“Mr. Show with Bob and David” aired on from Nov. 3, 1995 to Dec. 28, 1998 on HBO, becoming a beloved comedy hit. Twenty years after it first premiered, devotees will be able to enjoy the same brand of funny when “W/ Bob & David” debuts Nov. 13 on Netflix. Variety caught up with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross before the show’s Los Angeles premiere screening at the Vista Theatre, deep in the heart of Los Feliz.
Odenkirk explained what it was like getting the band back together. “We expected bumps and challenges and that our chemistry had changed, but we did this read-through with a bunch of the writers who ended up being the writers for this show. They were “Mr. Show” writers – Jay Johnson, Brian Posehn, Scott Aukerman, Paul F. Tompkins, Bill Odenkirk, Eric Hoffman – and we read all these scripts that were just lying around – we didn’t write for it. Everyone clicked immediately – writing, punching up, laughing, building on stuff, going different directions – I mean, it was like not a day had passed.”
“The actual challenge of doing the show is: we write an entire episode then we shoot the filmed pieces then we edit all the filmed pieces, then we rehearse and do the live show – that’s a lot of layers of production and it can’t even happen simultaneously,” Odenkirk said. Cross added, “They also overlap so while we’re cutting and editing pre-taped stuff for episode two, we’re also editing the live material from episode one and we’re rehearsing episode three.”
The secret to making it work turned out to be working with the right production company. Odenkirk credits Abso Lutely Productions for their ability to handle the show’s atypical production process: “Most shows are either live or pre-taped, one or the other. It’s a challenge we had before and you forget how different that is – no one does that really. Abso Lutely, the production company Tim (Heidecker) and Eric (Wareheim) started, had a learning curve with this show and it was new for them and for us, it was a reminder that we’d forgotten a little bit.”
Happily, “W/ Bob and David” feels enough like “Mr. Show” that it immediately grounds viewers and will no doubt please fans of the earlier hit. Odenkirk is aware of this and said, “Comedically, people are commenting on how it’s so close to ‘Mr. Show’ – I wanted the freedom, at least structurally, to do different things. Calling it a different name, which we wanted to do, and just telling ourselves we don’t have to do anything – sometimes we link sketches and sometimes we don’t.” Cross acknowledged, “I think it’ll feel more different to Bob and I but to our fans and viewers, it’ll feel similar because it’s Bob and I.”
Odenkirk also raved about not having to watch the clock and cut to network time limits of 21 or 24 minutes, “You can do 35 minutes if you want and we did! Our fourth episode is 33 minutes and they don’t care – there’s no commercial coming, there’s no rush. In the fourth episode, we do an eight-minute sketch that’s like a little film. We get to take our time with it and invest in the acting of it – we got actors who we don’t have to cut out like Allan Havey and Jon Barinholtz. We wanted to have more freedom and do anything we wanted. The truth is comedically, we’re very similar to what we were and we just write very silly, goofy, angry stuff. You certainly see ‘Mr. Show’ DNA all over it.”