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The Green Room: Chuck Co-Creator Chris Fedak Thanks Fans

April 6th, 2011 by Rebecca Harper Editor

With Hulu’s second annual Best in Show winner announced, we spoke to “Chuck” co-creator Chris Fedak to see if he’d share some thoughts on his show winning the competition and talk to us about the series and the growth of its characters over the last four years.

Hi Chris, we were hoping to talk to you about “Chuck” and how it won Hulu’s Best in Show. I have to admit I was surprised a little bit, because it won by a landslide, over “Dexter.”
Chris Fedak, co-creator, “Chuck”
: Well, first of all, thank you so much. It’s great to win, and we’re always in awe of our fans. They’re an amazing group. They’ve been fantastic to the show in years past and we’ve always relied upon then. I guess it’s kind of a testament to how much they really did the show, and we really like making the show for them, so it’s really cool.

Chuck” beat out three other critically acclaimed shows — “Modern Family,” “Community,” and “Dexter.” We asked this of Josh Gomez [who plays Chuck's sidekick, Morgan, on the show]: Do you think this indicates that “Chuck” belongs in the pantheon of all-time greatest TV shows?

Wow. I think it when it comes to the greatest of all time TV pantheon, I’ll let the critical historians 100 years from now make that decision. We’re just excited to be on the air, making our show, and being the absolute best action-spy comedy set inside a big box store that we could possibly be. We’re of course huge fans of all of those shows. It’s great, but I think I’ll leave the absolute pantheon to the experts.

Speaking of big box stores, I have to ask how that came about. “Chuck” came out at about the same time as “Reaper,” both taking place inside megastores. What is it about that kind of environment that inspired you?

Essentially, you have to go back to 2007. Imagine the fact there was actually two shows with a strong big box component that also had a strong genre component. At the time, Josh [Schwartz, co-creator of "Chuck"] and I were just amazed that there was going to be two shows. We thought obviously we would be the only show doing this. It didn’t turn out to be the case. The show is a mash-up. It’s a combination of one part “The Office,” one part “24,” one part “Alias.” When you mash those shows together, what happens? What we were really excited about is if you built the show like something like “The Office,” where you essentially met all these characters and you loved them, and then how terrifying it would be if Sydney Bristow or Jack Bauer came into the office, because you knew, when those people showed up, that someone was going to get shot, and someone was going to get tortured, and someone was going to get killed. That’s where the initial germ of the “Chuck” show came from. So the big box store was always there at the beginning. That was the basis for the idea: what happens when people from another genre, from an action show, walk into that world. It’s made for a really fun show that’s always been about bending genres. It’s been a lot of fun for us to be working with something so unique.

We asked our guest critic, HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall, what he thought was the secret formula to “Chuck.” And he said it was made with a lot of love directed at its characters and pop culture. What do you think of that?
I think it’s spot-on. I think this is a show designed for people who 1) love pop culture, 2) love TV, and 3) love movies and music. And in some ways, it’s also a love letter to spy shows from the past. When you take all those things together, we don’t have the largest audience in the world, but we do have an audience that just adores the show and really digs what we do. It’s made for that kind of passionate fan base that we talked about earlier. For us, it’s exciting to make as how that can be that specific and have fun with that.

Much has been made of the Subway campaign from 2009. Are you guys still seeing some sort of residual impact of this?
Well my father tells me he still goes to Subway every night we have an episode air, so I think there is some residual. You’d have to ask the experts at Subway if they see an uptick on Monday nights from “Chuck” viewing parties. It’s one of those things where it was very exciting in Season 2 when it was a toss up if we were going to come back or not, and the Subway campaign was a really clever idea by our fans to show how they could influence the show — and of course, looking at our integration partner Subway was a great way to kind of show their support for the show. It was a very clever and savvy campaign by our fans. I think that also speaks to our fans: it’s a very bright crowd. Our fans know about every campaign associated with our show. It’s kind of amazing. We’ve had two seasons since then.

I think that’s a true testament — people typically hate product integration.
The one benefit we have with product integration with our show is that we did set our story inside a store. So that helps a little bit.

Let’s talk about Season 4. I’d say the characters have grown a bit; you’ve shown that they can progress beyond that post-college world where they don’t know where their future lies. What have been some of your favorite moments this season?
I think this season has really been about change, especially for our characters. The show started off as a show about a quarter-life crisis, with Chuck not sure what he wanted to do with his life. But it’s now four years later, so he’s much more of a man than he used to be. Just from Chuck’s perspective, we’ve had some great moments this season where he’s coming to realize that he needs to take the next step with Sarah Walker. Just looking at this season, I immediately think about episode 13 when he finally asked Sarah to marry him. It’s really bookended by episode 11, where he starts to ask her to marry him, and in episode 13 after the birth of his niece, in the hallway with the someone vacuuming at the far end of the hall, he decides to ask Sarah to marry him. I think for us, just working on the show, that was just an epic moment that we’ve been building to for four years. Much like, in the same episode, Ellie and Awesome giving birth to their child. It’s so interesting to take these characters who in the pilot only had a couple of lines and progress them through the show this season.

I think that Chuck seeing his mom for the first time and beginning to understand her backstory and why she left so many years ago was also a very important component to his journey this year. We’re working on our season finale now where, for him to have a happy ending and for him to survive, he’s going to have to become the hero he has to be. If he can do it, this is his greatest test. The finale will very much be a giant moment for Chuck Bartowski moving forward.

You’ve had an incredible run of guest stars through the years. Who have been your favorites, and who can we look forward to seeing in the rest of the season?
Back in the day, we’d say we were the “Love Boat” of spy shows. We found it really fun to write for guest stars. Just off the top of my head, I’d say there’s people like Chevy Chase who, in Season 2, was amazing to work with and actually write that character, Chevy Chase as a villain. I think we were the first show to kill off Chevy Chase, which is kind of a shocking thing to do. I’m kind of amazed my that. We’ve also had John Larroquette. I was a huge “Night Court” fan for many years. It was great to not only introduce him as Roan Montgomery but also to bring him back this season. That’s the kind of fun thing about our show. We’ve built this spy world, much like “Alias,” which is one of my favorite shows and helped to rejuvenate the genre. In Season 4, we revisit this spy world with guest stars like Dolph Lundgren. But I really enjoyed the character of Alexei Volkoff [played by former James Bond Timothy Dalton, and named after the Russian wrestler Nikolai Volkoff, a nod to Chris' days as a WWF fan]. We’ll get to see him again in our next episode.

Now what about the season finale? Since the fate of “Chuck” hasn’t been decided yet, will you leave things hanging?
We’ve always been inclined to do really crazy season finale episodes. This one is called “Chuck vs. the Cliffhanger,” so you know it’s going to be a big one.

Last comment: about 12 hours ago 5 Comments

Holy Squirrel Munchin’… It’s “Trailer Trash”

March 8th, 2011 by Todd Goldman Creator of Trailer Trash

Hi, I’m Todd, the professional doodler behind “Trailer Trash.” Otherwise known as the most awesomest job in the world. If you know my art, you know I’m no stranger to pushing the envelope — and if you don’t, you’ll understand after watching “Trailer Trash.” From my art to my clothing line, or my books to my latest entertainment projects, it’s important for me to stay true to my voice … and I don’t mean singing.

Speaking of stirring the pot, my latest Web series “Trailer Trash” just premiered exclusively on Hulu. It’s a squirrel munchin’ good time, more fun than watching a three-legged catfish on a broken ferris wheel! The concept is pretty simple: four redneck trailer trash — Billy Bob, Cooter, Light Beer and Peggy Sue — watch movie trailers. In front of their trailer. In a trailer park. Basically movie night at my parents’ house.

For this project, I joined forces with Lionsgate Digital and Hud:sun Media to bring the world an animated series that is funny, raunchy and most importantly, distasteful (of course, in the most creative and innovative way imaginable.) We wanted to create a show for the people out there with the same sense of humor as me (meaning: just plain wrong). “Trailer Trash” is like a 5-year-old kid who doesn’t know any better — there are no politics, no morals, and absolutely no filter. We say what everyone else is thinking, but is too afraid to say.

With tons of user-created content flooding popular video sites it can be hard to decipher the good from the ugly. Now I’m not saying we’re not ugly. But we’re good. Real good. Lionsgate recognized this, and made sure “Trailer Trash” is the same great quality as all of their other programming.

Lionsgate breaks down boundaries and delivers content that is edgy and unlike anything people have seen before. (Lionsgate brought us “Mad Men” and “Weeds,” for example.) Getting into web production was something the studio put a lot of thought into, and they patiently waited for the right time, the right project, and the right platform for people to view it on. Hulu was our first distribution choice because we understand that audiences know and trust Hulu as a premiere viewing destination for the best premium content and we wanted it to be showcased among the finest. We basically put the Dream Team of digital animation together … even though we’re all white and none of us can play basketball.

I truly believe “Trailer Trash” will resonate with online audiences. Whether it’s for the ridiculous stupidity of the characters or the blatant stereotyping, it is guaranteed to make you laugh, cringe, wet your pants … or get so offended, you write us a letter. Please make sure to spell my name right! [Hulu Ed Note: Please direct all correspondence directly to Todd Goldman.]

People are drawn to animated humor because it appeals to our imagination. With animation, we’re allowed to take our imaginations to places you can’t with live action.

I really hope you enjoy watching “Trailer Trash” as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it. And most of all, I hope the whole fist-bump-flick-off thing catches on!

Now go squirrel munch yourself! I gotta go!
Todd

Last comment: about 12 hours ago 18 Comments

An Idea Worth Spreading (To Your Living Room)

February 28th, 2011 by Andy Forssell Acting CEO and SVP of Content

There are times in business when you get to do things that that just seem right. I’m lucky that I have a job where this is fairly common. And today is definitely one of those times.

Hulu’s mission is to help our users find and enjoy the world’s premium content when, how, and where they want. And we think you would be hard pressed to find content more premium than the TEDTalks from the prestigious TED conferences. Incredible people. Amazing ideas. With the launch of our partnership with TED today, it’s our honor to offer millions of Hulu users 50 of the most popular TEDTalks from the last few years. More are coming soon, including select new talks from the 2011 TED Conference that’s just about to begin.

For those of you who are not familiar with TED, think of TEDTalks as a smart and concise way to explore new ideas and gain exposure to concepts and innovations you may not have ever seen before, all in 18 minutes or less. All TEDTalks share a common thread: ideas worth spreading as told by the most inspiring and passionate doers and thinkers around. Through Hulu and Hulu Plus, we hope to extend the reach and impact of TED, because the more people who hear and understand an idea, the more powerful that idea becomes. To introduce these talks, which focus on technology, entertainment, and design, I’ve included a few of my favorites at the end of this post.

All TED content on Hulu will be available on Hulu.com and on the Hulu Plus subscription service. Through Hulu Plus, it is now possible for TED fans to watch TEDTalks on demand, in HD when available, in the living room and on mobile devices. It’s a whole new way to experience TED. We hope Hulu Plus users gather family and friends in the living room to watch the talks together through their Internet-connected TV, gaming console, Blu-ray player, or set-top box, and then have a conversation inspired by what they just saw.

Many thanks to our friends at TED for doing what they do so well, and for letting us be a part of getting this great content seen in new ways.

Andy Forssell ()
SVP Content & Distribution

Sir Ken Robinson talks about the importance of creativity and how schools can kill it.

Aimee Mullins talks about her 12 pairs of legs, completely turning inside out the idea of disability.

Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen. An absolutely amazing and entertaining look at what incredible stories data can tell.

Last comment: about 8 hours ago 2 Comments

Snubbed by the Academy? We Must Be Dreaming

January 25th, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

A few hundred people this morning woke up and typed “I must be dreaming” into their status boxes on Twitter.

This raises the question: What’s the best way to get a few hundred people to type the same cheesy, four-word phrase on Twitter within a three-hour timespan?

Money, primarily. Money would probably be the best way to do that.

Or you can just sling an injustice at Christopher Nolan, the beloved director of “Inception.” He was robbed of a Best Director nomination this morning for what is largely considered his magnum opus.

Here’s friend of Hulu Richard Roeper’s first sentence written about the Oscar nominees. Let’s say he didn’t bury the lead.

“No offense to the five immensely talented individuals nominated for ‘Best Director’ on Tuesday morning, but members of the Academy must have been smoking something powerful to snub Christopher Nolan’s astonishingly creative work on ‘Inception.’”

Twitter exploded with variations of the same joke—Twitter’s Faliq Fahmie simply beat everyone to the punch, saying “Chris Nolan didn’t plant the idea inside The Oscar’s board members’ mind to nominate himself”—but Chris Rock won the morning, taking a line from Nolan’s Batman masterpiece “The Dark Knight.”

“It’s okay though, Chris Nolan is the director the Academy Awards deserve, but not the one it needs right now.”

Agreed. Plus, the publicity of Nolan getting snubbed for David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) or Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) will probably get the last four Americans who haven’t seen “Inception” yet (they were presumably incarcerated until yesterday) to go out and buy the DVD. That wouldn’t have happened if he was nominated and lost unspectacularly.

Still, the snark and hate parade soldiered on. @Ghostparticle on Twitter busted out this sort of xenophobic gem, effectively blaming all of us for Academy’s Nolan slight: “So the Americans think Chris Nolan is not a worthy director…”

Hey, man, don’t drag the whole country into this. We don’t blame Europe for Uwe Boll. Not every day, at least. It’s been about 13 days since I blamed Germany for Uwe Boll movies. Show some restraint.

There’s the only-slightly less egregious snub of Mark Wahlberg, who wasn’t nominated for Best Leading Actor for his role as Mickey Ward in “The Fighter.” Even though Christian Bale, who played his brother, is up for Best Supporting Actor. Ditto Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, who won Supporting Actress bids.

Wahlberg got edged out by Javier Bardem in a rare Spanish-language nod in a major category. The committee must have forgotten that Wahlberg is bilingual, as well. He speaks a little bit of animal in “The Fighter,” as he does in the following clip.

At least Weird Al Yankovic was able to provide a reasonable explanation as to why Wahlberg wasn’t nominated: “No #Oscar nomination for Mark Wahlberg? I suspect it’s that bitter Funky Bunch voting bloc.”

But Nolan’s snub? Seems inexplicable. Hopefully he won’t lose any sleep over it.

Let’s pretend like I didn’t just type that.

Ben Collins is an Assistant Editor at Hulu. You can find him on Twitter @globesoundtrack or email him here.

Hulu Labs Preview: ‘The Morning After’

January 17th, 2011 by Andy Forssell Acting CEO and SVP of Content

At Hulu, we pay a lot of attention to what users say about us, and how Hulu fits into your lives. For many of you, we know that Hulu has become an important way to catch up on current TV — the place to go when you missed last night’s episode of Glee, 30 Rock, or Modern Family. And when we read the discussions boards on Hulu.com and tweets from our users, it’s clear to us that enjoying Hulu is about more than any one show. It’s also about how your favorite shows relate to the rest of what is going on in pop culture.

Part of the fun is connecting the dots … TV, movies, web video, Twitter … what’s hot, what’s trending, and what‘s over. Lately, our users have been asking us for a quick and fun way to stay current on the latest in pop culture. We looked far and wide for a show that struck the right balance between being entertaining and being informative, but we just couldn’t find something that hit the mark.

So today, we are previewing The Morning After, a new initiative from Hulu Labs designed to help our users stay current on the water cooler chatter of the day. Hosted by Brian Kimmet and Ginger Gonzaga, and available daily Monday through Friday on Hulu.com and Hulu Plus, The Morning After is a smart, daily shot of pop culture to help Hulu users stay up to date — all in less than five minutes.

In developing The Morning After, we were inspired by shows like The Big Show with Olbermann and Patrick, which blended the love of sports with brainy cultural references that easily move from emotional to funny in one segment. The Morning After aspires to be that kind of show, but for all things pop culture.

To build The Morning After, we selected Jace Hall and the very talented team at HDFilms, a production company devoted to creating extremely high quality content spanning multiple media. When we saw the caliber of work produced by HDFilms, we knew they were right the production team for this project.

We consider this our “preview” period for The Morning After. It’s a chance for us to develop and evolve the show with your input. So please let us know what you think. We’re at on email or @TMAonHulu on Twitter, and we’re looking forward to your feedback.

Andy Forssell ()
Senior Vice President, Content & Distribution