Q&A: Adam Dubowsky & Alex Stone Talk 'The Movie Show'

Post by: Rick Ellis 21 January, 2021

It's a bit difficult to accurately describe SYFY’s new national late night TV series The Movie Show. The series is about a pair of puppets named "Deb & Wade" who host a fictional public access movie review based in Modesto, California. Deb is a serious local movie critic who tries to approach every film with a serious eye. And Wade is a guy who thinks "The Meg" is perhaps the best movie ever made and has been known to pay for Dinosaur porn.

But here's really the only thing you need to know about The Movie Show - it's hilarious. The pop-culture references and jokes come flying at you with the frequency of poisonous darts in an Indiana Jones movie. Not every joke lands, but there are so many ridiculous moments and insane punch lines that the show is over before you know it. I'm a tough audience when it comes to comedy. But The Movie Show was maybe my favorite new TV comedy of 2020.

Adam Dubowsky & Alex Stone created the show and voice many of the characters. I spoke with them recently about the show and the type of feedback they receive from the network.

Q: I understand that the network came to you with the idea of doing a movie review show. So what was their reaction when you came back to them and said, "Okay, there's puppets, there is a fair amount of swearing and an uncomfortable amount of semi-nudity?

Adam: First of all, we think the nudity is very comfortable.

Alex:  But...they weren't sold on the puppets immediately. There were a couple of different shows we pitched them with different character combinations. And one of the marching orders was that we had the freedom to make it weird. So the nudity and the swearing just fell into that. But they weren't entirely sold on the puppets. So we wrote a version of the show and went in and read it to them. And our series was different in that we would just read drafts to the executives as we went along. 

And one of the days we went in to read, they were kind enough to fill the conference room with people from around the office so there would be laughter. At the end, we pulled out Adam's laptop and said "And just so you know, if we go down this puppet road, this is what they could look like." And we had puppets on the laptop. And there was this real-time, in the moment conversation in the room about "are puppets cool?

There was this intern - I don't know his name - and everyone in the room turned to him and said "young person in the room, do young people like puppets? " And he just said "a lot of my friends are making short films with puppets." So that's what it took to get puppets into the show.

Q: I'm curious about the production process of the show. How much direct feedback are you getting from the network? Are you still doing tablereads, are they looking at script updates, etc.?

Adam: When Adam and I were initially pitching the show, we were going in and doing the tablereads. But once we got the season order, we didn't do any tablereads for them. We had a really tight schedule and a tight turnaround. We were originally supposed to start filming a couple of days before the pandemic shut everything down. So we didn't have time for tablereads. We would send them a bunch of scripts and they would send their notes back. We were lucky enough that they really respected our voices because we really didn't butt heads. There were just some times when we would hear back "guys, this part is just too much" and we would back off a bit.

Alex: You mentioned the nudity and the swearing earlier and the swearing in particular was one of those things where I kept expecting them to say "pull a lot of that back." But they gave us a lot of freedom to do what we wanted, which was nice.

Q: I've spoken with other people who have responded to network notes by throwing something in the script they know the network won't approve just so they can agree to take it out and then keep the thing they really wanted in the first place. I'm curious if this is a negotiating method you might have tried with the show?

Alex: (laughs) There are a lot of mental chess moves you play on any show.

Adam: Honestly, we haven't had to do much of that.

Alex: We have a script coming up in a few weeks where we expected questions and we got it back with a "good to go." So even when we tried to do that....

Adam: We were laughing hysterically when we were getting ready to send the email. We couldn't believe we were sending an outline this insane to other humans and then like Alex, said, it was "good to go!"

Q: I did stand-up for about ten years and one of things I enjoyed the most was going out after a show, having a drink and just riffing on pop culture stuff. And this show captures that feel. Last night's episode (which premiered January 14th), included a grown-up Howard the Duck who's a DJ in Cleveland, a machine gun-toting raccoon and the brother of Thor's hammer riding around on a Roomba...it's insane. And it's difficult to describe to someone if you try and tell them "this is the stuff that happens, you should definitely watch."

Adam: (laughing) How do you think our parents feel? Yesterday they had to watch the episode and I'm the talking hammer. How do you even explain that to them? "I'm the talking hammer." "What!?!" But once they watch it, I think it makes sense.

Q: When I try to describe the show, my best pitch is that it's a show that has a lot of great lines and bits in it, even though most of the time the jokes are just flying at you without a lot of context. It almost feels like a stand-up performance, without being one exactly.

Adam: That was our goal all along. We each wanted to make things that are funny. If it makes sense, if it doesn't make sense, that's fine. Just so long as it's funny.

Alex: I am a joke writer and Adam comes from a sketch-writing background. It's all we know how to do. Write it until we think it's funny. So I think that is coming across in the show too.

Q: Have you consciously changed the pace of the show as the season has progressed? Obviously I haven't see the entire season, but it seems as if the jokes are coming even faster and more frantic in the past couple of episodes? It feels as if you're making less of an effort to go from scene A to scene B as opposed to "we're going to throw in as much as we possibly can."

Adam: I think it's an organic development. We get in the room with the writers and we start with one joke and then it keeps building on itself. It gets weirder as we go along. But each episode, we get more confident and I think that might be part of what you're seeing.

Q: Have there been some things that you couldn't figure out? Not so much from a "I don't think the audience would understand or the network would go for it" standpoint. But just the direction of "Hey, this is a great idea, but we just can't figure out how to make it physically work."

Adam: We always have budgetary constraints. Especially during the pandemic. We shut down and didn't think we were coming back and then we picked up and started filming again. So we had to move a couple of more locations we were going to do. We were going to do some more locations in the field. And we just couldn't do them because of COVID and restraints and safety. So it's a credit to our entire crew and our staff that we shot for three and-a-half months and we didn't have a single positive COVID test. That was fantastic and it showed how seriously everyone took everything.

Other than that, it's just the execution of shooting things with the puppets. We would have to be conscious of things when we writing. We'd think "Oh, this is going to be crazy and Wade and Deb are running back-and-forth in the background." But you can't do that, because you would see the puppeteers. So there were a couple of things like that.

Alex: I have one sketch at the top of my mind where we had The X-Men - which we ended up not talking about. But we had Wade assembling his own X-Men at his house. And it was just all of these freaks and weirdos from around Modesto, California. But when we started fleshing it out, we realized it was going to use up our casting budget for a bunch of episodes. You sort of find out on your way to writing it that this is an idea that isn't going to work out.

Q: I think sometimes the budget constraints might work in your favor. I mentioned the raccoon with a machine gun segment and I laughed hysterically when I saw the raccoon, which was basically just a raccoon plush with a toy machine gun strapped to its hands. I don't know if that made the scene funnier per se, but it did add another level to the humor.

Adam: If you want a little peek behind the curtain, we actually had a live raccoon...well I don't want to say cast, it's not like they auditioned. But we had a live raccoon booked and were all excited and we had that taxidermy raccoon around as a backup, in case the real raccoon didn't want to hold the gun or something like that. And apparently the raccoon got nervous or something - not about the filming, I don't it has stage fright - but it was anxious for some reason and licked all the hair off of its tail the weekend before filming. And we found out a day or two ahead of the shooting and we just decided "we'll make it work."

Alex: Across the board, we did decide to lean into the low budget absurdity of it all. In one episode, we had a dinosaur and it's obviously a man in a dinosaur suit. So you just go with "it's obviously a guy in a suit, so don't worry what it looks like."

Q: How many episodes do you have total in the season?

Adam: We have twelve (episode eight airs tonight).

Q: And I know it's a little early, but I'm assuming you'd like to do a new season if you can?

Alex: No, we're good. We've done what we needed to do.

Adam: (both laughing). Obviously, we'd like to do a second season. Maybe not immediately, but we'd love to do it.

The Movie Show airs tonight on Syfy at 11:00 p.m. ET. Next week, the show moves to Wednesdays at 11pm ET / 8pm PST.


Last modified on Thursday, 21 January 2021 15:34