The Mick blog: Writer Scott Marder on pushing the envelope
'I doubt many shows find a grounded way to turn their kids into drug mules,' he says
Every week, the cast and crew of Fox’s The Mick — the new comedy series that follows Kaitlin Olson’s reckless Mackenzie “Mickey,” who’s tasked with caring for her on-the-lam sister’s three children — is taking EW behind the scenes of the latest episode. This week, writer Scott Marder (whose credits also include It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and BoJack Horseman)takes us inside the fourth episode, “The Balloon.”
“The Balloon” was my very first pitch to [Mick creators John and Dave Chernin] when we met about me joining the writing staff (we’ve worked together forever on Always Sunny). The idea of, “How does Mickey deal with her youngest when he swallows a shady balloon?” felt not only like a situation with great stakes but an even better opportunity to show off the tone we were looking to set ourselves apart with: a network show with a strong cable sensibility. I just loved the idea of being able to take a “family show” to places few go to and really push the envelope. I mean, I doubt many shows find a grounded way to turn their kids into drug mules.
We quickly found a way to thread this (drug?) needle that rooted the idea in character and took it beyond just an outrageous idea. It felt natural that Ben would have PTSD from his parents fleeing in the pilot, and that it would manifest in eating dangerous stuff — especially a sketchy balloon lying beside a passed-out clown. Our show is also at its funniest when it thrusts Mickey into a parental role, so what better way than inadvertently putting her youngest’s life on the line at his own birthday party?!
As far as shooting went, this episode had one of my favorite stunts of the season. Sully the clown needed to be a character that looked sketchy but was actually a phenomenal performer. So the best way to sell that? By having him catch a bird out of thin air. Now while it was my idea and admittedly a strange one, if I saw a guy catch a bird out of the air, my brain would probably burst from excitement. Actually catching that bird though was just about as impossible as you’d think, which is probably why you never see magicians do it. It involved a real pigeon, several fake ones, and a very patient director tossing them into the hand of our clown a few dozen times. We knew we could rely on creating the bird in post, but we wanted to do it practically, and we were right because we all just about lost our damn minds when John Ennis caught that thing for real!
Between the bird gag, putting Tommy (who plays Chip) on a runaway horse, and smashing dozens of cakes, the shoot turned into an episode I’m really proud of. At the end of the day, there’s nothing cooler in this business than getting to watch one of your stupid ideas get brought to life. Plus, my wife doesn’t ask for my help planning parties anymore.
The Mick airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox.