[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television” Season 2.]
Fans of “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*” might find themselves surprised by Season 2, which premiered Wednesday on YouTube Premium, because it ends with the show literally getting canceled by YouTube. The final sequence features the cast packing up the stage, the show’s titular star stunned by this turn of events, until he turns to the camera, giving a sincere monologue about what it’s meant to him, to make the show.
“Are you emotionally over it? Did you cry?” Hansen asked IndieWire when the subject of the ending came up — even though he and creator Rawson Marshall Thurber immediately agreed that despite that choice, which the writers made on their own, “Ryan Hansen” could return for a third season.
“We have not been officially picked up for a third season by YouTube Premium, and we’re certainly available for Season 3, and we’ve got some ideas,” Thurber said of the ending. “But nobody has quite asked us to the dance yet. So for me, it was a decision of, if we never get to make another episode of ‘Ryan Hansen’ — and who knows if we’ll be lucky enough to — I wanted to send it out on the right note, and say what I thought myself, and Ryan, and our producer Beau Bauman, wanted to say about the show.”
The fact that the season ended on perhaps the most meta note possible fit perfectly with the entire show’s aesthetic, which has been smashing the fourth wall with a sledgehammer since the very beginning. Hansen stars as an ambitious working actor – a fictionalized version of his real self – who gets the opportunity to help solve crimes with the LAPD.
Season 1, which introduced Emmy winner Samira Wiley as Ryan’s first hard-nosed partner (Wood Harris plays Ryan’s new partner in Season 2), debuted on YouTube’s premium content service in the fall of 2017. That service was called YouTube Red back then, which is why there are man, many jokes in Season 1 about that name — and jokes in Season 2 about how the name is now different.
While the show has had a great deal of fun in general at YouTube’s expense, the producers’ relationship has always been good. “They’ve just been completely supportive — hands off, but in a good way,” Thurber said. “Suzanne Daniels loved the show, and Dustin Davis is my favorite executive in town. So they’ve just been super supportive.”
Of course, he said, “When you sign up with a streamer or a financier who is so new, and still finding their way, there are certainly bumps in the road. But we didn’t really feel that. We were just supported. They got the jokes. They got the show… they completely embraced that, and I think that speaks so well of them. So we had a great time making our very strange show for them, and with them.”
That said, when the “Ryan Hansen” team pitched Season 2 ending with the show’s cancellation, the reaction from YouTube brass was, “‘Yeah, good bet. Good bet. Smart bet.’ That’s a bit of a glib answer, and it’s partly true. But when they read the pages, both Suzanne Daniels and Dustin Davis, they said they got a little misty, reading the pages. I was waiting for them to say, ‘You shouldn’t do this.’ But they sure didn’t.”
Even if the show doesn’t come back for a third season, the two seasons that streamed will remain an intriguing examination of just how far a show can push the boundaries between a joke and the reality behind that joke. “We’re in Hollywood where the reality is the joke, so we often don’t have to choose,” Thurber said. “But one of the foundational tenets of the show is, if we say we’re at a place, we actually need to be at that place. So there’s no faking it… We wanted the show to be grounded in real Hollywood, real Los Angeles, be in real places. So that was important. [The address] 1600 Vine had to be 1600 Vine. Hollywood Boulevard has to be Hollywood Boulevard. Which is a real challenge when you’re making a show that’s mostly on location for the budget we that had to make this show.”
And the question of what is truly real extended to its star. “It’s obviously a heightened version of Ryan. We try to draw from his real life as much as we can, but it’s all turned to 11, as you do with any sort of comedic satire,” Thurber said. “You take what’s real, and then you just pin the needle all the way, and exaggerate it as much as you can. And Ryan has such a great sense of humor — not only in general, but about himself — that he’s willing to poke fun at himself.”
The one thing that Thurber wanted to do that didn’t happen came down to how much of Hansen’s personal life he could incorporate. “In Season 1, when I first sent Ryan the script, I wanted his wife Amy to actually play herself in the show,” he said. “And if you know Amy, you know that that’s a terrifying, horrific notion that she instantly passed. So Ryan said yes to the show, and his wife said no. She was our first pass on the show. It’s Ryan’s life, but we bend it and use it for our own evil, comedic purposes.”
In general making television, Thurber noted, was a relatively new experience for him as a feature film director, and the thing that he found staggering was “just the amount of work that you have to accomplish in the day. When you’re shooting on a TV schedule, and with a relatively modest budget, you have to be efficient, you have to be smart about where you spend your time, and where you spend your money — but you also have to deliver something that’s great, and something that you’re proud of. So it was really hard.”
That constraint, he said, “put a lot of onus on Ryan to deliver. We asked so much of him. Not only does this man do his own dancing, do his own backflips, do his own stunts, much like Tom Cruise, but he also has pages of monologues. Just inane, vapid Hollywood chatter that almost makes no sense, that he has to be note-perfect on. And it’s not just one day of that, it’s 40 days straight of that. And we’re just so lucky to have Ryan behind the wheel on that, because he kills it every time.”
Added Hansen, “It was really the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but it was the most rewarding. It’s such a cool, and fun opportunity to be able to do all of these action shots, and also be dancing, and singing around. It’s the coolest show I’ve ever been a part of, and also be funny. ‘While you’re doing it, Ryan, don’t forget, it has to be funny.'”
“Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*” Seasons 1-2 is streaming now on YouTube Premium.