Even after FOX cut his freshman sitcom’s episode order from 16 to 13, John Mulaney is still upbeat about the show’s prospects going forward. During a panel at the 10th annual New York Television Festival on Oct. 25th Mulaney was open about what he has learned thus far and the silver lining of a reduced first season.
The “Mulaney” ratings have been a low point on FOX’s Sunday schedule, averaging at least a million less viewers than anything else on the slate. But with his trademark wit and upbeat attitude, Mulaney dispensed of any feelings of gloom and doom quickly. “16 episodes was always a weird order” the comic said when asked how he feels about the change. Admitting that it was an even more unconventional “one plus five plus ten”, he joked that it took him a while to realize that “it does add up to 16”.
Nasim Pedrad also agreed about the increase in confidence as production goes on, crediting the work schedule and team working behind the scenes. The production schedule for the show is similar to that of SNL, with a long night spent writing followed by a table read the next day.
Both co-stars obviously feel comfortable with this format having come from many years experience with it, even if Mulaney never intended for it to end up that way. He in fact “reversed himself back into that schedule” with all of its last-minute craziness without quite realizing it was happening.
But things may be looking up for “Mulaney” and its titular executive producer if the episode screened before the panel is any indication. “In the Name of the Mother”, airing November 9th, is actually the 11th episode in production order despite being 5th to air (a common practice for freshman comedies).
It is a marked improvement from early episodes, displaying the confidence and sharpness that Mulaney has proved capable of in his earlier stand-up and writing on “Saturday Night Live“. By narrowing in on specific concepts (such as Irish guilt) rather than trying to find inspiration in broader concepts, the show finds a sweet spot of very specific experiences producing universally funny comedy.
Whether all of the lessons learned will help “Mulaney” in the long run is still unclear. By the time his comfort level writing and producing his own show is apparent on screen it may be too late for audiences to tune in. Apparently “FOX has been great throughout everything”, but the real test of their support will be when renewal decisions come around and they have to weigh improvements on screen against ratings.