Ah, the juicy viewing treats of sweeps time. Tomorrow night’s “The Neighbors” is a crossover episode with its behemoth lead-out program, “Shark Tank,” in case you haven’t heard. Fans of the “Shark” entrepreneurs will be glad to know that they make a good showing in their acting roles.
“Sometimes when you ask these kinds of people to do scripted dialogue rather than just speaking it off their minds, it can get a little stilted,” notes Dan Fogelman, who created and executive produces the far-out comedy centered on some space aliens who’ve adopted Earthly sports star names and are living in a gated New Jersey community. Fogelman says that the “Sharks” all “come off really natural in the episode. They landed gigantic, scripted jokes. They were really funny. Barbara Corcoran) in particular had a ton of dialogue to carry and she was wonderful in it.”
It was the “The Neighbors” team that came up with the idea of merging the shows for an episode. “We precede ‘Shark Tank,’ so there is a natural pairing there, but honestly, a bunch of our writers on our show are gigantic fans of ‘Shark Tank’ and one of our writers in particular, the writer who wrote the episode, Scott King, is obsessed with the show. He’s obsessed with Barbara the shark.”
According to him, the “Shark Tank” forces were amenable “and worked with us” from the beginning. Naturally, ABC was thrilled and targeted this special pairing for sweeps.
Fogelman is quick to point out that unlike crossover segments that really only have the shows’ casts united for a few minutes, “We really sent Jami Gertz into the Shark Tank to sell a product. We kind of went through a whole pitch with her.”
Billionaire Mark Cuban also got to show off his comedy chops in the scene in which Gertz is trying to pitch the sharks on “a purse with a special lining you can use to sneak beverages into the movies, even an adult beverage if you’re sitting through a kids’ movie you’ve seen 900 times. And Mark Cuban is like, ‘You recognize that I own a chain of movie theaters and that concessions are a big part of that business. And you realize you’re actually pitching me a product to steal from my own business.’ He delivers it really straight.”
Fogelman and his team are, of course, hoping that some of “Shark Tank’s” multitudinous schools of viewers get turned on by the crossover and become regular “Neighbors” watchers as well. He’s proud of the show’s gains. Blasted by critics when it premiered, it has become a widely admired offering.
“We have a very talented group here. I was lucky getting very smart people and a network who believed in the show. In a fairly short amount of time, we managed to turn it around and now we have a lot of nice things being written about our show.”
The multi-talented Fogelman, whose credits include the big-screen “Cars,” “Tangled” and “Crazy Stupid Love,” just wrapped his feature directorial debut, “Imagine,” starring Al Pacino as an aging musician who discovers a letter John Lennon wrote to him when he was younger. Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Plummer also star. “It’s a big one,” he acknowledges.
He and musical whiz Alan Menken, whose past collaborations include “Tangled,” also have a TV series in the works together. “It’s a musical, a ‘Princess Bride’-esque fairytale comedy. We’re developing that.”
How does he do it all? “I don’t sleep much,” says Fogelman.
Ahead, “The Neighbors” has a big Thanksgiving episode in which Reginald VelJohnson and Meredith Baxter guest as the parents from another planet of Toks Olagundoye’s character. For now, though, they’re focusing on the sharks.
“I’ve become obsessed with ‘Shark Tank’ now,” insists Fogelman. “I never miss it.”
He allows that it was a bit weird to have his actors working on the “Shark Tank” set, before the “Shark Tank” cameras. “It was a very strange experience for those who were there, like watching your divorced parents dating someone else for the first time.”