if no one gets it?” A huge part of strong writing and strong comedy is overcoming that fear, and basking in the specificities of the life you know. It’s always scary to put your whole self out there but, more often than not, that self will be very similar to your viewers’ selves. Even if it’s not, the work’s authenticity will make it original and, therefore, worth watching.
Of course, talent goes a long way too. You can be as honest as you want and, if your sensibilities ain’t funny, people aren’t gonna watch your stuff. Carlyle and Rachel have a rare, humbling ability to find the funny in everyday life and push it gently forward in a manner not often seen in the world of comedy.
But don’t take it from me. Patrick and Allyn, your thoughts?
What did you guys do before this?
Patrick: The same thing we do now, more or less. Audition, write, do sketch/improv shows. We’re both performers at UCB in LA and we have monthly shows with our respective Maude Teams. We’ve written for bit shows and performed in other improv shows at the theatre as well. We make a lot of videos and write with our friends and other comedians, whether it be stuff for Funny or Die or Above Average or just random shorts/sketches.
Allyn: We’ve both done some guest stuff for TV as well, I have a little recurring role on this season of Weeds, and I’ve been lucky to stay busy working in commercials over the past year.
Who had the idea for Couple Time and what inspired it?
Allyn: Patrick came up with the idea first. It kind of came as a response to all the relationship comedies that focus so much on the bickering and competition between a couple.
Patrick: Yeah, we’ve been together for 8ish years now and we’re best friends. We have lots of small silly moments together, and I think ALL couples have their version of those “couple time” moments/conversations. We thought it would be refreshing and fun to showcase those little exchanges as opposed to just “witty banter as a couple is arguing over something domestic” or whatever.
Allyn: and then as we discussed adapting and developing the videos into something larger format for television, we wanted to create a series where the people in the relationship were on the same team and the conflict came from tackling life hurdles together.
Patrick: sure, we still have differences of opinion and arguments like normal people, but let’s not make that the CORNERSTONE of the show.
How did the Fox pilot deal come about? How did Ellen come to Executive Produce?
Allyn: We developed the idea into a single camera comedy and wrote a treatment with the guidance of our agents and managers, and then we targeted a few production companies to go out and pitch.
Patrick: Ellen DeGeneres’ company (“A Very Good Production”) was one of the companies we pitched to early on, and right away they seemed very receptive. they have some amazing people on their development team, and it turned out that they had already been tracking the videos and happened to know Allyn from some of her commercial work.
Allyn: It felt like a really good fit and in-line with the kind of positive comedy that I think Ellen is known for so we were excited.
Patrick: We tweaked our pitch after some notes from the amazing women in comedy development at Warner Bros, and got them on board, then geared up for network pitches.
Allyn: Pitching to FOX was the best. All along we felt like it was the perfect home for Couple Time and they could not have been more enthusiastic and engaged. I think FOX has shown to be really supportive of newer/unique voices so we’re definitely excited!
What’s the key to making a successful web series?
Patrick: Oy, that question feels impossible. First off, let me just say, I have NO IDEA. That said, I guess it depends how you define a successful web series? Some people do that based on “view count,” others may define it based on if they’re able to turn it into something “sellable…” I think that in the end, quality of content always wins out. “Couple Time” never went viral or had a million views, and I think history has shown that view count doesn’t necessarily translate into television success or “mainstream success.” There are also so many different KINDS of web series! I think you have to just make what you love and be bold and specific with your style and choices.
Allyn: I think the only “must” is that you keep it short. Who wants to watch a 7 minute internet video!?
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If those eloquent responses didn’t whet your appetite (what’s wrong with you?!), here are your three reasons to watch Couple Time.
Every individual’s reality is all-at-once specific and relatable by virtue of being human. The same goes for couples. Comedians and comedy writers adept at sharing themselves can tap into the human condition in a very powerful way and, when that happens, brilliance ensues.
Good jokes are original jokes. And the best way to be original is to be specific.
Rachel’s right. Very few people want to watch a 7-minute Internet video. We’ve profiled a couple strong ones, but they’re the exception to the rule. Short and smart is usually the best route.