Editor’s note: The Fourth Wall is knocking down barriers between entertainment industry talent and the audience. This recurring feature is a platform for 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 seventeenth episode from The Mick’s second season. Previous installments can be found here.
In this installment, we chat with The Mick’s showrunners, Dave and John Chernin, and series editor, Elizabeth Praino
The Mick’s second season is beginning to wrap up, but it’s clear that they’re not in any danger of a chaos shortage. “The Night Off” not only sticks two of the show’s cast members in jail, but Ben gets to mingle with prostitutes, Jimmy gets a black eye, and the Pemberton house gets covered in blood so thoroughly that you’d think that Charles Manson and his followers paid the family a visit. “The Night Off” begins in a totally reasonable fashion, which makes the way in which it careens so badly out of control all the better. Alba wants a weekend off, which seems pretty fair after her 17 years of servitude. However, when Mickey wants to shirk her guardian duties and place them on Sabrina, the two find themselves in the very best sort of feuds.
On top of this, the episode allows Jimmy to confront some very complicated feelings when he befriends a man named Doug, Alba meets her match with a rat, and it takes Chip an extremely graphic lesson to comprehend the fact that he is not, in fact, an adult. “The Night Off” is certainly a busy installment of the series, but one that works well and also isn’t afraid to dig deep into its characters. The Mick’s showrunners help break down the latest episode and explain how it all came together.
DEN OF GEEK: The idea of Sabrina getting put in charge while all of the adults are away feels like reasonable territory for the show to explore. Was this a story that you guys had talked about doing before?
DAVE CHERNIN: I don’t know if that element had been discussed, but in general I think that our favorite stories on the show are the ones that start from really small places and are focused on character dynamics or a simple parenting issue. So that fell in line with that and we’re always excited when we can do something that involves the full house.
DEN OF GEEK: There’s a lot of talk about responsibility in this episode. Why do you think that Mickey is so concerned about that?
DAVE CHERNIN: I think that her concern stems from a place of just genuinely not wanting to have to babysit these kids. It helps her argument when she can get on her high horse and talk about how much she gave up for their family, but really I think she’s just trying to pass the buck at any given moment.
DEN OF GEEK: This episode made me think back a lot to “The Visit” and how Mickey, Sabrina, and Poodle really aren’t that different. Is it nice to get to tackle these stories that shine a light on their similar behavior and character dynamics?
DAVE CHERNIN: Yeah, absolutely. In the writers’ room we always consider Mickey and Sabrina to be extremely similar people, but just with different backgrounds. Even then though they’re still very much two sides of the same coin.
DEN OF GEEK: Jimmy’s friendship with Doug here is a lot of fun. He points out how he doesn’t really get to hang out with many other guys. Did you want to dig into that a little here?
DAVE CHERNIN: I think the impetus there was just that it’d be funny if Jimmy fell head over heels for a new friend and then totally gets thrown off by the fact that he’s gay. That’s where it all originated from, but then we started to realize that we’ve never met any of Jimmy’s guy friends, so why not?
JOHN CHERNIN: It was also something that we’d have fun talking about in the writers’ room because we could get into how hard it is to become friends with another man when you reach a certain age. It seemed like a ripe area for Scott to have fun with. Also, that scene between Jimmy and Doug in the car was so much longer and got even further into Jimmy’s backstory.
DEN OF GEEK: The whole crisis that Jimmy goes through here is really interesting, especially when he mentions that he’s thought that he might be gay for a while. Was it satisfying to open up the character a little bit and explore this side of him?
JOHN CHERNIN: Yeah, what I think was funny for us there was that Jimmy’s not gay, but he still romanticizes the gay lifestyle and what it includes.
DEN OF GEEK: Do you think that Doug might show up in the future and be a permanent friend for Jimmy?
DAVE CHERNIN: You never know! If we find another story that involves him that works for us then absolutely. We loved working with him and we’ll see what happens!
DEN OF GEEK: Alba stuck in a room with a rat is such a simple, but such a satisfying idea. Talk a little on this storyline. Did she ever get an actual vacation? Was there always a rat involved?
JOHN CHERNIN: That storyline went through a lot of rewrites at the very last second. I’m trying to think of just how many iterations of it that we did…This was a tough episode production-wise so we were trying to find a really contained story for her. I don’t think in any of the versions she actually got a vacation, did she?
DAVE CHERNIN: Once upon a time, yeah, there was one draft where she was holed up with Mike O’Mira from the Warwick episode [“The Homecoming”] and having this big sex romp in a hotel.
ELIZABETH PRAINO: What! What happened to that! Can we still see that? I want to see that!
DAVE CHERNIN: We didn’t have a ton of real estate to work with for this one, so any time that we tried to do more with her and him, it would become problematic. So we ultimately went with the rat stuff.
ELIZABETH PRAINO: She definitely deserves to have that sex romp though!
DEN OF GEEK: Elizabeth, I’m glad you’re here too because the version of the episode that I watched was a production cut. So I could see all of that splicing and editing in the jail cell. Talk about that a little bit more.
DAVE CHERNIN: I actually think that’s one of the best editing tricks that we’ve done all season.
ELIZABETH PRAINO: There are three different scenes that we have there that are edited together. That’s all in order to re-time the different actions that happen in the background. We weren’t really getting the response that we wanted there, so we removed pieces from Sabrina’s artifice and re-timed the scenes that go on around her so it looks like there’s more activity happening in the jail.
DAVE CHERNIN: We do that quite a bit where we’ll split the screen and edit two different takes together. I’m pretty sure this is the first time that we’ve done that with three different takes though.
JOHN CHERNIN: I don’t know if anyone has ever seen it before!
ELIZABETH PRAINO: This could very well be the first three-level split screen on network TV.
DEN OF GEEK: Making history!
ELIZABETH PRAINO: That montage with Chip is also maybe the most fun that I’ve had in the entire show.
DEN OF GEEK: Well, I’m glad that you mentioned that because I originally thought Chip’s sandwich montage was just so innocent and stupid, but then he goes and cuts off all of his fingers. Did you ever consider that this might be going too far? Was it always all of his fingers?
DAVE CHERNIN: That was something that we wanted to do in season one and just couldn’t get around to it. We were actually originally planning it to happen with Ben, but it was still always all of the fingers. At first it was the episode’s A-story, but every time we went down that road we just struggled with what to do after he cuts off his fingers and before they get re-attached. It just felt too sad and weren’t sure how to crack it without Ben just bawling uncontrollably. In the final stages of this episode we were just really looking for a ripe Chip story and figured we could fit it in here. The fact that it happens through a montage and goes down at the end of the episode allowed us to focus on the “not fun” chapter of it and not have to worry about the rest.
DEN OF GEEK: In future seasons Chip definitely needs to have a gimpy hand and be set back from this.
DAVE CHERNIN: Well we even had the idea that one of his fingers would get put on backwards and that would be a constant thing he needs to deal with.
JOHN CHERNIN: That’s one of my favorite things that we’ve done all year though and Eva Longoria, who’s the director for this, did such a good job there. And Elizabeth kills it with the montage. It’s so happy-go-lucky and you have no idea what’s coming. We might have gone a little too far with the blood on the walls, but oh well. My note was that I wanted it to look like the “Tate LaBianca murder scene” and I think our production team delivered on it.
DEN OF GEEK: When you’re this close to the end of the season, do you assess at all what you’ve done a lot of in the season or the sorts of stories that you want to fit in before the end?
DAVE CHERNIN: That’s something that’s always on our minds. Yeah, certainly when you get towards the end of the season we start thinking about wrapping up stories, where we want to begin the next season, and what loose ends there are to tie up. So it usually is in consideration, but it doesn’t usually materialize until like the last two episodes of the year.
JOHN CHERNIN: This episode was originally supposed to be episode 18, but we switched this one and 17 around because we thought the situations in 216 and 217 were a little similar and wanted to put some distance between them. And honestly, whenever episodes get moved around like that, it’s almost always our decision. FOX sometimes takes a lot of grief over that stuff and it’s like never their choice.
DEN OF GEEK: That’s good to know!
ELIZABETH PRAINO: It does mean that I sometimes need to work harder to push up certain episodes!
DAVE CHERNIN: We’re just the worst to Elizabeth.
Our walkthrough of The Mick’s second season will continue next week