Ridley says there are compromises in going to television, sure — but that goes for film as well. “There’s just a lot of latitude,” he explains. “We were left alone by the network, truly. As long as, and this is not quite hyperbole, everything was in focus and we were under budget, they really allowed us to kind of go off and do the things that we wanted to do, and attempt some things, and it was a lot of fun. So I like working in film, there’s a lot of good things about working in film, but this was honestly, in a couple of years of wonderful experiences, this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
Lord concurs. “I think they’re willing to let us fail. The show’s not too big to fail. So we always say, let’s die on our own hill, let’s make the thing that’s in [Will’s] head. And if he’s happy with it, and if we’re happy with us, it doesn’t matter. Y’know, if it bombs, it bombs — and we really expected it to bomb.”
“Bombing is my comfort zone!” Forte insists.
And so we’re starting to see the positive effects on the people who are working in network television. Thus far, it’s had something of a deadening effect, with broadcast letting cable take the fringe while they stay in the middle, sticking with seemingly sure bets like broad, three- camera sitcoms and spinoffs of crime-scene procedurals. But with even that strategy failing, the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction, with the networks chasing niche audiences that will enthusiastically embrace shows like these.
“The fragmentation of the TV audience is to the advantage of people who want to make singular work,” Lord says. “Because you need a passionate fan base, but they don’t have to be as big as they used to have to be. It used to be you were making the biggest hit ever, so anything that excluded anybody, you had to lose. But now, when you look on Twitter and stuff, the critiques I see of our show are, ‘It’s not going far enough.’ And that’s such a weird and welcome thing, I think that’s why we’re in this golden age of television, even when we don’t know if TVs will exist.” After a brief pause, he deadpans, “A television is a standalone box that plays images and sound, it’s like a computer, but it’s less functional.”
And with Twitter just one of the new metrics that a desperate industry is embracing to get a read on how and what people are watching (and with how much enthusiasm), these creators get a sense that, for the first time in a while, everything is up in the air. Or, as Ridley puts, it, “Everything that’s really disrupting the space is, I think, making it a more interesting place to play.”
American Crime airs Thursdays on ABC. The Last Man on Earth airs Sundays on Fox. Photo credit: Jason Bailey / Flavorwire