TV junkies, you're in for a treat this week as IFC unveils Alan Spencer's edgy six episode, Bullet In The Face (August 16th and 17th at 10pm/9c). Rooted in the dark worlds of graphic novels, and European cinema, this demented-high octane-action-comedy-crime thriller-film noir with sci-fi elements is one of the freshest and most original series of 2012.
Bullet In The Face stars Eddie Izzard and Eric Roberts as two hilariously vicious rival business owners/crime lords happy to annihilate anyone in their way. And who stands in their way? Everyone, especially Gunter Vogler (Max Williams), a psychotic criminal whose life took an unexpected turn when he woke up one day as a cop, and all Hell broke loose.
Juicy, pulpy performances abound across the board - the ensemble also includes Kate Kelton, Neil Napier, and Jessica Steen. Fans of Citizen Kane, Kill Bill, Sin City, Alphaville, and M all have much to rejoice about.
Executive Producer/Writer, Alan Spencer, started writing for television at the age of 15 when he sold jokes in the mail to Rodney Dangerfield and other comedians to help out his family's hardships. He became a member of the WGA as a teen, and one day, snuck onto the set of Young Frankenstein where he met Marty Feldman, who became a mentor.
Spencer credits Feldman, along with his other mentors Andy Kaufman, Norman Steinberg (My Favorite Year), Leonard Stern (Get Smart), playwright Oliver Hailey, and Mel Brooks "for giving me the confidence to keep going."
In the 1980s, Spencer created the satirical action-comedy series Sledgehammer (available on DVD), which he says "put me on the map."
In recent years, Spencer's been working (often anonymously) as a script doctor on an array of major films, which he calls "financially rewarding, and if you have ADD it's a perfect job too because you don't have to spend two years on one project."
Eddie Izzard & Kate Kelton in Bullet In The Face
Chatting with Alan Spencer over breakfast at Jerry's Deli, he discussed how Bullet In The Face came to be, and the state of TV today.
IFC's Dan Pasternack came to me with a concept that wasn't working, but they had already invested in it, and asked if I could help fix it since I was known for action-comedy with Sledgehammer, and IFC just gave me carte blanche. I kept one sliver of the original project, which was keeping a Germanic character. So I wrote all six episodes of the series -- it took a few months. I wrote it like a movie broken up into six pieces, and wanted to push the action into graphic novel violence. I'm curious what the reaction will be to Bullet In The Face. I personally like it and what it has to say.
And I love this cast. Eric Roberts is fantastic, and my good friend, Larry Wilmore did a wonderful cameo. And it feels great to launch talent like Max Williams and Kate Kelton. I remember what it was like when people like Mel Brooks or Marty Feldman helped me early on, and I thought 'why are they doing this?' Because it feels good, that's why.
Eddie Izzard was a dream to work with. I wrote that his character plays Moonlight Sonata on the piano, and he sat down and learned to play it in two days, and played it well, when you see him on the show, he is actually playing it.
A lot of people want to make unconventional television but they're not allowed. IFC is free of conventionality, and takes chances on shows other networks would consider too unusual. Portlandia (nominated for two Emmys this year) was a breakthrough series for IFC, and it shows that they're not afraid to niche. They're not trying to appeal to everybody all the time. The network execs used to roll the dice in the 80s when there was less competition, but now they're all so close in the ratings and they don't want to rock the boat - so there are less risk takers.
I love working in TV because I feel it has more originality and cinematic sensibilities than many movies these days. Look at Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead. AMC rolled the dice, and look what happened. And TV is a more ongoing medium than film so there is more latitude for characters to change like what happened with Christina Hendricks' character (Joan) on Mad Men this season. In a movie, her storyline might get tested, then rejected, or re-shot into oblivion. Whenever there is a breakthrough, it always involves some risk.