Fox’s dysfunctional family comedy “The Mick” closed out its first season with a literal blaze when the youngest Pemberton child Ben (Jack Stanton) burned down the family’s mansion. Now the titular Mickey (Kaitlin Olson) is not only tasked with raising her sister’s three spoiled kids but doing so without the comfort of home.
“We did sit down with an accountant and ask him what’s the reality of the situation?” series co-creator Dave Chernin tells Variety. “Would these kids have money, would they have trusts, would the money be protected? And so what basically came out of it was yes, they would have money that was not seized by the IRS, depending on what the crimes are — and then he also told us that they’d probably have an executor of that trust that would be responsible for making sure it would last if the parents weren’t able to do so.”
That insight fueled the second season premiere. The kids, armed with credit cards, check into a fancy hotel, bringing their aunt Mickey, her on-again-off-again boyfriend Jimmy (Scott MacArthur) and family housekeeper Alba (Carla Jimenez) all along for the ride.
“We wanted to keep the DNA of the show intact, and that is that these kids have all of the money in the world, and so their first instinct would be to go to the next nicest place they can find and check into a five-star hotel,” co-creator John Chernin says.
Ahead of the second season premiere, the Chernins talk with Variety about how they are broadening the world of their show, and if they feel pressure to top last year’s finale.
In crafting the second season premiere, was there discussion about, or temptation to, see the kids cut Mickey off, given they have all the money and she was the one who gave Ben the matches?
John Chernin: We talked about it a lot, but what we always came back to was these kids needed a legal guardian or an adult present. When we came up with the idea of the show, the logline was essentially, “How do you parent these kids who have all of the money and the resources and the leverage in this relationship?” So we kind of came back to that to start season 2.
Dave Chernin: And whatever terrible situation they’re putting her through here is probably better than the life she was leading, whether she wants to admit that or not.
John Chernin: There were definitely some times when we were tempted, for sure, to lose all of the money and maybe do season 2 in Rhode Island with her, but we also figured we just set up this world, so it was too early to leave it.
Last season so much of the story was set in the mansion. Is the hotel the new home base for a while in season 2?
Dave Chernin: They definitely bounce around a lot this year when they try to find a permanent setting.
John Chernin: In season 1, the family was very insulated in the storytelling, and we really tried to focus on the dynamic between our main characters, and it was kind of an outlier whenever we introduced someone new. But we have a lot of fun doing that, so we definitely broaden the world a lot. We’ll meet the kids’ great-grandmother this season. We do an episode that takes place in the prison where their parents now live. We go back to Mickey’s hometown and meet some of her high school friends.
Will episodes like that allow the audience to spend more time with Mickey outside of the kids and family?
Dave Chernin: This year we do try to push ourselves to do some more Mickey adult stuff. We were so fortunate to get Michaela Watkins to come in and play off of Kaitlin in episode 2 as a new friend. I think there is always temptation to give all of our core characters more to do. So it’s a tough balancing act when you have this many performers who are so unbelievably talented.
John Chernin: We really love the Mickey-Jimmy dynamic, too, and it’s always been something you can’t really explain. But we definitely noticed a lot of fans were asking why they stay together, so we actually spend a good amount of time this season delving into that, and you’ll come to understand their relationship. They go back to their hometown in Rhode Island because Jimmy’s high school baseball jersey is being retired, and we just meet a lot of characters from their own life.
Dave Chernin: You’ll find that Jimmy was a different person before he met Mickey, and they’ve been strong influences on each other, for better or worse. And then they’re confronted with whether to make it official or not.
How do you strike the balance of writing for the kids, especially as they’re getting older, and the kinds of stories that will be funniest at their age is changing?
John Chernin: Now that we have an entire season under our belt, we know what certain people are good at doing, so we can lean into people’s strengths a little bit more, and it also gives us a chance to go down roads we didn’t know were going to be interesting last season. And I think a lot of guys in our writers room really enjoy writing for Chip because he’s at an age where he’s so desperate to be cool and wants to come across as cool, but it just comes across as insecure, so that’s really fun for us to lean into. I think the challenge is just trying to push things to a place where things can be funny without crossing a line or getting gross or icky with certain characters.
Which of the kids has proved to be the most surprising in terms of inspiring stories by something they’ve said or done in real life or just bringing something you never expected to the role?
John Chernin: Every single character inspires and surprises us on a daily basis. They bring so much more than what’s on the page. Kaitlin Olson, for starters, no matter what you write her, she’s going to find a way to make it really funny. But one thing we noticed early was Thomas Barbusca, who plays Chip, brings a lot of sympathy to that character. That character is such an a–hole on the page, and the way we write him he’s pretty irredeemable in the things he does or says, but Thomas has a way of making you feel for that kid and just understanding that he has a certain mentality about certain things, but he’s not totally at fault for it, and that’s not something that was ever on the page in season 1. He just found ways to make that character sympathetic, so that’s been really fun to write to now.
Is there a plot point from the first season that you’re particularly excited to be bringing back this year?
Dave Chernin: Chip’s dad, yeah. We dropped the nugget for the audience at the end of season 1 that he’s an illegitimate child, and so we deal with that in the first half of season 2. A lot of it is the audience is the only one in on it, but at a certain point that news will land on Chip’s doorstep, and he’ll have to figure out who his real father is.
Do you feel pressure, either internally or from the network, to top the world-changing events of the season finale?
John Chernin: I think our show is inherently big. I think the most pressure we feel is honestly from our writers because we’re constantly just looking at each other and trying to make each other laugh or make something better than it already is.
Dave Chernin: And to keep the audience guessing is a big thing for us. We don’t feel the pressure to end bigger than we did last year so much as we just want to come up with an interesting way to wrap things up this year, and hopefully it’s a way that people don’t see coming.
“The Mick” season 2 premieres on Fox Sept. 26 at 9 p.m.