It feels like a classic opening setup for most sitcoms: Buddies Adam and Joe bicker as they rush to prepare the big anniversary dinner double-date before the girls arrive. The laugh track responds in kind to the buffoonery. That’s when the blood starts to spill. Fingers are cut to the bone, faces are melted off, a corkscrew screws a Corri -- then there’s a bad banana cream pie incident. And still the laugh track responds, growing in a maniacal intensity.
Created and starring director Adam Green (“Frozen,” “Hatchet,” “Hatchet II,” “Chillerama”), the show plays with situational comedy conventions but turns them on a decapitated head by introducing gore and scary movie tropes, such as in the scene described above. “Holliston,” which has its second season premiere tonight at 10 p.m., also stars director Joe Lynch (“Wrong Turn 2,” the much-anticipated “Knights of Badassdom”), as well as Corri English and Laura Ortiz. Oh yeah, and then there’s Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider as Adam and Joe’s boss and GWAR’s Oderus Urungus who is Adam’s imaginary friend, Oderus.
The show revolves primarily around Adam and Joe’s attempt to get their zombie soccer movie “Shinpads” made whilst working as horror-show hosts as a low-rent local cable company, and during their adventures, a rogues gallery of scary movie icons appear as skewed versions of themselves. For instance, in the Season Two premiere, the imposing Kane Hodder (the “Hatchet” series and “Friday the 13th” parts 7-10) appears as a sensitive and precious actor who attempts suicide when he hears he’s been replaced as Jason Voorhees.
Granted, a segment of the population may not know who Hodder is or, for that matter, other guest stars such as Danielle Harris, Tony Todd and Derek Mears. Hopefully they at least know who John Landis is, but that’s not what “Holliston” is going for. Loaded with horror movie quotations and background Easter Eggs from the genre, there is a sense that if you get it, you’re one of “us,” but if not, well … you really won’t get it.
That’s what matters to Green. A creator who emphasizes how dedicated he is to spending time with every person who shows up to support his work, he has developed a reputation for not charging for autographs or photos, and for opening up industry parties to the public (such as last year’s “Con of the Dead” party at San Diego Comic-Con). A big proponent of "fans have the power," he has also written live performances of episodes at conventions to show appreciation to them.
As such, we caught up with Green in his Massachusetts hometown of the real Holliston. To raise money for the victims and families of the Boston Marathon bombings, Green was hosting a weekend of a party, auction, “Holliston” and “Hatchet” screenings -- as well as a first-look preview of “Hatchet III,” which he wrote and executive produced, but which is directed by BJ McDonnell.
MTV Geek: Has this idea of the horror sitcom by for horror nerds by horror nerds broken through to the mainstream?
Adam Green: It’s cool because we’re on a new network that not everyone has yet. We’re the underdog but gaining exposure for the network. What’s been the most surprising thing is going to conventions – which is really all we have since we don’t have billboards or cross-promotional network spots with NBC. It is a word of mouth show. We did the Horror Hound convention in March and didn’t think anyone would care about us because the cast of “The Walking Dead” was there, but our line was just as long or longer than theirs. We got 1,000 people into our panel in a ballroom that was supposed to hold 800, we had a huge standing ovation and we signed for, I think, seven hours.
Geek: How do you feel about the “Big Bang Theory” comparison?
Green: Fans do look at it like a “Big Bang Theory” for them. I like “Big Bang Theory” a lot, and think they do a terrific job. What’s interesting is multiple fans keep saying what they don’t like about that show is it’s written and performed by people who aren’t really geeks, and that they’re making fun of geeks whereas “Holliston” never has horror fans as the butt of the joke or are making fun of them and condescending to them. I think it’s very honest, but I never looked at “Big Bang Theory” as making fun of geeks.
Geek: What is the directive for Season Two?
Green: Now that the show is off and running – I hate to use the word “better,” but everything is established now. Everyone knows the characters and relationships. But now that we’ve gotten the feedback we’ve gotten and know the stuff we like is working, we get to make the show that we set out to make. The network has totally supported us. You can tell halfway through the first episode of this season how much confidence has raised.
Geek: How does that compare to Season One?
Green: I love Season One but you we were terrified when we were doing it. It could have been the nail in my coffin as a filmmaker … you can see on screen that both Joe and I were nervous because we thought, no matter what we did, everyone would say we’re terrible.
Geek:In Season One we saw these guys trying to get the trailer for “Shinpads” made and now they’re attempting to do a short film, and appear to have Kane Hodder and Danielle Harris on board. Will this actually happen?
Green: In the first two episodes of the season you’ll see us conspiring and trying to make it but what is a more interesting story is what the struggle in trying to make that movie does to the relationships. That’s really what the season focuses on more … throughout the arc of the season we’re trying to get “Shinpads” made, but at one point we give up and try to make a found footage movie because we just want to make something we can sell. We also have an animated episode this season where The Blob attacks the town of Holliston.
Geek: What would happen if Adam and Joe finally get the movie made? Is that the end of their journey?
Green: You don’t want the journey to get to a certain point too quickly. We’re hoping to do this for 10 seasons or more. That’s the hard thing about TV because, at any moment, the plug could get pulled. But you don’t want to rush it just in case we get cancelled. We do make the short film by the end of the season and we finally get to show people. I don’t want to spoil what happens when we finally get to premiere the short film but it obviously doesn’t go well ... but once Adam and Joe accomplish some level of success, there's a whole level of comedy that could come with that, dealing with critics, stalkers and all that.
Geek:These characters clearly know their horror films, but they might suck as creators. Is that something you’ll need to address?
Green: Yeah! You may love football but that doesn’t mean you have any business trying to play the sport. It’s the same thing with filmmaking ... everybody has a great idea for a movie but do you have the stamina to get good at your craft and deal with how heartbreaking it is? Whether Adam and Joe are any good is yet to be shown. But they have a lot to learn.
Geek: “Holliston” shares certain sensibilities with classic sitcoms (minus the blood), so what were the ones you watched?
Green: The two that me and the cast would watch and discuss were “Seinfeld” and “All in the Family.” What’s so amazing about “All in the Family” is sometimes an entire act was one camera shot. It was all about characters. With “Seinfeld,” because it was a four-person ensemble, there was no lead character. My character might be the eyes into it, and I have my own scenes with Oderus, but it’s the four of us that make it work … We stick so close to the sitcom formula, down to the lighting and camera shots, and it feels like a network sitcom but we’re doing stuff they’ll never be able to do.
Geek: When celebrities like John Landis or Tony Todd get involved with “Holliston,” do you already have the plotlines in mind or do they contact you with how they want to play against type?
Green: I already have the plotlines and a lot of the jokes already set up so when I can them, I can say, ‘this is what we want to do.’ Season One was a lot harder because you had to contact them and go, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m making a sitcom and Lynch and I are starring in it, and it’s on FEARnet, and yes that’s actually a network.’ That was really hard because they had to take a leap of faith. Now that everyone has seen it, now we’re turning people away because Tony Todd threw down the gauntlet by being so self-deprecating and playing a horrible version of himself. When I now tell people what I want to do with them, they want me to make sure they look even worse than Tony was. Kane goes from being a badass tough guy to playing a pathetic character of himself. And Danielle plays a pill whore who will only do our film because I’m willing to get teeth pulled out to get Vicodin for her. You wouldn’t see that storyline on CBS!