Fred Savage makes his talk-show host debut Sunday on Fox’s “What Just Happened??! With Fred Savage” — a very real aftershow based on a very not real sci-fi series called “The Flare.” Well, not real for now, at least, as the “Wonder Years” alum is thinking maybe his show could help its fake lead-in get the green light.
“I’ll be honest, we’re hoping that it’s not so fake,” Savage — who hosts, co-created and executive produces “What Just Happened??!” — told TheWrap. “I mean, ‘The Flare’ does exist — just a scene at a time. The books are obviously completely made up, but the show itself, like, we have a real cast, a real director, and I think it’s a good show.”
“The Flare” is based on fictional author TJ Whitford’s sci-fi book series, “The Moon is the Sun at Night,” which has been a favorite of Savage’s since childhood (not really, but just go with it). The novels revolve around a solar event and its effects on Earth – specifically, the small, blue-collar town of Milford, Ill. – and slowly unfold into a post-apocalyptic battle for human survival.
“When we were developing [‘What Just Happened??!]’ at Fox, there were more than a few times where they were interested in developing ‘The Flare’ as a genuine show, so hopefully we’ll get there,” Savage said, adding, “Maybe it will be the first show ever based off of a show that an aftershow is based on. (laughs)”
“The Flare” stars Kevin Zegers (“Dirty John”), Guillermo Diaz (“Scandal”), Shiri Appleby (“UnReal”), Duane Henry (“NCIS”), Tyler Ritter (“Arrow”), Kai Wener (“The Orville”), Amy Acker (“The Gifted”), Sola Bamis (“Stitchers”) and Sprague Grayden (“The Following”) and is directed by Jon Cassar (“The Orville”). Yes, there is a real cast and creative team behind this fake show, because it was important to Savage that “The Flare” was “real” — even though it’s fake.
“We have top-notch people and a killer cast because we wanted to give ‘The Flare’ its due,” Savage said. “It’s not here to be a spoof of anything or to poke fun at anything. This whole thing is kind of built on ‘The Flare’ being this real show, that’s the foundation on which everything is built. So ‘The Flare’ itself needs to feel great.”
Now, if you’re already confused about following along with all of this — unless “The Flare” really does become a show, that is — don’t worry, because Savage explained to us how it’s going to work when you tune in to the first season of his aftershow, which features guests like Kevin Smith, Rob Lowe and Ken Jeong.
“So ‘What Just Happened??!’ follows ‘The Flare.’ So the first two minutes of our show is the last scene of ‘The Flare,’ of that night’s episode of ‘The Flare,'” he said. “It’s very ‘Lost’-like the way the episodes end. It ends in some moment of suspense or great drama or excitement. And then it minimizes in the bottom part of the screen and then I’m on screen going, ‘What just happened??! That’s incredible! Let’s talk about.'”
OK, we think we got it now and Savage is definitely here to reassure viewers this won’t be that complicated.
“Everything you need to know for that episode of [‘What Just Happened??!’] you’ll learn in that opening scene,” he told us. “We try not to get too deep in the weeds on ‘The Flare’ because we’ve found — we spent a lot of time putting this show together, obviously watching a lot of different after-shows and immersing ourselves in that world — and we found that when it gets into the minutiae of any one particular show, where it gets too deep into the weeds, that’s where it becomes not very interesting. Or at least not very interesting to anyone other than die-hard fans.”
“And since ‘The Flare’ only exists one or two scenes at a time, not only do we not wanna get in the weeds of it, you can’t really get in the weeds of it,” he said. “So ‘The Flare’ serves as a springboard into our topics or into our theme for the episode, which is ultimately a talk show.”
A talk show wasn’t something Savage was interested in signing on for unless they could make it into something truly unique in the current TV landscape.
“Fox came to me and was excited about me doing a talk show for them,” he said. “And I wasn’t interested in doing a straightforward talk show. The idea of being a talk show host was very interesting to me, but I felt like I’d want to do something a little different and put a bit of a spin on it.”
It should be obvious by now that when Savage is on “What Just Happened??!” he’s going to be in character as the version of himself who exists in a world where “The Flare” is real and where he is a huge, huge fan. And in the preview clip above, which is exclusive to TheWrap, you’ll see just how aggressive the host becomes with “Flare” star Zegers, who may have stolen the leading role from him.
“Uh, well, look it was obviously devastating, if I’m being honest,” Savage told TheWrap of (not really) losing the part to Zegers. “But it’s one of those things where I’m such a fan of the books. And reading them as a kid growing up, you kind of imagine yourself in that role, as the leader in the books and the leader of the show, who Kevin is playing. And I always envisioned myself in that role.”
“So when they said they were gonna make the show, I leaped at the chance,” he continued. “Now, Fox wasn’t so interested in asking me to come in, but if I’ve learned anything about show business from this career, it’s you never take no for an answer. So I taped my audition and sent it in. They went in a different direction, what can you do.”
“What Just Happened??!” premieres Sunday at 9:30/8:30c on Fox.