Talking with Scott Aukerman and Kulap Vilaysack About the Future of Their Seeso Shows
Having your TV show canceled is presumably quite devastating, but what happens when your whole network is canceled? As a few former Seeso shows are finding out, there’s no reason to go down with the ship. Especially when your lifeboat is a proven track record of success, a new season that’s already been shot, and thousands of dedicated fans ready to build a daisy chain to a new home with the help of a hashtag.
Then the only question that Kulap Vilaysack and Scott Aukerman have left to answer is “Who’s ready to #buyjillion?”
On August 9th, rumors were confirmed that NBC’s comedy-focused streaming service Seeso would shut down roughly a year and a half since its launch date. There was never going to be a “good time” for Seeso to officially stop everything, and so Vilaysack and Aukerman were already in the editing phase of the fourth season of Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, of which Vilaysack is showrunner and Aukerman an executive producer; Aukerman is also executive producer on Take My Wife, another Seeso show and one that had just finished filming season 2. Both shows have new storylines, jokes, characters, guest stars, and even full episodes, but what they don’t have is a home.
Fans have been spreading word on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with hashtags like #buyjillion and #TakeMyWife, trying to get an established and accessible service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon to pick them up, but ultimately that can only move the needle so far. Luckily, Kulap and Scott have a wild card in their pockets that very few other writers can pull when talking to networks about picking up their shows: the fact that it’s already been made and has fans ready to tune in wherever they go. And if there’s one thing that Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ knows how to do, it’s how to find a home.
When and how did you find out that Seeso was shutting down and that you’d have to find a new home for season 4?
Kulap Vilaysack: I think we found out when I heard that Evan [Shapiro, former head of Seeso] left: “Uh oh, what’s happening?”
Scott Aukerman: It was definitely after we had completed the next season of Bajillion.
Kulap: We were in editing.
Scott: There was signs of trouble that we were hearing about just from the network while we were filming Take My Wife season 2 and editing for Bajillion season 4, but we didn’t hear that it was officially shutting down until after Take My Wife wrapped. And Bajillion had long since wrapped. We found out maybe a couple weeks before the general public found out.
Kulap: In my mind I was like, “Oh, this is the beginning of the end” when Evan left.
Scott: We found out that Evan left at the same time that everyone did, but they didn’t say “Oh, and Seeso is also shutting down.”
What do you do at that point when you’re in the middle of filming or editing?
Scott: With Bajillion we started just trying to figure out what would happen to season 4. That’s the real bummer about it. We were supposed to be coming out early next year with season 4. I think it’s the best season yet. Kulap, what do you think?
Kulap: I feel that way. We had this amazing season finale, and I directed it and I’m so proud of it. It’s big and dynamic.
Scott: With incredible guest stars next season.
Kulap: Dana Carvey, Ben Schwartz, Alicia Silverstone, John Gemberling, Whitney Cummings, Dave Foley, Chris Parnell, and so many more.
Scott: For Bajillion, it became a real “Okay, where else can we go with the show? How do we get it out there so people can see it?” We had been planning on season 5, talking to Seeso about it and when it would start, and writing on it was supposed to start early next year. So it throws a real wrench into the works of trying to figure out not only that we want people to see season 4 but there’s a future for the show beyond that — for many seasons to come. For Take My Wife it was a little bit different, because we heard Evan had left the company when we were in the middle of production on that season, so it was trying to make sure we could complete the season and that there wouldn’t be a disruption on filming or post-production. To their credit, Seeso was great. They wanted us to complete it. All the checks cleared. [laughs] We’ve made two great unseen seasons of both of those shows and they were very supportive to make sure they got done.
How has it felt to see the response from fans since the announcement, trying to help find a home for season 4 and keep the show alive for more seasons to come?
Kulap: For me, it’s heartwarming and affirming. I’m so proud of the show and I love it so much. To have this outpouring and people participating in the hashtag for #buyjillion, along with how much the show means to them, how much they love the characters, it means the world to me.
How does one go about selling an already-established, already-shot TV show? How has that experience been so far?
Scott: It’s interesting because you’re just looking for that one place that gets it and goes “Oh yeah, this is exactly what we need.” I’ve found with shopping any kind of show, people usually like the pitches that you bring in, it’s just always about timing and what they need in that particular six-month cycle, and how much money they have to buy stuff. It’s not that dissimilar from other pitches where you’re trying to hit a place that says, “Oh this is perfect for us,” and I’m confident we’ll find one of those places.
Kulap: It’s just being patient and waiting to hear.
You were given a lot of creative freedom by Seeso to make the choices you wanted to make with Bajillion. Would that be an issue at all with taking it to a new network where maybe they don’t always give that freedom?
Scott: I feel like once you actually make the show and you’re successful at it, you have earned the freedom in a way. Seeso was really good about giving us freedom because they trust us and everything is about trust. Now that there are four seasons in the can, there would be that trust there. Seeso trusted the team, and trusted Kulap, and ordered 18 episodes right off the bat.
Kulap: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a negative. If the show’s really funny then I don’t know if that freedom could ever be a negative.
Is there anything that fans who are already spreading the #buyjillion and other hashtags can further do to support the cause?
Scott: The hashtags are really good and they have slightly moved the needle for both shows, but I know the people who work the Twitter account of most of these networks and they’re people like you and me — regular people, not the gatekeepers or anything. What’s really been helpful is that those hashtags have turned into articles, and that’s a little bit more of beating the drum where heads of networks will actually see it, which is great. The groundswell of support from the fans has turned into press, which hopefully turns into more interest from networks. Everyone’s doing their part, from the fans of the show to people who want to write about it.
Kulap: Seasons 1-3 are gonna come out on iTunes starting on September 5th, so I feel like supporting that and letting people know about that, the more people who watch the show will hopefully help us find a home for season 4.
Scott: Including in Canada. So Canadians can finally see something from Seeso, which they’ve been trying to for awhile.
How is it to have someone like Paul F Tompkins in your corner, as a star of the show, but also as a person who is willing to help lead the charge for keeping it alive like he has?
Kulap: I’ve known Paul for most of my adult life. I think he’s the one of the best comedians period, and to have been able to have this experience to work with him on these four seasons has deepened our friendship — he truly is my family. It takes my breath away how much he supports the show, how much he says it’s the best project he’s ever worked on, the fact that I got to do this with him, I’m just incredibly grateful. I could start crying, honestly, about Paul F. Tompkins. Between him and also Scott reaching 400 tweets — What was the purpose of the 400 tweets, Scott?
Scott: The Bajillion 400 started because someone wrote to Paul when he was promoting season 3 of the show, saying, “Enough about Bajillion, we get it, you’re in Bajillion,” kind of trollishly, “You’re talking about it too much.” So I decided to retweet him 400 times just because it’s like, if you’re proud of a show you can’t talk about it enough. People wanna hear about what you’re involved in, that’s why they’re following you. So it started there, and then Paul took it over for a little bit, then we just started retweeting anyone or anything talking about Bajillion. I don’t know why I thought of the number 400 but it was a lofty goal — perhaps too lofty — but we are almost there! We’re almost there and we’re gonna be wrapping it up, hittin’ 400, when the show goes to iTunes.
How has this experience of working together on a TV show been?
Kulap: Oh, me and my sweet boy? Me and my sugar booger? The love of my life, Scott? I love working with my sugar booger. How do you feel Scotty?
Scott: It’s great. We’re constantly closing down the set so we can get it on.
Scott: Really, this is Kulap’s first show as a showrunner, and there’s always trepidation in working with any first-time showrunner, especially when there’s the possibility for it to affect your home life or personal life. But the great thing about it is that Kulap really took to it like a duck to water. And thrived. I was pretty hands-on in the first season and then less so and less so throughout the successive season, and pretty much I’m there now to offer support and offer a brain to say, “What about this?” So it’s been really great.
Kulap: For me, Scott is so necessary in editing when I’ve put together an episode, and it’s so important to me for him to get fresh eyes on an episode and give me notes because he gives fantastic notes.
Scott: Thank you!
Kulap: You’re very, very good. Great structure. So I love working with him.