Hey there, Plotaholics–Shane here.
The summer is a tough time for television. It seems like all the networks just wave the white flag and let the movie studios win May, June, July, and August.
And for what? Men In Black: International?
Summer is the time that networks take shows they aren’t sure about on little test drives. Most of the time, these series run for 6-8 episodes over the summer months, and if they perform well enough, they might get picked up for the Fall season with a full order. These series are often cheap to make, so we see a surge over the summer months of game show content (like Hollywood Game Night or Spin the Wheel) or competitions (like Holey Moley or Bring the Funny).
However, sometimes–sometimes–a gem sneaks through. This year, that gem comes to us in the form of a high-concept, postmodern talk show host by Fred Savage (Kevin from The Wonder Years!). That show is called What Just Happened??!
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything on television like What Just Happened??! It’s also incredibly difficult to describe, but I’ll give it a shot.
What Just Happened??! is a talk show modeled after shows like The Talking Dead, the latter of which is a discussion show about The Walking Dead. What Just Happened??! is a show about another show called The Flare, which is a series about what happens when a solar flare knocks out all of the electricity in Chicago, forcing everyone there off the grid.
The only catch is that The Flare is not a real TV show. So, at its core, What Just Happened??! is a parody of fandom, and I’m here for it.
The format of What Just Happened??! becomes pretty clear after a couple of episodes. Each episode opens with the final few minutes of that week’s episode of The Flare (again, totally made up). After that episode wraps up, Fred Savage breaks in with the title of the show: “What just happened??! Oh, my God, we have so much to talk about!” Blah blah blah. Then, Fred and his co-host Taylor Tomlinson discuss the week’s episode before having celebrity guests and “fans” of The Flare (like Kevin Smith and Vince Gilligan) on to talk further about the episode. There are other gags and bits along the way, but these are the basic beats of the episode.
What makes this series so interesting is the amount of work the writers are having to do. Fred Savage is playing a version of himself, but it’s a little skewed. He is bitter that he wasn’t cast as the lead of The Flare after loving the books (again, not real) as a child. His character comes off as a little desperate and a little sad at his station in Hollywood.
While the writers are creating the world of What Just Happened??!, though, they are also creating the world of The Flare through 3-minutes scenes and discussions of the series.
Did I mention this is high-concept?
Finally, all of the guests are totally in on it (as is the audience and house band). They all LOVE The Flare, even if they guests are all there to promote real projects. You’ll find yourself second-guessing your reality and wondering why you’ve never watched The Flare, but you can’t watch it because it’s not real!
I think the first three episodes of this show are really funny and really smart. I know there is an audience for this show, but I worry that the audience won’t find it until it’s too late. I fear it won’t last long.
As of this writing four episodes of What Just Happened??! are available on Hulu. New episodes air Sundays at 9:30 PM on FOX. Give it a shot and see how you like it. And drop a line in the comments if you’ve think you might like it or if you’ve already seen it.
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