Locked into a pandemic, TV writers faced empty time and empty pages.
They scrambled for new ideas. Oddly, few turned to the obvious – the pandemic itself.
“There was stuff in development,” Greg Garcia said, “(but) I haven’t seen too many of them surface.”
Now his idea has: “Sprung”(shown here) — debuting Friday (Aug. 19) – has three things that make it stand out:
— It’s from Garcia, who previously scored with “My Name is Earl” and “Raising Hope.” It has the same quirky, blue-collar humor as those shows … and even the same stars (Garrett Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton) as “Raising Hope.”
— It’s on Freevee (formerly IMDB TV), a fairly new streaming option. Unlike most others, Freevee gets its money strictly from ads, not subscription fees.
— And the pandemic plays a key part. “It’s not what the show is ultimately about,” Garcia told the Television Critics Association, but it does propel the early episodes.
Fearing outbreaks in crowded quarters, a fictional prison releases some of its non-violent convicts. They have no money and no clue; they’ve never heard of Covid. Now they’re supposed to shelter at home – not easy when you’re homeless.
Jack is a gentle soul who was sentenced long ago. “It was back when they had mandatory minimum drug sentences,” said Dillahunt, who plays him. “There’s probably a lot of people still in jail on that.”
With nowhere else to go, he links with four others, including Rooster (Philip Garcia, no relation to Greg); they end up at the home of Rooster’s mom, Barb.
That’s Plimpton role, a big one. “I’m a hair actor …. I had about two days to figure out what I wanted to do, and Greg and I just sort of settled on this red hair,” she said.
Through padding, she was given a bulky body; through acting, she added a brash attitude – with limits.
“As outrageous and as ridiculous and as weird as these characters may be, there’s always a real honesty in Greg’s writing,” Plimpton said. “And a real humanity.”
That’s been consistent, from “Earl” to “Hope” to “Sprung.” Garcia – who grew up in what he recalls as a warm and funny family in small-town Virginia – shows a fondness for offbeat, blue-collar characters.
“If you just go out to the store and talk to people, there are just good people out there …. I have an optimistic view of the world,” he said.
In this case, these good people are also odd ex-cons. They’ve jumped from prison to a pandemic, both out of their control. And by the end of the first episode, they’re starting to be Robin Hoods. They’re raising hope, in a bewildering world.