How ‘The Boys’ Faced ‘A Metric S— Ton of Pressure’ in Crafting Season 2

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“I did not want to be the one-hit wonder that people said ‘Oh, Season 1 was so good, and then they s— the bed,'” showrunner Eric Kripke says

The boys
Amazon Prime Video

Amazon’s superhero send-up “The Boys” returns on Friday with considerably more fanfare than its series debut last summer, when it became a surprise hit with its meta-commentary on Hollywood’s most popular draws. According to Nielsen, “The Boys” was one of Amazon’s most popular shows immediately after its debut. It became Amazon’s highest-rated series on IMDB — ever — with an 8.9 rating. While the unexpected success was undoubtedly a good thing for Amazon, that only ratchets up the pressure to avoid the dreaded Sophomore Slump. The streamer gave it a big vote of confidence by picking up a second season ahead of last year’s premiere. “It was a metric s— ton of pressure,” showrunner Eric Kripke told TheWrap. “I did not want to be the one-hit wonder that people said, ‘Oh, Season 1 was so good. And then they s— the bed and now it’s over.’” Amazon is doing all it can to make sure “The Boys” is bigger this season — for starters: they constructed a 50-foot long, 11-foot high whale that was “anatomically accurate,” according to Kripke, for a single scene. But outside of a much larger whale budget, Amazon flexed its own superpowers, with a weekly rollout schedule and an Aisha Tyler-hosted aftershow. Last year they dropped all the episodes at once. Amazon also gave “The Boys” a season-three pickup back in July, six weeks ahead of its return. The weekly rollout for “The Boys” represents a departure for Amazon, which has followed Netflix in releasing entire seasons at once, which can come with a cost. “The only downside for us in terms of ‘The Boys,’ is it felt like it drove so much conversation, but it was dropped all at once,” Vernon Sanders, Amazon Studios’ co-head of television, told TheWrap. “Every once in awhile we want to experiment and try something different.” “The Boys” offered the perfect opportunity to experiment with a weekly episode drop, an idea that was initially raised by the show’s producers, according to Sanders. “If they hadn’t approached us for this, or they weren’t open to it, I don’t think we would have been willing to try this out. We’re definitely paying attention to see how people react to it.” As the streaming space has grown, more and more of the newcomers like Disney+ and HBO Max are actually moving away from the all-at-once model that Netflix pioneered. In the case of Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” that weekly anticipation for the next Baby Yoda adventure gave the “Star Wars” series a much longer pop culture tailwind than if all eight episodes were released at once. “That’s also part of the reason we wanted to do the after show, as well,” said Albert Cheng, Amazon Studios’ COO and other co-head of television. “This is not just a U.S. thing. All around the world it’s a massive hit.” For Kripke, the increased expectations were always at the front of his mind during production. “I felt an incredible amount of pressure because we had to, at the very least, be as good as season one, if not clear it,” he said. “I think a certain amount of that is healthy because it forces you to really say, ‘Well how can we make this scene better, this character better, this story better?” Antony Starr, who plays Homelander, agreed that everyone was worried about falling flat in their second year. “Second album syndrome is alive and well and very real,” he said. “I think if you get too cerebral about it and try too hard to get it right, then inevitably you’ll get it wrong.” “The Boys” was developed by Kripke, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series of the same name, which ran for 72 issues between 2006 and 2012. It was less known than some of Ennis’ other work, which included a celebrated run with Marvel Comics on “The Punisher,” as well as “Preacher,” which had its own 4-season run as a TV adaptation on AMC, and “Hitman.”
“You’re the Worst” star Aya Cash joined the cast for Season 2.
“We had confidence in the genre. And it was also a comic book from Garth Ennis. That was enough for us to know that it would be a solid performer,” Cheng said. “But when it actually came out and people were starting to get really excited about it, it completely surpassed our expectations.” The fact “The Boys” came to fruition in the first place is its own small miracle. It was first optioned in 2008 by Columbia Pictures for a film that was supposed to be directed by Adam McKay, but was stuck in development hell for nearly a decade. It was eventually rerouted to television, first at Cinemax, before the project — led by Kripke, landed at Amazon, who was looking to get into genre programming. It ended up being worth the wait. “The Boys” premiered on the heels of the jaw-dropping success of “Avengers: Endgame,” which wrapped up the first era of Marvel’s hugely popular cinematic universe as the highest-grossing movie ever. At the same time, The CW had found its own successful formula with its expansive roster of DC Comics superheroes that now dominate its primetime lineup. R-rated superhero films like “Deadpool” and “Logan” proved that more mature takes on the genre could yield box office gold. “We live in a time when superhero content — there’s a hell of a lot of it. And people love it, myself included,” Starr said. “We’ve got something here that’s fresh and new and has its own voice and something a little different within that universe.” Entering at a time when comic book characters were no longer outside the mainstream, but were the mainstream, made the genre ripe for satire. “The Boys” does just that by featuring a “Justice League”-esque team of heroes that are just as concerned with their Q score as they are with saving the world. It’s also extremely violent, aiming to show the physically grotesque damage that can come from someone with super-strength or the ability to shoot lasers out of their eyes. “People are going to show up thinking it’s going to be ‘Deadpool,’ but the most surprising thing we could do is give them something with a lot of heart and depth,” Kripke said. “They’re expecting to see blood. I don’t think they’re expecting to feel emotional about it.”


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