Will Arnett and Mike Myers credit their Canadian roots for their love of the eccentric talent series “The Gong Show.” “In Canada, we didn’t have as many TV stations, and cable came slowly,” said Arnett, who executive produces the ABC revival, now in its second season. “I think Canadians appreciated the absurdity of it.”
Added Myers: “It’s outsider art, because we’re an outsider country. I loved ‘The Gong Show,” I thought it was hilarious. It felt like punk rock to me.”
Under his development deal at Sony Pictures TV, Arnett was looking at a list of franchises the studio owned and we ripe for a revival. When he came across “The Gong Show,” he thought Myers might have some fun with it. He just didn’t know what.
“It was like an open [offer], who knows what he would do,” Arnett said. “If you could get Mike to do it, you knew he would come back with something original. He was open to it initially, and then he started working on his own, coming up with this character.”
That character was British hosting legend Tommy Maitland. When Arnett’s “The Gong Show” revival premiered on ABC in 2017, the network went along with the ruse.
Of course, it wasn’t entirely a secret that Mike Myers was really playing the character, under prosthetic makeup. Now on season two, the host’s real identity is out in the open — but the fun remains.
IndieWire sat down with Myers and Arnett to talk about the reboot, including how Myers came up with the Tommy Maitland character as well as the state of the changing business, why TV hosting has become a popular gig for A-list stars, why it’s fun to parody British TV stars, and how having young kids changed both of their outlooks. Listen below!
“The Gong Show” has been a ratings hit for ABC in Season 2, and executive producer Will Arnett is having a good week: He’s also a voice and producer of the new animated movie “Teen Titans Go! To The Movies.”
Just like Chuck Barris’ original creation, the new “Gong Show” features unusual and unique talent that perform for a panel of celebrity judges. If a bit is excrutiatingly bad, the judges can hit the gong and stop the performance.
To come up with the character of Tommy Maitland, Myers turned to veteran “Saturday Night Live” makeup artist Louis Zakarian. On set, the illusion that Maitland was the host, not a Myers character, was so complete that he never broke character — even when the cameras weren’t rolling.
“Far less people in Season 1 knew that Tommy was indeed Mike,” Arnett said. “He was Tommy all the time, and he would walk around and welcome judges as Tommy and say hello to people as Tommy. We became accustomed to instructing everyone, when you see Tommy, he’s Tommy. There’s no other option.
“I loved the theatrics of it, the art aspect of it,” he added. “I said to Tommy and Mike early on, I felt like this was a high end art project. And it was cool to be a part of and cool to see other people slip into it.”
“The Gong Show” marked a major return to the limelight for Myers, who took some time off to raise his three children under the age of 6. But, he pointed out that he hadn’t completely been on sabbatical: Myers produced the documentary “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” developed a series for HBO, and also shot the films “Terminal” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Arnett, meanwhile, also voices Slade, the villain on “Teen Titans Go! to the Movies.” Known for voicing Batman in the Lego movies, this time Jimmy Kimmel handles vocals for the Caped Crusader.
As for what he’d like to reboot next, Arnett has a quick answer: “I really want to do a reboot of ‘Das Boot.’ Because it would just collapse on itself.”
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.
Special thanks to KROQ’s DJ Omar Khan for the new theme song!