Fred Savage is hosting an aftershow for his favorite sci-fi show, The Flare. It’s based on the wildly popular book series The Moon is the Sun at Night, by TJ Whitford. The only thing is: The Flare, the books, and the author don’t exist!
The aftershow is very real. It’s called What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage (series premiere 9:30pm ET tonight). It sounds funny as hell but confusing, so I had a chat with Fred to learn what it’s all about.
Keeping It (Un)Real
“So we came up with a drama called The Flare, about a post-apocalyptic world after a solar flare hits the Earth and wipes out the power grid and people’s memories,” Fred told us. “It’s based on a series of books that we came up with called The Moon Is The Sun At Night, written by an author that we came up with named TJ Whitford, who is a prolific if not kind of reclusive and mysterious author.”
He was so excited during our interview, you still aren’t sure what’s real and what’s not.”So that’s the concept of the show. Then from there we talk a little bit about The Flare and the books and then it kind of becomes a late night talk show. We have celebrithy guests. We have a co-host and a house band and a studio audience.”
What Just Happened??! is a send up of all those gabby shows that follow franchises like Real Housewives, The Living Dead, and Game of Thrones.
I asked Fred which part of the show he worked on first; writing the source material like the book, filming segments of The Flare, or skits for the aftershow? “My partners, Matt and Dave, were like ‘Fred, I don’t think we’re gonna write a 700 page science fiction novel. That may not be the best use of our time.’ After some thinking, I realized they were right.” But you can tell he’s still a little bummed there isn’t a book (yet!)
“So we created enough backstory for me to fell comfortable playing this version of myself who knows everything about. So we definitely put a lot of work into the backstories and source material.”
I told him that with no detailed canon, he has the freedom to take characters on The Flare in any direction he wants. “Absolutely. The show can be anything, The Flare, because we’re largely making it up as we go along. We have a structure but it can pretty much be whatever we want it to be.”
Talk It Out
Fred’s wanted to be a talk show host for awhile. He filled in a lot when Kelly Ripa held a year long audition for a co-host on Live! and Fred openly campaigned for the job only to be pushed aside for Ryan Seacrest. So essentially Fred is getting to check being a talk show host off his career bucket list.
But he told me it’s more than just a talker. “It’s a little bit aftershow a little bit late night talk show. It’s kind of stuff that we thought would be an original approach to a new kind of comedy show.”
“I’m myself. I’m Fred on the show. It’s a version of myself. In order to play this super fan, someone who’s really excited about these books, you kind of have to be aware and know the source material. So I’m focused on building out this world and developing the show.”
He’ll also be getting out of his ‘reality’ studio. “We have remote pieces that are comedy bits out in the field. Then again it has a structure but they kind of go where they take you. There are parts that are very tightly scripted. But there’s also an element of anything can happen.”
And like all good aftershows, there will be a parade of celebrity guests, including Fred’s longtime BFF. “It’s great! Rob (Lowe) is our first celebrity guest on the show. And to have him on as a first guest both as someone who’s a huge fan of Rob’s, he’s an icon in show business, but also as a friend, it just meant the world to me that he kicks us off.”
And from there it’s one Hollywood heavyweight after another. “Our guests are incredible. Rob Lowe, Tiffany Haddish, Ken Jeong, Joel McHale, Jillian Bell, Ike Barinholtz. We have a real teriffic group of couch guests who I interview.”
I’ve interviewed everyone on that list except for Jillian. Those are all great stars but they’re also funny and aren’t afraid to go off the rails. So I asked Fred if they diverted a lot from the script. That’s when I found out there are no scripts for them! “The interviews aren’t scripted at all. It’s all them coming through. There are some tightly scripted elements of the show. There’s a bit of a storyline that takes us through each episode. But the interviews are your straightforward interview that you would do, like a regular late night interview.”
“It’s nice to have a foot in both worlds. One firmly on the ground, and one just sinking very quickly.”
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Long Island Ice Tea. Like What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage, it’s got a little bit of everything in it, but you’re still not sure what you’re getting yourself into.