Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, TV reporter Joe Otterson talks with executive producers Jon Hurwtiz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald of YouTube’s “Cobra Kai.”
Set roughly 30 years after the original iconic “Karate Kid” films, “Cobra Kai” centers around grown-up versions of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Maccio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
The first season portrayed Lawrence, who was a bratty villain in the movies, as an “earnest underdog,” who has been treated poorly by society and witnessed much tragedy in his life. Meanwhile Daniel looks like he has it all, but in reality, he’s “missing Mr. Miyagi” and has forgotten some of the life senses he taught him.
All three executive producers say they were huge “Karate Kid” fans growing up, and recount the time they first asked Zabka and Maccio to reprise their roles for TV.
“When we approached them for the first season of the show, showing up from out of nowhere and saying, ‘Surprise we have the rights to ‘Karate kid, let’s do this,’ we knew that you can only trade on the movie’s dynamic for so long,” says Hurwtiz. “In terms of the earnest kid who’s got to learn karate from the mentor and defeat all the villains and become the champion. We’ve seen that story before so to start telling that story again from Daniel’s perspective didn’t excite us, didn’t make sense.”
So instead, the trio decided to “flip the script” and make Zabka’s character the focus for season one.
At the end of the first ten episodes, Johnny has re-established the mean-spirited Cobra Kai dojo, and Daniel sees no option but to setup his own Miyagi-do dojo in retaliation.
“In season two, you get to see the rivalry bleed down into the next generations in a much bigger way,” Schlossberg teases. “From the beginning, the intention was for season one to be a set up for season two, which was going to be dojo versus dojo, a fight for the soul of the valley.”
The show is essentially about two strip mall dojos taking each other on, and while the three EPs admit that idea is ludicrous on the surface, they wanted to make sure to take the characters and plot seriously, in order for the audience to be properly invested.
“In terms of the earnestness and the weight with which we treat this rivalry…that on paper would appear to be silly, it’s a high school fight that has blossomed into this poisonous rage that has infected the next generation in the valley,” Heald says. “It’s different in that there’s a lot more characters you care about entering season two, in season one you just knew Johnny and Daniel.”
Later in the show, critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke preview Netflix’s “Tuca & Bertie” and CBS’s “The Red Line.”
And finally, Joe talks with Ben Edlund, creator of “The Tick,” whose second season is streaming on Amazon.
Edlund explains that they found a “better pace and sense of balance” with the second season, partly due to the superhero trope of government regulation which has been thrown into the mix.
“Arthur and the Tick needed a workplace terrain and luckily we were already building into the story this idea of super hero regulation,” he says. “It’s the fun of playing with government intersecting with superhero’s and meta humans, and we got full on into it and it was wildly rewarding.”