Dimension 404 starts on Hulu on April 4, and for those who enjoy anthology shows in the best tradition of Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, The Outer Limits, and more recently Black Mirror, this is not a series premiere to miss. It comes from the minds behind the YouTube juggernaut, RocketJump: Dez Dolly, Freddie Wong, and Matt Arnold. Dolly is taking the showrunner reins of this funny, twisted sci-fi/horror hybrid, and he admits that Dimension 404 is built on an established legacy.
“Our influences are definitely worn on our sleeve,” he confesses. “We didn’t necessarily want to nostalgically recreate one of those shows. I just think that, by nature of my fellow writers and I being so heavily influenced by Outer Limits and Twilight Zone and even Night Gallery reruns when we were kids, we just couldn’t shake it.”
RocketJump has nearly 8 million subscribers and has found success with web series such as Video Game High School, but the goal was always to use the platform as a stepping stone to bigger things. “We were able to use that audience as I guess you could say guaranteed butts in seats so we could take meetings with more traditional media platforms like Hulu,” says Dolly. “Lucky for us, Hulu loved the concept and they provided an outlet outside of our normal YouTube ecosystem.”
Dimension 404 episodes cover everything from clones to alien invasions to time travel, all centered around life with modern technology. “At their heart they’re all about real characters searching for meaning and understanding in a changing world where culture and technology are evolving at a rate at which it is really impossible to keep up,” Dolly explains. “Then those characters experience that fun hook, that Twilight Zone-esque twist.”
The self-contained nature of the anthology series allows recognizable stars to sign on for quick appearances, which is guaranteed to bring in viewers. “It’s certainly a lot easier for someone like Patton Oswalt to commit to half a week’s worth of work as opposed to a season commitment where production would take place over the course of many, many weeks. So we were incredibly lucky in that regard that when we’re reaching out to talent, we’re only asking for a small commitments with really high yield for us.”
Other actors television fans might recognize in the six-season event series include Robert Buckley of iZombie, Lea Michele of Glee, Sarah Hyland of Modern Family, Ashley Rickards of Awkward, Joel McHale of Community, Ryan Lee of Super8, Lorenza Izzo of Feed the Beast, and Megan Mullally of Will and Grace. But nothing will equal the joy of hearing Mark Hamill’s voice as the Rod Serling-like narrator of the title sequence and the beginning of each story.
“That was one of the most exciting days of my life,” says Dolly, “hearing that he not only agreed to do the show but was actually really super-excited about it. This wasn’t just some one-off paid gig for him. It was, he informed us, a real passion for him to be associated with an anthology show, him being a fan of Twilight Zone when he was a kid.”
Hulu has an interesting release strategy for Dimension 404, dropping the first three episodes on April 4 (a clever choice of date for a show of this title), and releasing the final three in the succeeding weeks. “I think this split release offers the best of both worlds,” suggests Dolly. “I personally am a fan of event television, and that is the type of show that Dimension 404 is. Each episode is in a sense its own mini-movie, and we approached these as pieces of cinema.
Dolly concludes by saying, “We’re basically teasing them by saying, ‘Look, you enjoy it, right? Well, you’re going to have to come back next Tuesday. Hold on — wait and see what weird twist and turns are around the bend.” The full audio of this interview is available on the April edition of our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast. Subscribe or simply listen below (timecode 48:54)! iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud