Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is a recurring feature in which creators, actors, and industry insiders to bring the readers behind the scenes of the production process. In our latest installment, we removed the curtain on the writers’ room for the second season of Fox’s The Mick.
This part of the walkthrough looks at the 12th episode from The Mick’s second season. Previous installments can be found here.
In this installment, showrunners Dave and John Chernin are joined by the episode’s writer, Heather Flanders, and Scott MacArthur (Jimmy Shepherd).
The Mick Season 2 Episode 12 – “The City”
“Mickey and the gang take a trip to New York City and discover that Jimmy is flourishing at an investment firm. While chatting with the firm’s partners, Mickey sings Jimmy’s praises in hopes that they will give him a promotion. Meanwhile, Chip visits his biological father.”
Written by Heather Flanders; Directed by Eric Dean Seaton
DEN OF GEEK: So Jimmy’s back in this one! Was it important to show him doing super well when Mickey’s no longer a part of his life?
JOHN CHERNIN: I think it was always a joke that Dave and I shared where it would be funny to get rid of Jimmy for a while. Like completely forget about him. Then when we get back to him he’s stolen Ben’s identity and is just flourishing. We thought that would be a really funny color for this character and then found an episode that would allow us to do that.
In the same sense, was it important to have Mickey once again ultimately knock down all of Jimmy’s success here?
DAVE CHERNIN: Well we talked about this a lot and the ruining of Jimmy’s progress isn’t done with any sort of intention or maliciousness. It’s actually done so Mickey can try and protect him. With the way that things go with these characters Jimmy does lose this opportunity by the end, but everything that Mickey did came from a place of love. It’s also a different angle from the Warwick episode where these things are happening from out of anger.
JOHN CHERNIN: It’s also just the best version of that couple. They don’t seem to necessarily be the best thing for one another, but they’re all that they’ve got and they make it work.
For a second I thought that you guys really might have killed off Jimmy. Was that ever on the table? Or maybe the possibility of him staying in New York and the show checking in with him every few episodes?
SCOTT MACARTHUR: Let me step out of the room for that answer.
JOHN CHERNIN: It’s a threat that we like to dangle over Scott in the writers’ room so he’s more motivated to learn his lines.
DAVE CHERNIN: It’s a fickle business and it could end at any time.
SCOTT MACARTHUR: You do know that I haven’t slept in two years.
JOHN CHERNIN: But no, that death was never seriously on the table. I think that we still kind of regret killing Kai, Sabrina’s boyfriend from the first season. I don’t think we can really kill off more characters any time soon.
You need to space it out to like an every other season sort of situation.
JOHN CHERNIN: In the mean time we’ll just horribly disfigure Jimmy until we can off him.
SCOTT MACARTHUR: To be fair, at this point he doesn’t have a penis or a butthole.
He’s slowly turning into a Barbie doll. It’s a great idea for Chip’s actual biological father [Jay Mohr] to accept him, but he’s such a repulsive individual in the end. Was this a nice change of pace from Chip’s dynamic with Howard?
HEATHER FLANDERS: Yeah, I think the idea of pairing Chip with this gross character was just so funny to us. What I think works so well about all of this is that Chip wants to connect with his dad, no matter what. He’s had a real journey this season and he’s at a point where he just wants this bond, even if it does end up being with this shlub. So even if this isn’t the sort of person that Chip wants as a father, he figures that maybe he can still help him in some way. But yes, he’s obviously very different than Howard Buckley.
DAVE CHERNIN: I just love how desperate this guy is and his sad shoebox diorama of this strip club that he wants to open in Florida. He’s so tender about it.
Did you consider any different angles for Chip’s second dad?
DAVE CHERNIN: I think we always knew that the funniest version of this story would involve pairing Chip up with the polar opposite of what he’s looking for. So yeah, I think we always wanted to end up with this dirt bag father character and I even think that was the reasoning for Howard Buckley before him. We went back and forth on what his dad should be like and then decided that we should find a way to just do both of them.
The moment where Ben sticks up for the unidentified corpse is surprisingly sweet and speaks to his character really well. Talk a little on this development.
DAVE CHERNIN: Oh man, that was a story that we were struggling with up until the very last second. There were definitely some late nights on that one. We knew that we had this corpse in play and were trying to figure out an end place for Ben in the episode. So we figured out that he would eat this guy and then we reverse engineered it from there. Ben is always at his best when he’s the sweetest kid with the purest intentions and he’s just oblivious to how fucked up his surroundings are.
JOHN CHERNIN: I think we actually landed on that because our first idea was to have Chip’s dad snort the ashes thinking that they were cocaine. We thought that was far too crazy so we backed into Ben eating them.
Which I’d say is arguably even crazier! Especially since it involves a child.
SCOTT MACARTHUR: And remember here that ashes are dark and cocaine is white.
DAVE CHERNIN: We discussed if Ben eating a dead guy was going too far and promptly said, “No.”
Also, they were just able to cremate that corpse? He didn’t have any family anywhere to claim him?
DAVE CHERNIN: Look, look, don’t start pulling threads here or the whole thing will fall apart!
JOHN CHERNIN: In New York you can get anything done with fifty dollars.
SCOTT MACARTHUR: If you remember too, in “Halloween” Jimmy explains that if a corpse goes unclaimed for thirty days then the morgue releases the body. So in our world, this is all very feasible.
See, you’ve done the necessary legwork! Glad you could set the record straight here. Now that you’re in the second half of the show’s season, do you approach stories any differently? Do you look at what you’ve done a lot of in the first half of the year for reference?
JOHN CHERNIN: I think in general we like our episodes to stand on their own so we’re not exactly punching people who didn’t tune in last week. But we definitely keep in mind what sort of character pairings we’ve done a lot of or we’ll bump a story if something similar was done in the first half. Generally speaking though we’re just breaking stories as fast as we can because they shoot very soon.
There’s a crazy set piece at the end of this episode that involves Jimmy on fire and a whole lot of cash. Is it difficult to continually think of these outlandish pieces of physical comedy?
JOHN CHERNIN: It varies. Sometimes we have a fun set piece at the end that we drive towards. Like the end of “Halloween” was a big moment that we really tried to build up to by the conclusion. With this episode—I don’t want to say that it came naturally because it’s not natural—but it just made us laugh and we have such a talented cast when it comes to physical stuff. The mission statement of this show is that we want everyone to have fun. That children can tune into this with their family and still get a kick out of Jay Mohr’s character getting steamrolled, even if all the other jokes go over their heads.
DAVE CHERNIN: When people get their nuts set on fire, that’s funny for everyone.
HEATHER FLANDERS: To Dave and John’s credit, there’s usually some sort of crazy set piece that sees all the stories connect together and culminate. We always break it down and discuss what’s the smallest version of this gag and what’s the biggest version of it, but also explore what’s the most satisfying version of it and what’s the most real one. So while it might sometimes feel that it’s just a big gag, that’s not the mandate that we’re working off of.
So this episode ends with Jimmy officially back in the fold! Why the whole fake out and misdirect where his character is out of the picture?
JOHN CHERNIN: To enrage people on Twitter.
DAVE CHERNIN: Honestly, we thought this whole experience with Jimmy was awesome to watch unfold. Jimmy, especially in the first half of season one, definitely played a lesser role than all the other main characters. He’s always been someone that John and I have loved and I don’t think we really started writing to him until the back half of season one.
Truth be told, there were people in season one who didn’t like Jimmy and we thought that we hadn’t given him a fair shake yet. So heading into season two we really wanted to do this character justice and show what was possible with him. It felt really good to see how upset people got when they thought that they were losing him. We think that he’s such an integral part of the show and yeah, I don’t think the show works as well without him.
JOHN CHERNIN: We’ve had a lot of fun building that character up this year. Like Heather’s other episode from this season, “The Friend,” is such a fun Jimmy installment as he tries to portray a different dynamic with Mickey. With comedy it can also be difficult to get genuine moments where people wonder if a character is gone for good and if a show is going to completely change as a result. We wanted to have fun with all of that.
DAVE CHERNIN: It’s always fun to surprise people! There were just so many angry comments online—like actual threats. People were really upset and I think that’s a testament to the power of Jimmy in the end. I also don’t know if you can tell, but Scott actually busted his ass so Jimmy could look his best for this episode.
An episode or two back Chip has this line, “This is the best thing to happen to this family since Jimmy left,” and it really hits home the fact that he’s gone. But then you pull the rug out from underneath of everyone here. It’s great.
JOHN CHERNIN: Yeah, I’m curious to see the Twitter reaction.
DAVE CHERNIN: I think people are going to think that we felt guilty, read their comments, and then added him back into the show! And that’s not true!
SCOTT MACARTHUR: It’s also worth mentioning that I received some inverted responses on Twitter about all of this. “So nice to see that you’re fucking gone. I hope I never have to see your face again.” So you certainly can’t please everyone, but some people seemed to be pleased enough to tell me how ugly and fat Jimmy is.
DAVE CHERNIN: So “sorry” to all of the Jimmy haters and “you’re welcome” to all of the Jimmy fans.
Our walkthrough of The Mick’s second season will continue next week.