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Creator's Blog

INTERIOR: Dermatology Office  Day

Going to try to be brief and to the point with this week's blog.  Quick, short sentences.  That sort of thing.

But before I launch into things, I need to point out that this episode is incorrectly titled.  "Escape from the Castle!", which alludes nicely to our opening episode, "Escape from the Dungeon!", is not actually the correct title.  It was my original title, but I changed it to: "I Want to be a Eunuch in the Harem of an Arab Prince!"  But due to some bureaucratic snafu, the old title was left in place, which is a shame.  I really wanted to see that nutty eunuch line reproduced on IMDB and other such places.  For me, this whole thing - creating this show - is an expressive, loony performance and so even the titles are important to me.

Anyway, in this opening scene, please take note of the pamphlet Jonathan is looking at.  It's a hidden little joke, which may go unnoticed.  The headline of the pamphlet is: "Port Wine Stains: What Can be Done?"  And then it shows a photo of a man on a cell-phone, with a large Gorbachev-esque port wine stain.  Jonathan reads the pamphlet with interest, cocking his eyebrow.  This is a very tiny moment at the top of the episode, but I get a big kick out of it.

INTERIOR: Classroom  Night

I have Jonathan wearing a bandage on his face as an homage to the Polanski film 'Chinatown' and Jack Nicholson's private detective character, J.J. Gittes, who famously sports a bandage on his nose after having it cut.

I wanted the photo of Louis Greene (John Hodgman) to be reminiscent of a Marion Ettlinger author-portrait.  Her pictures of writers are somewhat famous in the literary world.  She once photographed me holding my old fencing sabre from Princeton.  It's in her book 'Author Photo.'

John Hodgman, even in a picture, manages to be funny.  And the opening line of his story continues his theme of deriding Jonathan nonsensically for the shape of his skull.

Later in this scene, Jonathan spanks Nina (Zoe Kazan).   Paul Dano, who dates Zoe Kazan in real life (what an odd phrase - "real life"), was spanked in the film adaptation of my novel 'The Extra Man.'  Make of this what you will. 

INTERIOR: Jonathan's Kitchen  Day

Please take note in this scene of Patrick Bucklew's sunflower painting and Jen Ferguson's Brooklyn Bridge drawings, which you can see here.

INTERIOR: Women's Locker-room  Day

I have Jonathan make reference to Tony Curtis because I wanted the whole episode to have the feeling of 'Some Like It Hot' in its zaniness and looniness.

EXTERIOR: Roof Deck - Day

Here's an exchange of dialogue that got cut from the top of the scene:

George: ...If you don't mind me saying so, you did seem a bit touchy about your birthday.

Ray: It's a childhood thing.  My dad, to save money, said birthdays were for p***ies, which, of course, turned me into a p***y on the issue. It's my one weakness.

George: I'm sorry.

Ray: It's no big deal.  I've already rebounded emotionally.

INTERIOR: Massage Room  Day

The masseuse who is walking on Jonathan, George, and Ray actually works at the Spa Castle in Queens, where this episode was filmed.  After we shot this scene, she walked on my back for fifteen minutes and it was quite magnificent.

As far as I know, a three-way back-walking-massage-table does not exist, but we built one especially for this scene, since I thought it would be funny to see our three guys talking while someone traipsed across their backs.

I'm particularly happy with Ted's performance of this speech: "I guess it's heightened now...I want to try everything.  I want to be insane like Klaus Kinski...I want to live in Stockholm in the winter because I've fallen in love...I want to be a eunuch in the harem of an Arab prince."  Part of this speech refers back to episode 5 from last season, when George is advised by the male escort he has hired to read the autobiography of Werner Herzog's muse, the wild actor, Klaus Kinski. 

The transformation of the actor Jake Manabat from his male persona, when he meets Jonathan earlier and receives the note, to this entrance as a woman (Hee), is quite something and a real credit to our make-up and wardrobe department.  Also, Jake was incredible in this role and we were lucky to find him.

INTERIOR: Spa Hallway - Day

I have George say, "So Hee is a he but also a she?" as an allusion to the famous Abbot and Costello routine "Who's on First?"  I had a whole bunch of riffs to extend this banter, but I didn't think it was going to work, so I reduced it to that one line by George.

INTERIOR: Women's Locker Room - Day

I guess it's every teenage boy's fantasy to imagine being in a women's locker room.  I know I used to dream of it in high school - oh, what it would be like to just be in there for five minutes!  I would watch the girls disappear in there before gym class and it seemed so incredible that they would all be getting down to their panties and bras and maybe even getting naked, but high school was a long time ago and that desire to be in a locker room had been long forgotten and repressed.  But then this episode came along and I had a chance to make that fantasy a reality.  The truth is that while shooting, I felt rather embarrassed for all the women and would hardly stare, though I do admit I stared a little...

EXTERIOR: Spa Castle  Early Evening

I was obsessed with Vikram throwing his newspaper into the air just right, and Ajai Naidu did this perfectly.  I know that image is somewhere in my mind from the old comedies I watched as a kid, either Abbot and Costello, The Three Stooges, or Laurel and Hardy.  It always seemed like somebody would throw a newspaper into the air in shock as chaos takes over, and I wanted to recreate this.  For some reason, I love to think of Vikram out there, waiting, happy in his own world, reading the paper, thinking of poetry he wants to write, and then out comes George, Ray, Jonathan, and Hee, and he's startled into action and the newspaper goes flying...

EXTERIOR: Graveyard  Night

We actually shot this scene during daylight, using special lighting and camera techniques, and I'm quite happy with how it turned out.  We shot this at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, which is incredibly beautiful and I sort of wish cemeteries, especially in cities, could be used as parks.  Perhaps it doesn't seem respectful, but maybe it would be a way to truly respect and honor the dead, if such a glorious bit of land could be enjoyed by more people.

EXTERIOR: Brooklyn Navy Yard  Night

It's probably over-the-top, but I wanted to pay homage to the ending of'Some Like it Hot' when Dr. O'Connor, referring to Hee, says, "She's perfect."  This is an allusion to the last line of 'Some Like it Hot,' when Jack Lemmon tells the man who's taking him to his yacht in a small boat that he, Jack Lemmon, though dressed as a woman, is actually a man, and so then the man replies, "Nobody's perfect."  It was such a generous and unexpected thing to say, and the look on Jack Lemmon's face was just incredible, so I was giving a spin on that line and that scene here at the end of our episode. 

I also, insanely enough, when our four heroes walk off, wanted somewhat to recreate the feeling - and I know this is the most over-copied image - of the ending of  'Casablanca.'  I wanted to convey this sense of friendship and adventure continuing beyond the conclusion of the story.  I always enjoy endings like that, where the reader or the viewer is left to imagine for themselves what might happen next.  In essence, I like endings that are actually beginnings.

Posted 12:00 AM | Nov 8, 2010

15: Escape From The Castle!

Season 2