TCA: The Nerdist Heads to BBC
Chris Hardwick, of Singled Out, Talking Dead and Nerdist podcast fame, stopped by the TCA Winter Tour to talk about his new 10-episode talk/variety show for BBC America. Hardwick discussed how podcasts became the comedians’ last resort for an outlet after stand-up TV died, and gave some hints about what his show will include and embody.
“I met with BBC America a couple of years ago,” Hardwick explained, having done several Nerdist TV specials for the network already. “I was a huge Doctor Who fan and I was very open about that on social media. I caught their attention somehow because I would not shut up about it. And we had Matt Smith on the podcast and so then they got more involved and I sat down and had some meetings and they asked me ‘Well, what do you want to do?’ and I said that I wanted to do a TV version of the podcast. So that’s what we did as a series of specials.”
“Then we started talking about what that would look like as a series,” Hardwick elaborated, “and then we decided to make it more of a hangout show, like a variety show. So that’s what we’re sort of building right now.” Again, the Nerdist BBC series hasn’t begun shooting yet, so Hardwick spent most of the Q&A panel talking about abstract ideas for what he’d like it to be rather than showing us footage of the actual product.
“Podcasts are really, and have been, a survival mechanism for comics,” Hardwick admitted. “Think about comedy boom of the 1980s, and every network had like a Caroline’s Comedy Hour, or the Fun Time Dick-Around Hour. Your job is a stand-up is to get your voice to the world so people can know if they should come and see you perform. That all went away. Comedy died in the ’90s. Podcasts became the comedy albums of today.”
“I didn’t start the podcast or the website thinking ‘let’s create an industry,’ I was just feeling suffocated in the entertainment business,” Hardwick explained. “And as far as nerd culture, you could never pitch nerd culture shows 10, 15 years ago. They would have laughed at you, wedgied you and kicked you out. But now, we realize that there’s so much power in nerd culture. There’s Doctor Who shirts in Hot Topic, for crap’s sake. Nerd culture has become so ubiquitous and so a part of who we are, the fact that my mom knows what ’4G’ means is crazy. I think that’s something that we figured out a long time ago, but it just took the industry a while to catch up. So starting all the Nerdist stuff was just me going ‘this is all the stuff I care about, and I just need it.’”
So how would Hardwick best describe his actual upcoming series? “It’s where nerd culture and comedy intersect,” he said. “So anything in the shaded region of that venn diagram is really what the show will be about. We had some success during the specials in giving a theme to each one. Because that really just gave the show a spine. We did a salute to Comic-Con. We did a salute to video games. So I think we might do that as well here, not to be literal but to just give the show a jumping off point. So we could do a salute to special effects. Or sci-fi. Or ’80s comedies. And the fact that we’ll have an hour to really talk is great. I’d like to have real conversations with this, and not have it be so much about ‘What was it like to work on that show?’ and then the person saying ‘It was great.’
Hardwick’s Nerdist show will come at the end of BBC America’s Supernatural Saturday night lineup, following Doctor Who and new series Orphan Black. “I really want this show to feel like ‘Okay, you’ve watched Doctor Who, you’ve watched Orphan Black and now we will gently pick you up and snuggle you into your bed.’ We’re like a snuggie for your brain.”
The Nerdist will premiere in Spring 2013.
Follow Matt Fowler on Twitter at @TheMattFowler