It’s always a pleasure to get to chat with Ted Tremper and Tim Baltz, two of the mind’s behind Seeso’s spring hit Shrink. But I must confess, I didn’t expect to get to do so under these circumstances. A mere five months after we celebrated the release of their long-gestating project, we chatted again to address the show’s uncertain future. But the terms of this uncertain future are rather unique, as series EP Chuck Martin noted on Twitter:
First time I've done a series and the network was cancelled. https://t.co/eiYsL9QZkL
— Chuck Martin (@MrChuckMartin) August 9, 2017
According to Ted, the march toward a second season had already started and the mood was positive.
“All the reviews had been very positive, so they asked for a budget and schedule which is usually the first step in getting greenlit for a new season. The Shrink team was tremendously excited. So much so that we preemptively started working on season and character arcs for everyone.”
“In late April, we got budget and schedule approval. By that time, we had outlined the entire season just because we couldn’t stop ourselves from writing.”
Tim echoed that feeling of excitement and enthusiasm about continuing the story of makeshift therapist turned competent professional Dr. David Tracy.
“We knew let’s not try to cram it in; let’s try to leave it at this place where the audience is finally rooting for David, believing he can do this job and then being put in check at a crucial time, and then being faced with a decision: does he go with a plan B that he’s worked so hard at, struggled through to learn a crucial lesson, or does he go back to the plan A that has resurfaced. It goes back to, what’s more valuable? Being given everything you could possibly want, or being forced to work and understand the value of work?”
But then, in April, Seeso head (and strong, creative advocate for Shrink) Evan Shapiro departed the company. What at first, according to Tremper, seemed as though it’d be a “changing of the guard,” soon looked more dire, and the subsequent shutdown moved quickly. Tremper says he learned of Seeso’s official shuttering “a day or so before it became public.”
While Baltz and Tremper lament the uncertain future of the show they worked so hard to make, they recognize there is an additional loss to mourn: that of Seeso itself, a tremendous partner to its creators and stars. Baltz was particularly mournful about losing the network.
“For comedians and lovers of comedy, I don’t know…it felt like a noble experiment! We’re going to be all comedy. We’re not just gonna be only the comedy of one network that you can find online, but we’re gonna go buy things that are all over the comedic spectrum because this is for fans of comedy.”
Tremper agreed. “The resounding message we got at every step of the way was, ‘How can we help you make this the best show possible?’ We would get emails […] about how interns were asking if they could watch rough cuts just because they were so passionate about the work. That kind of support meant everything to me, and I just want to make sure they know that.”
Baltz insists that Seeso was sadly a concept that wasn’t given enough time to grow and sustain itself. “I feel like if it had stayed around long enough, it would have found more willing partners and embedded itself more into the streaming packages that we’re seeing pop up more and more. I felt like it was a model that could last and fit how myself and a lot of other people who like comedy search for it online. It felt like a solution to that.”
While a future home for the show is still up in the air, Tremper articulated a need to find a home for the show that embraced and supported the show in a way that Seeso did. “Creatively, the most important thing is ending up at a network that is as interested in the emotional core of the show as they are at getting laughs. Seeso was so tremendous in that regard. Kelsey Balance, Dan Kerstetter, and Evan Shapiro were the best creative partners I could have imagined. Our creative EP, Patrick Daly, is doing a tremendous job staying on the vanguard of shopping around the show. Other than that, it’d be nice if we didn’t have to bleep swears.”
The #SaveShrink army is hard at work online, expressing its considerable support for a show celebrated for its nuanced, careful and realistic look at mental illness and the professionals who treat it. “There have been a number of fans that have DMed me and Tim telling us about their own struggles with mental health and how much it means to have a show that can conquer that subject matter and still get laughs,” Ted shared. Baltz echoed the sentiment: “[fans] were so grateful that we dealt with it respectfully, that we had a dialogue about it, and when someone had a serious problem in the show, it wasn’t used as a punchline. We went to great lengths to still make it a comedy, but also a show in the garage and in Sue’s office and whenever they’re outside those locations, the gravity and reality of what that is.”
In many ways, it seems that even if the show doesn’t find a new home, knowing that the show achieved its goal would be enough for the pair. Says Tremper, “That was something that was always incredibly important to all of us. Hearing from the fans that we even got close means the world to me.”
With that said, he insists, “Morale with the Shrink family is super high. The feeling is very much, ‘This isn’t over!’” And in a world with so many different options, from network to premium to streaming, it doesn’t have to be. As Tim noted, we’re long past a time where shows can be “lost,” likening it to the early days of film: “if you only made six canisters of film, and then you lose all six of them, that movie’s gone!” There are simply too many outlets for shows like Shrink and its fellow Seeso “refugees” to go the way of lost film. So let’s keep the call going to #SaveShrink, if for no reason other than for a unique promise made to Tremper to get fulfilled. “One woman even said she’d name her new cat ‘P.G. Buttstuff’ if someone gives the show a season two. I don’t know how Hollywood could turn that down.”