Crackle, the ad-supported TV and movie streaming platform, has been taking off thanks in no small part to original shows like SuperMansion, a stop-animation television program created by some of the same people behind Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken.
SuperMansion is an animated sitcom starring Bryan Cranston, Heidi Gardner, Tucker Gilmore, Keegan-Michael Key, Yvette Nicole Brown and Jillian Bell; Seth Green is one of the executive producers. The series involves a group of superheroes who must deal with each other’s quirks while living in the same house and dealing with supervillains.
The series includes the same kind of edgy—sometimes raunchy—and off-the-wall humor fans expect from the creators of Robot Chicken, and actors Chris Pine (Wonder Woman; Star Trek: Beyond) and Keegan-Michael Key (The Lego Movie; Keanu) were both nominated for Emmys for their performances on SuperMansion. The show released its Halloween special SuperMansion: Drag Me to Halloween in early October to help prepare audiences for the season 3 premiere in 2018.
AListDaily sat down with show creators Zeb Wells, Matt Senreich and series executive producer Tom Root. All three write and animate the show while Wells and Root voice two of the main characters. Wells kicked off the discussion by talking about balancing the humor between SuperMansion and Robot Chicken, which features parodies of characters such as Superman and Batman.
“What I think is fun about the Robot Chicken superhero stuff is that we’ve given Superman and Batman their own Robot Chicken personality, which is different from the comic books,” said Wells. “So, we knew we couldn’t take those personalities and put them on these characters—they had to be different. But once we got through the fifth episode, then the characters felt like the comedy was coming from that instead of the parody jokes. Now they’re more character-based jokes. Now that we’re on season 3, we’re far enough removed that there isn’t a whole lot of bleed.”
With movies like Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League—just to name a few—busting into theaters this year, it’s clear that superheroes are seeing a golden age at box offices. Wells commented on whether the immense popularity of these movies led to a bump in interest for the comedy show.
“When I was growing up, the comic books the movies were based on would get a bump whenever a movie like Batman came out,” said Wells. “Now there’s like a new superhero movie every weekend, so I don’t know if that bump happens anymore.”
The Halloween special, which has been prominently featured on the Crackle app, helped keep audiences engaged while the writers worked on creating the third season, which Wells promised would have a Comic-Con-themed episode. Wells also admitted that, in a way, writing the show has become easier with the actors helping to define the different characters—making the show funny just by adding their personalities.
As the season premiere approaches, Senreich described how audiences continue to discover SuperMansion when it’s exclusive to a digital-streaming platform.
“I think we’re getting to a place where, because it’s the third season, people are starting to discover Crackle as a medium. [The app] is on every television [platform] and it just sits there. Over time, people are learning that it exists and are spreading it through word-of-mouth, which has been working nicely,” said Senreich. “SuperMansion aired on Adult Swim for a short stint, which made people more aware of it. I also think that the Emmy nominations that Chris Pine and Keegan got made people wonder about this ‘little show that could’ that’s competing against the people from South Park. We like being that little spot where people say, ‘Hey, what is this?’ It’s starting to get a lot of that attention, and Crackle has been really happy with it.”
Senreich also spoke about the growing number of superhero-themed TV shows and whether or not that drew attention to SuperMansion.
“In some ways, it does,” said Senreich. “The thing we like about it is that every other superhero show is about the heroes and their villain of the week or having them go out to fight bad guys. For us, it’s about the superheroes when they come home. That’s the big difference. How do they deal with who gets to use the bathroom when they want to use it? I think that has helped us stand out from the rest of the pack. Add in the fact that it’s on a medium that not a lot of people use (stop-animation)—you’re seeing your action figure of this character out there. You can pick up what you see and play with it yourself if you want to. I think that also connects with audiences in ways that most of these shows may not.”
“I think that it’s different enough that when the inevitable contraction of superhero shows happens, this will stand apart by its look and by its take on things,” Root added. “But get ready for that contraction when it comes.”
Wells talked about whether there were differences in creating a show for a cable TV channel compared to a digital streaming one.
“Toward the end, we could say ‘shit’ on Adult Swim, so there’s a little more leeway language-wise,” said Wells. “Aside from that, it’s pretty similar. All the streaming services are basically just television networks now, so there’s not that much difference. Though it’s fun that, since Crackle is free, if anyone wants to see [SuperMansion], they can just get online and watch without signing up for anything. But when my mom used to ask me when Robot Chicken was on, I used to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Now I don’t have any excuses except maybe, ‘I don’t know what website it’s on.’”
Root similarly talked about whether the show had to recognize different lines for humor when on a digital platform, especially a free one like Crackle.
“I think there are topics that are hard to get humor out of, but as long as it’s funny and your perspective is coming from the right place, there really isn’t a line,” Root said. “Sometimes, if a network or streaming entity has a line, you can find ways to work around it by being more clever than using the word, curse or crude joke you wanted to. Or don’t be so on-the-nose about what you’re trying to say.”