Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with creative partners and brothers Mark and Jay Duplass about their new HBO series “Room 104,” which is set in one hotel room and features new characters and genres in each 23-minute episode. The brothers conceived “Room 104” around 10 years ago, but, discouraged by their agent to pitch an anthology series, kept it on the backburner.
When “Togetherness” was canceled and the Duplasses decided they were tired of killing themselves writing and directing every episode of a series, HBO was receptive to their pitch of bringing on new filmmakers to direct the series.
“(‘Togetherness’) was rewarding, but we were telling a similar kind of story over and over again, and all these things started to come together and made us feel like we wanted to try something different that sheds our skin a little bit, that is more intensely collaborative, that works with representation of different types of actors, different types of people behind the camera, and we said we should bring up ‘Room 104’ again,” Mark said.
Mark continued that the pair came up with the story almost entirely organically from their own experiences. “The original impetus for the show is really just how obsessed we are with different kinds of people,” he said. “When we show up in motel rooms, we see little dings on the walls and stains on the carpet, and we just can’t help but wonder about the types of stories and the types of people that were in there before us.”
He added that the setting is what allowed them to be so explorative with the different stories they told. “Every single person stays in a banal corporate chain motel, so it allows us to tell any kind of story we want to. … Sometimes crazy stuff happens there, but sometimes a very normal sweet story about an old couple happens there. And that’s just really exciting to us, that it was a justification to do genres.”
Unlike “Togetherness,” the brothers feel that the more they discuss the show, the more it expands, so viewers who are fans of the show can look forward to more wacky ideas — assuming, of course, it gets renewed for a second season.
The brothers also touched on what makes a good television idea, since the trend seems to be creators pitching what should be film ideas as television ideas.
“For the case of ‘Room 104,’ I would honestly say … maybe, in the age of all this television, it’s something that can cut through and be experimental and hopefully it’s a breath of fresh air,” Mark said. “My ultimate goal for this show is not for everybody to fall in love with every episode, it’s to have people come in, and like Tinder, swipe left and swipe right, and find the ones they like.”
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