The focus on spoofing reality TV and having the various sketches begin to cross over was encouraged by head writer John Levenstein, who was a veteran of scripted half-hour television brought on board by Kroll.
Given that show's manic devotion to complicated plot arcs that lasted a season or more, a sketch show was an odd choice for Levenstein
So, during the first season, he
began to explore the limits of the form.
"I started pushing more for expanded sketches, the three-parters, and because Nick is such a good actor, in those three-parters I started to give them very emotional elements," Levenstein told me. "In season one, they tended to be within an episode.
"In season two, I had some big linchpins that I wanted to do," Levenstein
quickly appreciated the manic intensity of the sketch format, which let him make narrative jumps that wouldn't be allowed in a traditional sitcom.
"What can make me crazy in traditional television is all the story points that get fed to the audience that the audience doesn't really have to know.
We don't have any of the downside of having to lay pipe for sheer exposition," he
"We have the freedom to do storytelling without responsibility.
As long as the puzzle you're putting together makes some sort of intuitive sense.
It doesn't have to make logical sense, cause no one was asking us to do that in the first place."
, and the writer's room would help break the big narrative arcs and map out the jokes for every sketch, and the actors would improvise more material on set that was then refined and presented for usable takes.
"And then John Levenstein
, having watched a lot of reality TV, was just a master of story and was able to create these arcs and storylines that felt authentic to whatever format we were doing.
The show wasn't initially conceived as a reality spoof, and still treads into other genres from time to time, but Levenstein
and Krisel prevailed in convincing Kroll
of the format's usefulness.
By the time the third season rolled around, neither Kroll nor Levenstein figured it would be the show's last, but halfway through production, they concluded it might be time to hang it up.
and I spoke a couple months after wrapping, and he
had covered what he
wanted to do, and I felt similarly."
"I got a feeling more and more that I didn't have anything more to do on the show," Levenstein