FOX’s new animated comedy Sit Down, Shut Up premieres on Sunday, April 19th at 8:30/7:30 Central, airing after The Simpsons and before Family Guy. Earlier this month, executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz and actor Will Forte (Saturday Night Live) sat down and chatted to the media about what goes on behind closed doors in the staff room.
Hurwitz (Arrested Development) adapted Sit Down, Shut Up from a live-action Australian comedy. He explained, "This show started in Australia, and it’s just about oblivious people. In fact, the original show was — in a way, it kind of led to Arrested Development. I just loved the idea of people that are equally clueless and equally self-involved."
These particular clueless folks are the staff of a small-town high school in Florida, with Kenan Thompson as Sue Sezno, the acting principal. Will Forte voices Stuart Proszakian, vice-principal, with Jason Bateman (Larry Littlejunk), Kristin Chenoweth (Miracle Grohe), Will Arnett (Ennis Hofftard), Henry Winkler (Willard Deutschebog), Cheri Oteri (Helen Klench), and Tom Kenny (Happy) providing the other voice talent. Fox’s press release description gives a good preview of the tone of the show: "We watch them grapple with their own egos, needs and personal agendas, their petty insecurities and prejudices, unrequited loves and ruthless battles for power—and that’s just at the staff meeting."
The show combines animation and a live action background for a distinctive new look. Hurwitz said he was inspired by reading Mo Willem’s book, Knuffle Bunny, and started experimenting with the technique. The production team took photos at a school right next to Rough Draft, the company doing the animation for the series. Hurwitz feels the realistic background keeps "the show in the real world . . . It inadvertently has changed the scale of the show so that you don’t expect animals to talk or UFOs to land."
Asked why he decided to go the animation route at all, given the live action source material, the producer said his original script was live action, and explained,
What everyone said is, we’re interested in the idea of a show about teachers, but these characters are way too broad and way too self-centered and oblivious, and you have to rewrite it. So I thought, maybe I can avoid some work — and this is where the joke becomes on me — I can avoid some work by doing it as an animated show. Cut to 17 months later, and I’m still rewriting the pilot.
The rewriting evidently paid off, as Will Forte noted how awesome all the actors think the writing is. Tune in on Sundays at 8:30/7:30 Central on Fox to check it out for yourself.