Chuck Lorre’s comedies (“Mom,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon”) have tackled a wide range of subjects — and now he’s turning his focus to aging.
In his new comedy for Netflix, “The Kominsky Method,” Michael Douglas (Sandy Kominsky) and Alan Arkin (Norman Newlander) star as two friends — a once-famous star and his longtime agent — tackling life’s curveballs as they navigate their later years in Los Angeles.
“The show began because of my desire to write about what I’m living, which is getting older and entropy and the decay of the flesh,” said Lorre in a panel at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills on Sunday.
“It has to be funny, otherwise it’s heartbreaking. There’s loss of loved ones and how it affects your relationships and friendships. How do you respond to a culture that feels like it’s moving away from you? That was the impetus for the show — to do all that, and hopefully have some comedy involved.”
“I love the fact that Chuck finds aging a humorous process,” said Douglas. Quipped Lorre, “We talk a lot about prostates.”
The eight-episode series, which was announced last summer and will launch November 16, not only marks Lorre’s foray into single cam, as well as Douglas’ first role for television since he starred in “The Streets of San Francisco” in the 1970’s. He has also been nominated for five Emmy Awards, winning outstanding lead actor for the Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra.”
Douglas, who had never worked with Arkin before, said he learned a lot about comedic timing from the Second City alum. “Mr. Lorre here is not a bad writer to say the least,” said Douglas. “I think we both enjoyed having the best dialogue we’ve had in a long time.”
Douglas says he was drawn to the script because of Lorre’s writing, as well as the opportunity to play comedy.I’m attracted to the foibles. The mix of comedy and tragedy is what attracted Douglas to the part. “I do try to pick projects that resonate with me,” he said. “I certainly understand Sandy Kominsky and some of the stuff that he’s going through.”
He also said he’s grown frustrated with the feature business. “The movies that I used to do, the character-driven indie movies, I was frustrated with the lack of distribution. You’d end up watching the moves play in a theater for 7 days and go right to streaming,” said Douglas. “So i love this medium of streaming.”
Lorre admitted he faced a learning curve in adapting to the single cam format after years of producing some of TV’s most successful multi-cams. “The process of making a small movie every week is a lot slower,” he said. “I had a lot to adjust to.”
There’s not a lot of silence in a four-camera show, he said; there’s also no music or scoring. “I needed to learn a lot in a hurry to make this adjustment,” said Lorre.
Lorre said he never considered taking the show to broadcast, given the freedom from commercial breaks and time constraints conveyed by Netflix. (The pilot of Kominsky clocks in at 32 minutes.) “What a luxury to not have the time and the story be determined by an arbitrary number,” he said.
But ultimately, Lorre said, it all comes down to comedy.
“Getting an audience to laugh is a wonderful thing,” said Lorre.
The series is written by Al Higgins, David Javerbaum and Lorre, who also directed the first episode. Lorre, Higgins and Douglas also executive produce the series, which hails from Warner Bros. Television.