“The whole show is not about buttholes, I promise you.”
An unconventional reassurance, but Andrea Savage is right. “I’m Sorry,” the latest, freshest comedy from TruTV, is about family, love, and the strange ways we have of sharing strange moments with each other. Savage stars as a comedy writer in LA, making her way through the colliding perils that come with being a parent and living with a minimal filter. Andrea (the character’s name, as well) has a loving family, made up of husband Mike (Tom Everett Scott) and daughter Amelia (Olive Petrucci).
This particular day on set, though, they’re filming a scene at a poker table where the between-hands banter turns to some unconventional bedroom habits. We’ll let guest star Jason Mantzoukas take it from here.
— truTV (@truTV) July 18, 2017
Though this scene is from the show’s third episode, airing Wednesday night, it came even earlier on in the show’s shooting schedule. Sitting around the poker table, riffing on everything from suburban life to childbirth to wordplay, this is an opportunity that Savage has been waiting for her whole career.
“I compare it to a marathon, where it’s exhilarating and also torturous at the same time. But you’re running it like a level of adrenaline and pushing yourself harder than you ever thought you could and it’s amazing and also so painful,” Savage said.
On set, she really doesn’t stop. In between our interview upstairs, she’s conferring with her co-showrunner Joey Slamon, discussing the next round of camera setups with episode director Dale Stern and chatting with Mantzoukas about the best alts from the improv run at the end of the last take. (Like any good healthy marathon runner, she does it all while sneaking in a few apple slices in between takes.)
“The things I thought were going to be the hardest, like ‘Oh my God, I’m in every scene. How am I going to know all of these lines? I also have to do rewrites!’” Savage said. “All that stuff ended up easier than being in charge of a hundred people and the dynamics that go with that and the personalities and just making sure departments were getting along and feeling listened to. All of that was so much of my day. All of a sudden, you’re like the CEO of a company, which is a lot.”
If Savage is the CEO, then she’s got some heavy investors. “I’m Sorry” boasts an impressive list of producers, from Adam McKay and Will Ferrell to the Lonely Island team. Still, with all of those folks on board, “I’m Sorry” is a show distinctly in Savage’s voice.
“It’s pretty hands-off. I truly am the only chef in the kitchen. If it works? Great. If it doesn’t, I do not have anyone to blame. This has pretty much been my vision, top to bottom and everyone has just supported it. It’s nice to have to some pretty good comedy cred behind you,” Savage said.
There’s something you notice on screen that is the same on set: everyone is loose. Even in the midst of these uncomfortable conversations, everyone is smiling. “I’m Sorry” doesn’t dwell on the morose or the dire. It all comes from a place of honesty.
“It was a very conscious choice to make a pure comedy that wasn’t a dark comedy. I go into life with a very optimistic and sincere attitude of trying to do the right thing,” Savage said. “We really didn’t want it to be awkward for awkward’s sake. We wanted it to come from a good place, not a dark place. If anything felt pushed or jokey or sitcom-ish, we dumped it.”
It’s easier to create a show that helps give the audience that same feeling when you make it with friends. One of the perks of being in charge of your own show is getting to pick collaborators, and Savage used that same guiding principle in putting together the “I’m Sorry” team.
The show’s ensemble is a dream roster of guest stars, including Mantzoukas, Judy Greer, Gary Anthony Williams, Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll and June Squibb. Even for people like Scott, whom Savage is working with for the first time, that aura of positivity extends out to new co-workers.
“We sat down in a booth at Art’s Deli and we discussed the character being the rock-solid husband base. We started off really on the right foot, both really getting along. Being married almost twenty years myself and having two kids, going through this process, there is a lot of the same trials and tribulations and jokes and situations,” Scott said.
That connection to the character reflects the same ideas that helped bring the show to life. After going through the process of developing TV shows in the past (seven or eight times, by her count), she’s found the most success focusing on the stories that she has the deepest relationships with.
“I’m trying to come at it from what people deal with in their 30s and 40s that I’ve dealt with,” Savage said. “Part of it is finding out a secret about someone that you didn’t know or your parents doing weird stuff the older they get or friends of yours who are in their 40s and they haven’t met anyone yet. My stories happen to be a little bit crazier, but we play them all super grounded so that they don’t appear insane.”
Even though “I’m Sorry” has finally seen the light of day, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more work left to be done. There are still a few more weeks left on Season 1 post-production, but Savage is staying focused.
“Until then, I’m keeping my head down, finishing that last leg of the marathon where people start collapsing and pooping themselves,” Savage said.
“I’m Sorry” airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on TruTV.