“Secret Girlfriend,” Comedy Central’s new first-person TV show immerses the viewer into the role of protagonist. I had the chance to ask the creators, Ross Novie and Jay Rondot, about their new series:
Colin Takasawa (CT): This show was based on a series of internet shorts; how did the original idea for this come about?
Ross Novie/Jay Rondot (RN/JR): It’s actually based on a series we originally made for mobile phones with FremantleMedia. The concept was that you could pretend these attractive women were leaving you a video voicemail message. Or you could just lie to other people and say, ‘Look, this is my girlfriend.’ But the idea was that over (the course of) 20 video voicemail messages, you would get a storyline, an arc in which inevitably she would either dump you or go crazy, because you certainly weren’t going to marry this girl.
CT: Was it difficult translating the show from an Internet short to a 30-minute segment for television?
RN/JR: Each 30 minute segment is actually two 15-minute segments back-to-back, which made it a little easier to envision. There’s some great comedies on TV right now, so, from the beginning, we really wanted this show to feel like no other show on television, or what’s the point? It took a little while for everyone to kind of agree on how the show would be presented, but once we figured it out, it really came together pretty easily.
CT: How did the deal with Comedy Central come about?
RN/JR: Kidnapping, ransom and a well-planned paternity suit. It’s not really that sexy of a story. With Fremantle, we developed the mobile show into something we could pitch to networks as a TV show. Once we had that pitch, we pitched it to various networks and Comedy Central thought it was a good fit.
CT: A lot of the show felt like male wish fulfillment, with the strip club, girl-on-girl fighting and dance-offs, an attractive love interest (Jessica) who’s content just hanging out playing video games. Will this show appeal to women at all?
RN/JR: There are women out there who enjoy laughing with the guys. These are the women who will like this show.
CT: The style of humor was somewhat evocative of the Judd Apatow sense of humor that’s become prevalent lately. What were your comedic inspirations for this show?
RN/JR: Action movies are a big inspiration to us when it comes to comedy. We were really interested in making a fun, fast paced comedy that just pulled you along and didn’t really give you a chance to catch your breath. When we first sat down to write the show, we sat around in a group massage with the other writers and we all just rattled off many of the fantastic and horrid experiences we’d had with the opposite sex over the years. Those stories inspired a lot of the episodes, and a lot of therapy.
CT: The first person format of this show seems like a very modern concept. We’ve been seeing it more and more in films, do you think this show would’ve worked 20 or even 10 years ago or is it something that’s kind of exclusive to contemporary media? What attracts you to this idea? How do you hope to make the viewer feel?
RN/JR: We’re all very spontaneous in our twenties and it doesn’t take much for us to rally and get weird. The attraction of the POV format is that it can capture that immediacy and make the viewer feel like they’re hopping on a ride with our characters that could go anywhere at anytime. It’s hard to say if it would have worked 20 years ago. But, today we all think nothing of watching TV while we’re watching a funny clip that a friend sent us on our computer while we’re checking our phones for texts. Somehow, these things make our format more digestible.
CT: How many episodes are you planning on doing?
RN/JR: Three million. But, so far, we’ve done six half-hour episodes. Watch them all, again and again … and again.
I also got the opportunity to ask Sara Fletcher, who plays the one of the lead characters, Jessica, a few questions:
Colin Takasawa (CT): Was it awkward or difficult to interact with the camera instead of another actor? How did you pull this off so that it came across as natural?
Sara Fletcher (SF): The first week was a little strange working with only a camera for most of my scenes; however, Ross, our director, was excellent about giving the right notes to help the scenes feel much more natural even though I wasn’t working with another human. Although it was the most challenging during “intimate” scenes, it was nice that the camera never had bad breath!
CT: What were auditions like for a show like this?
SF: Auditioning was very similar to most other auditions, except that we had to direct everything into camera as opposed to reading with the casting director.
CT: Did you know the creators beforehand? Were you a fan of the Internet shorts already or was it something completely new to you?
SF: Yes! I met the creators before it was a TV series; I played the original secret girlfriend. Several years ago I worked with Jay, (our producer) on a TV show for National Lampoon. At the time he and Ross, (our director/producer) were working on a project called “Secret Girlfriend” to pitch to Maureen FitzPatrick at FremantleMedia for cell phone content. Jay remembered me and called to see if I would be interested in doing a few one-minute vlog type video messages for the pitch. Fremantle picked up the series, it then went mobile and then to web on AtomicWedgieTV.com. About a year or so after the initial shoot, they called to say they were turning the webisodes into a TV show with Fremantle. Comedy Central picked up the pilot, then the series and now … here I am! Pretty crazy!
CT: Are you anything like the character you portray in the show?
SF: Jessica tends to be pretty adventurous and game for anything, i.e., hiking, kickball, pool, etc. … I think in that respect we’re pretty similar! We do both have a love for beer, but her knowledge of sports surpasses mine.
CT: What do you think audiences will find appealing about this show?
SF: For the first time the audience gets to feel like they’re part of the “dude-world” as opposed to a traditional sitcom series which isn’t as interactive with the camera. Not to mention the fact that there is some good ol’ fashion T & A as well as hilarious dirty college humor!
CT: On a scale of 1 – 10, how much fun is it to work on “Secret Girlfriend”?
SF: It’s at least a 27! I had an amazing time with the cast and crew. Getting to work with a talented, professional, and hilarious group of people was one of the best experiences in my career thus far!
“Secret Girlfriend” premiered in October and airs every Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.