The Making of ‘Grimsburg’: How a Live-Action Noir Spoof Turned Into ‘Twin Peaks’ Meets Springfield

The Fox series’ EPs tell TheWrap about the surprising path to Fox’s Jon Hamm crime comedy

"Grimsburg" (Photo Credit: Fox)

When the script for what would become “Grimsburg” first landed at production company The Jackal Group, it was unrecognizable from the Fox animated comedy it would become. A big reason for this is that “Grimsburg” was originally envisioned as a live-action spoof of Nordic noir dramas.

“It was brought into our company as a live-action, and it didn’t feel like another live-action, homicide, sort of show. It felt fresh,” Gail Berman, co-owner and founding partner of The Jackal Group as well as executive producer for “Grimsburg,” told TheWrap.

After retooling the idea with writers Catlan McClelland and Matthew Schlissel, “The Cleveland Show” and “Santa Clarita Diet” writer Chadd Gindin was brought in to develop the project and Bento Box was tapped as the project’s animation studio. That’s how this “very specific” spoof became one of the latest and buzziest entries into Fox’s animation domination block.

“It’s a very funny script. But we had to take it and find a way to take what made it so great and turn it into something that you could do every week, week after week,” Gindin told TheWrap. “When I came in, it felt like the idea became ‘Let’s make ‘Twin Peaks’ via Springfield.’”

That became the story of Marvin Flute (Jon Hamm), an intense and neurotic man who also happens to be the world’s greatest detective. The series follows him as he tries to balance solving Grimsburg’s many odd mysteries with maintaining a relationship with his ex-wife who was raised by bears (Erinn Hayes) and his son Stan (Rachel Dratch). The genre comedy is a riff on moody and popular crime dramas such as “Broadchurch,” “True Detective,” “Fargo” and “Happy Valley.”

In order to translate that comedy, Gindin made sure to write the story of this series as honestly as possible, taking care never to never “sell out” a character for the sake of a joke.

“It’s sort of the ‘Airplane!’ model that the Zucker brothers set up: Play this as straight as possible, and let the insanity around it work to make the laughs happen,” Gindin explained. In this case, the surrounding insanity happens to involve serial killers, missing teenagers and several body parts.

Making the series animated also allowed “Grimsburg” to take much bigger (and sillier) swings. A good example of that lies in the reluctant Marvin Flute’s partner, Det. Greg Summers (Kevin Michael Richardson). Originally, the idea was for Greg to blow up more and more over the season until his replaced body parts turned him into a Robocop. That morphed into starting with Greg as a cyborg detective.

“Grimsburg” (Photo Credit: Fox)

Gindin was happy to take advantage of the bolder ideas that animation and its lower cost allowed. “I did animation in the beginning of my career, and then did a lot of live action stuff, and then came back to this,” Gindin said. “You really do get tired of writing for live action, coming back [to animation]. You write this thing, and they’re like, ‘Amazing, it’s so great. We can’t shoot that.’”

Once “Grimsburg” was retooled to be the series it is today, it needed its star. No. 1 on that list was also the actor the team thought would never say yes: Jon Hamm.

To get the project in front of Hamm, Berman called “one of my best friends” Connie Travel, who produced and worked with Hamm on the movie “Confess, Fletch.”

“In years of knowing her, I’ve never gone to her with any single project,” Berman said. “I said, ‘Connie, I have an animated show that I think you and Jon might like,’ and I sent it over to her. She read it so quickly, I want to say 24 hours, and sent it to Jon. He loved it. And that’s how it happened.” Both Tarvel and Hamm signed on to executive produce the series.

“What’s so great about John is he gets comedy so well. Even in the straight moments, he knows how to play them straight for comedy or if we need to veer just slightly on this last little sentence,” Gindin said. “When you have someone that talented, it helps with the rest of the cast.”

“It’s just one of those things where you really feel that the chemistry was coming together,” Berman said.

Though “Grimsburg” just premiered in January, it’s clear that Fox is confident in this one. The first episode aired with Week 18’s NFL double-header as its lead-in on Jan. 7. It then premiered in earnest on Feb. 18 in its typical Sunday time slot and has already been given a two-season order by the network.

“We’re very, very grateful to [Fox] for that because we could really settle in,” Berman said. “Sometimes takes a little while to find animation. In this case, we found it a little quicker than many, but it takes a while. And on their platform, on their network, they have certain places that you can really have a very big audience to watch.”

Gindin noted that the multi-season pickup “freed us up” to push this concept even further.

“When they say, ‘Let’s do a Season 2,’ then you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, we are heading in the right direction.’ Then the problem with that is now you’re like, ‘Let’s go further.’ You end up working even harder in Season 2,” Gindin said. “We got very ambitious in Season 2, I think, and we’re excited about that. Some of the animators are not as happy with our ambitions.”


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