Adult Swim series are often able to successfully mash together genres or find fresh takes on traditional ideas. In a broad sense, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything special about their latest animated series, Hot Streets. The program follows the law-abiding antics of the top secret “Hot Streets” division of the FBI. These unusual special agents keep the city safe from a wealth of supernatural entities, while they also clash with one another and bicker over the mundane.
Hot Streets comes from Brian Wysol, whose previous credits include Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken. Wysol channels those same chaotic, creative sensibilities here and he’s able to turn this supernatural FBI show into a series that immediately grabs the audience’s attention. Adult Swim is only acquiring more content and as a result it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle between their many new programs, but Hot Streets feels like something that it’s worth making the time for. In honor of the show’s premiere, we touched base with its creator, Brian Wysol, to talk about how this twisted series came to life and where he hopes Hot Streets is headed.
DEN OF GEEK: How did the idea for Hot Streets come about and evolve through production? Have you had this idea for a long time?
BRIAN WYSOL: I had made a bunch of these shorts for Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab’s Channel 101. I had made two shorts in particular that I really liked. One was called Hot Cross Buns and another one was called We Solve the Crime. I was trying to come up with ideas for a TV show and I really liked the characters from We Solve the Crime, but I wanted to put them in more of a science fiction setting. So I kind of merged the sensibilities together between both of these smaller ideas.
The original conceit was a cop show with supernatural elements. When I met with Adult Swim they felt like the cop “case of the week” angle held back the show a little bit. So I changed it to where they’re FBI agents and I think that was a really great thing that opened this world up. They don’t have to investigate a crime, so to speak, they can just deal with the supernatural.
DEN OF GEEK: How did you figure out the characters for this show? Did the Hot Streets group look different at any point or change through development?
BRIAN WYSOL: The characters from the shorts are definitely different from the characters in the TV show. But the idea for the characters within the show never changed. The idea of having this stoic, dumb character and then the overly emotional and intellectual partner was always in its DNA. Jen sort of helps ground the show and has a lot of personal space. When creating the show she was a new addition. The show is so crazy that I felt that it needed someone who can bring a sense of reality back to it all.
Then there’s Chubbie Webbers, the “mystery dog.” A “mystery dog” is a dog that would appear in series from the ’70s and ’80s like Scooby-Doo or Brain from Inspector Gadget. It’s that dog who’s sort of a wild card. Sometimes he helps, makes things worse, or is just a punching bag for the team. A character like that is really useful in terms of throwing wrenches into storylines.
Justin Roiland’s performance as Chubbie Webbers is such a mystifying thing. How did that voice and performance come about?
BRIAN WYSOL: From the very beginning, before I had even pitched the show to Adult Swim or before he had attached himself as an executive producer, I asked if he would voice this character and he said that he would. So I sent over an animatic that I had made where I played Chubbie Webbers and did this sort of canine noise. When he sent me something back it was that weird voice that’s in the show and it was just so different than what I had given him to start. I was dying with laughter and it’s just perfect. It also certainly changed how we would write the character because he made him sound a lot more pathetic. There’s something just sad about everything that he does.
Since there does feel like there’s some overlap in terms of what both this show and Rick and Morty cover, how are Hot Streets stories different than Rick and Morty ones?
BRIAN WYSOL: Well coming from that writers’ room I definitely use a lot of the same storytelling techniques. Dan Harmon notoriously uses a circle to structure his stories, which we also do on Hot Streets. Being different from Rick and Morty is definitely something that we talked about a lot.
One of the things that we try to avoid—A lot of shows like Rick and Morty or South Park will do pop culture jokes so well that I didn’t feel like we had anything to add in that category. So one way in which we try to differentiate ourselves is to try to limit that as much as possible. In the third episode there’s a bit of a Superman homage, but we’re not really referencing pop culture in the dialogue. We also try to avoid meta jokes as well because Rick and Morty also really excels in that area. So those are some ways in which we’re trying to find our own voice.
This show gets into some really insane things like mummies, aliens, and a whole lot more. Is there any territory that you’d say is too out there for the show and something that you couldn’t see meshing with this world? Is there a street too hot for Hot Streets?
BRIAN WYSOL: We’re trying to just keep finding new things! So I would say that the answer to that is, “No.” Every time that we’re breaking an episode we work really hard in that department. In my opinion, the episode that really kicks the walls down is the third one. You watch the first two and you go, “I get it. It’s just a supernatural cop show,” but after the third episode it’s a show that could be anything. For me the show gets better as it goes on, especially after the third one. But we constantly wrestle with finding something new and different to explore. It’s also fun because each episode is kind of in a new location so you never know what you’ll get. Maybe they time travel to the old west, go underwater, or be in outer space.
Do you guys talk at all about the “rules” for this show’s universe at all, or do you keep things pretty loose?
BRIAN WYSOL: Well one of the very first shots in the pilot is a car being driven that has two steering wheels. So I think right from that it gives us a lot of leverage to embrace the absurdity of this world. That being said, we do have an overall story that we’re trying to tell and by the end of the tenth episode there’s serialization that pays off. So there are things that happen in episodes that are important. It’s not like our characters die at the end of an episode and then just magically come back for the next one. There’s a history to what’s happening and it does affect the overall arc.
Was there a certain episode or story that was particularly hard to break and if so, why?
BRIAN WYSOL: We had this episode, episode seven, and it was the hardest to break because we had set up a scenario where Jen is trapped underground. She’s solving these problems and it was just so boring. We stayed up really late trying to fix this and at one point someone mentioned a character that just storms in and beats everyone up. It made us laugh so hard, it solved the problem, and it’s now one of my favorite gags of the whole season. It’s this random dog character and the beauty of how just creating one new character can really help get you out of a corner.
You also do the music in this show, which is really great. Talk a little about the synth-y score and why you wanted the show to have this sort of music.
BRIAN WYSOL: Over the years as I’ve been making shorts for Channel 101, I’ve been creating the music for them, too. A lot of the time music will become part of the joke, too. So I thought that it was important going into a series that I would also be the one responsible for the music. Now, in terms of the sound of the music, for the past 15 or 20 years I’ve had this old vintage sampler. This really old school sampler. By nature because of how old it is it has kind this sort of synth-y sound. This leads to people saying that it has kind of an ’80s feel and soundtrack. That’s not really the case though. It’s just a result of the tool that I’m using here. I’ve got to say though that making the music is the most fun for me because I don’t know what I’m doing or where it’s going to go. It’s just fun to mess around with all of that.
The show’s animation style is crude, but still quite complex and elegant. Why did you want this particular look for the show and did you consider any other styles?
BRIAN WYSOL: Going from pilot to series, you’ll probably notice that there’s a big visual change. For the pilot we did this experiment where we used CGI assets that we were rotoscoping. That dimension was such a nightmare during the pilot process that I knew that we wouldn’t be able to make it work for the series.
So the cool thing is that we hired an amazing director, Pete Michaels, who was the supervising director for the first two seasons of Rick and Morty. I was able to lean on him a lot to create a new visual style. It took us a couple of episodes—I think if you look at the first two episodes you can notice it, although most people probably won’t—and by episode three there’s a bit of a visual upgrade. We hired additional people to help with the retake animation. Going forward if we are lucky enough to get a season two, I think that there’s definitely still room for improvement there, but I’m happy with how the show looks and that it really settles into its style after episode three.
Would you like to do anything differently on the show’s second season? Do you know what that might look like or how things might change?
BRIAN WYSOL: Yes. In a hypothetical second season—if I were lucky enough to get that—is that in season one we set up a bit of a hidden overall arc that gets solved by the end. I like having that larger arc so in a season two we would definitely have another season-long arc where any new mysteries would be solved by the end of the season. Also, I would like to further explore the characters because one of the challenges of a 15-minute show is that they move so fast. I’d like to dig deeper into some of these characters and get to figure out their history and backstories.
Hot Streets’ first season premieres January 14th at midnight with back-to-back episodes each week.