After the slacker antics of Mordecai and Rigby in the Emmy-winning “Regular Show,” J.G. Quintel embraces more adult misadventures in the animated sitcom, “Close Enough,” on HBO Max, while still maintaining his penchant for surrealism.
“A lot of my work deals with starting from a very mundane place that’s very relatable,” Quintel said. “But then the way the characters try to solve the problem, it takes it to a surreal place. And it’s fun to use animation to come up with some really crazy stuff.”
But dealing with the problems of a 23-year-old blue jay and racoon in “Regular Show” was child’s play compared to juggling family commitments with career aspirations in “Close Enough.”
“‘Regular Show’ was based on my college experiences at CalArts and by the end of the [seven-year] run, I had settled down and started a family,” Quintel said. “And so it was natural to have the new series reflect that.”
Luckily, it’s been a smooth transition producing the series at Cartoon Network Studios and Saerom Animation in Korea, despite the fact that Quintel first developed it at TBS in 2017. The series was shelved as a result of the WarnerMedia merger before winding up last year at the new streamer. “I got to use the ‘Regular Show’ crew to flesh it out more, and we came up with a couple of scripts and short sizzle reel revealed at Comic-Con in 2017,” he said.
In “Close Enough,” millennial couple, Josh (Quintel) and Emily (Gabrielle Walsh), live in an LA duplex in Silver Lake with their five-year-old daughter, Candice (Jessica DiCicco), and their two divorced best friends, Alex (Jason Mantzoukas) and Bridgette (Kimiko Glenn). The series once again feeds off Quintel’s personal experiences, from using the exact floor plan of his old apartment to family sacrifices, only with nightmarish results that seem to erupt from the worst fears about becoming a responsible adult.
In “Quilty Pleasures,” Josh and Emily inadvertently sell their souls to strange British street urchins in order to turn in a school quilting project for Candice; in “The Perfect House,” Emily’s vicarious pleasure of visiting open houses spirals out of control when she becomes trapped in a sitcom with a fake family; In “Logan’s Run’d,” the three roommates go to a nightclub from hell for anyone over 30; and, in “Room Parent,” Josh falls prey to a female con artist after inadvertently volunteering to be a room parent at Candice’s school.
“In my real life, my wife was the room parent, but I remember looking around the room and thinking to myself that nobody wants to be it, but somebody has to take one for the team,” said Quintel, who enjoys voicing, Josh, his alter ego, an aspiring video game developer. “I’d like to think I’m not that dumb, but I definitely have my moments,” he said. “My wife will randomly imitate me with a really dumb guy voice.”
But Quintel’s favorite episode, “100% No Stress Day,” was actually the first he pitched, and the one he selected for entry in Annecy 2020 Online last month. It’s also the weirdest of the entire series. To alleviate Emily’s stress, Josh agrees to buy her ham with Alex and Candice, while Bridgette gets her high to calm her nerves. However, they stumble upon a stolen ham distribution scam and stripper clowns.
“If you want to give your partner a no-stress day and you’ll take care of all the stuff, what would that look like in this world with these characters?,” said Quintel. “And then taking advantage of being more adult. We got to deal with the visuals of Emily getting high [contorting her face and her perspective] and just the craziness of seeing Josh and Alex and Candace trying to run the errands and how that went wrong. And those stripper clowns coming into play. I remember when we first pitched that board to the crew, they exploded in laughter.”
But then it climaxes with a VR game called “Ladder World,” with the stripper clowns, ladder bats, and power-up items like speed rockets and invincibility joints. “HBO Max even developed it into a real playable version of the game during the middle of the pandemic,” Quintel said.