‘Surviving Jack’ (Fox) Interview: Executive Producers Bill Lawrence, Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker Discuss Their New Comedy

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Fox’s latest comedy Surviving Jack, starring Christopher Meloni, premieres tonight, Thursday, March 27th at 9:30 p.m. after the American Idol results show. Surviving Jack follows Meloni’s titular character, an ex-military man and an oncologist, as he becomes a full-time parent to his teenage son (Connor Buckley) and daughter (Claudia Lee) while his wife (Rachael Harris) goes to law school. Recently, TV Equals joined a conference call with Surviving Jack executive producers Bill Lawrence, Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker. The trio discussed Halpern’s real life dad who inspired the character of Jack, coming of age in the ’90s and much more. Check out the highlights below.

On Why Jack Isn’t Your Typical Sitcom Dad

Halpern, best known for creating the short-lived CBS comedy $#*! My Dad Says and the Twitter account that inspired it, once again uses his own father as inspiration for Jack. (In fact, Surviving Jack was inspired by Halpern’s second book I Suck at Girls.) However, the Surviving Jack dad is not the $#*! My Dad Says dad. Rather than fall back on stereotypical tropes like the clueless sitcom father, Halpern revealed that he used his own father’s intellectual meets blue collar personality to create Jack. The result is a man who is becoming a father.

Lawrence chimed in, “I was excited to get in and work with these guys because I thought that the father character in Justin’s novels hadn’t been on TV yet, and I think that he’s an iconic character and the type of very masculine dad that makes mistakes and owns them and yet still manages to have an integrity and likeability that just felt very familiar to me as a guy who has a close relationship with his dad, and I just wanted to see that character on TV.”

Working With Christopher Meloni

Most people think of Meloni as a dramatic actor due to his work on series like Oz and Law & Order: SVU, but the man known for always playing the tough guy has had his share of comedic roles both on the small screen (Dinosaurs) and the big (Wet Hot American Summer). In fact, according to Lawrence, it was Meloni’s comedic work that made him so appealing for the part, as well as knowing that he could do drama.

As Jack, Meloni gets to meld his two personas together to produce a funny, but firm TV dad. “I think the thing about Chris is that he doesn’t have to put on anything to be really intimidating,” Halpern said. “He like scares the…out of us on a daily basis, so I think that this character was really important that it didn’t feel like they put on this false bravado that just kind of came with the guy, and Chris has that in spades.”

How Surviving Jack Will Utilize Its 1990s Setting

Surviving Jack takes place in the early ’90s during the era Halpern grew up in. All three producers insisted the series wouldn’t be “that ’90s show,” but the flavor of the decade will be there, most notably in the music. Halpern added that the first episodes will be heavier on the ’90s references to establish the setting, but after that, the decade will mostly be used to illustrate how you couldn’t just call your child on a cell phone to check in on them, or how the internet wasn’t a part of people’s day to day lives. In other words, expect the setting to give the story a sense of time without taking over the narrative.

And If The Series Wasn’t Set In The ’90s…

“I think the biggest difference would be that I think when you were coming of age in the early ‘90s before the internet, I think that there was a lot of– you had to go on kind of an adventure to get the information that you wanted to get,” Halpern said. “You also were always getting the wrong information, so I think it would take a little bit of the mystery away to set it now.”

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