It began with a late night email thread, Adam Scott and Jon Hamm passing back YouTube videos of old TV shows they remembered from their childhood and joking about how they should be remade.
For a pair of major TV stars, it’s shockingly normal stuff — hey, check out the Rewind section here at BuzzFeed — but the difference between those two and most other after hours nostalgists is that at the end of their trip down memory lane, Scott and Hamm were actually able to make that revival happen. Out to dinner with Nick Weidenfeld, who at the time was the programming director at Adult Swim, Scott and his wife Naomi mentioned in passing that he and Hamm had decided to remake the opening credits of the 1980s-spanning CBS detective show Simon & Simon, shot-for-shot in a goofy web video, “a Funny or Die type of thing.”
Instead, Weidenfeld suggested, how about they team up with his off-kilter network and do it for real? He could give them a real budget, support and all the other little things required to make a legit, TV-ready parody. The one catch: it would require them to extend it out for a real block of programming time, meaning they had to do something more than just recreate the opening credits sequence.
Scott jumped at the opportunity.
The result was a one-off late night event that aired last June and was humbly called The Greatest Event in Television History, a 15 minute special that not only included the startlingly detailed recreation of the Simon & Simon credit sequence — they found the old costumes, locations and everything — but also a mockumentary about the struggles behind the scenes of such an epic and important undertaking.
And it was insanely hilarious, both in its depiction of the old pals fighting like entitled egoists backstage and its almost-disconcertingly accurate re-enactment of that action-packed Simon & Simon sequence.
Then, they all decided to do it again. And again. And again. Adult Swim bought three more of these Greatest Event in Television History presentations, the first of which airs on Thursday night.
[Edit: It aired! Watch it below]
“I don’t know why we wanted to do more of them, because for such a ridiculous, fundamentally stupid waste of time, it’s really labor-intensive,” Scott says, laughing at his own absurd ambition. “So we sort of committed to doing three more of them and then immediately, once we started working on this one, were kind of like, ‘Oh wait a second, what are we doing? Do we have time in our lives to do this?’ And we figured it out. And it’s a lot of work for such a short, ridiculous, dumb thing.”
The new Greatest Event brings back the behind-the-scenes mockumentary conceit, this time pairing Scott with his Parks and Recreation co-star Amy Poehler for a recreation of the opening credits of the husband-wife amateur detective series Hart to Hart, with Scott playing the role originally occupied by Robert Wagner (who, Scott says, “was very cool about giving us permission”).
Even though the event is at its core a ludicrous lark and a kind of delightfully harebrained love child of a few creative people with a little bit of time and corporate money on their hands, it does tap into the surge of nostalgia and revivals that has swept the television world. The most eagerly anticipated zombie show, Arrested Development, has proved polarizing since it debuted late last month; some fans and critics loved its ambition, while others considered it a pale imitation of a cult hit. Count Scott among the advocates.
“I love the new Arrested Development, the new season, I think it’s great,” he says. “I think that the fantasy of being able to see a show again is tantalizing, especially when you’re a huge fan of it, so in a way, it’s impossible to fulfill those expectations. It’s been what, six years since Arrested Development went off the air?
“I think to be disappointed by new Arrested Development episodes is a little ridiculous,” Scott adds.
Then again, he has more than just a small, goofy stake in the public’s reception of revived old favorites. Party Down, the short-lived but highly-praised Starz comedy, helped turn him from a working actor to a recognized name, and has long been the subject of resurrection rumors. Ever since it went off the air in 2010, fans have clamored for a movie version of the show, a movement that the cast — including Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Lizzie Caplan and Martin Starr — and creator John Enbom have encouraged along the way.
“In Party Down’s case, it did end prematurely, and I think that John wrote some closure with the characters, because we were so not sure if we were going to go back and make more shows,” Scott says. “But I think it would be nice to have more closure with the characters.”
“But at the same time, it was a very sweet, appropriate ending for that show, if we never do more it was a nice place to leave it,” he continues. “But again, I think there’s definitely room; it’s not inappropriate if we ever made more episodes or a movie or anything.”
In any case, it may not matter; the rumored movie is “kind of all up in the air at this point.”
Whether or not it returns, Scott can credit the show with truly launching his career, earning him a spot on Parks and Recreation and in turn his new trademark role: Ben Wyatt, the semi-geeky former teenage mayor with a deadpan streak and a love of Calzones who just recently tied the knot with Poehler’s adorably public service-minded Leslie Knope.
“I remember like a year ago after we had finished the previous season, Amy and I were kind of talking about, we would love to see them get married and we didn’t even know if that was going to happen or not,” Scott laughed. “But we were talking about how we would love to see them married and happy and talking about them like they were real, separate people, and we caught ourselves like, Jesus Christ, we’re a little too involved in these imaginary lives.”
After the newest Greatest Event in Television History airs on Thursday night, there will be two more to make, and Scott says, “We’re kind of wondering what to do, whether to even keep it at opening credit sequences or not.” When it’s suggested that it might be good to send up the 80’s NBC comedy ALF, he says that the puppetry might be hard to deal with, and that it may even be too well-known for their purposes.
“One of our things that we kind of look for when we’re searching around is things that haven’t been tread upon too much culturally,” Scott offered cryptically. “We may put it to the nine people who actually watch these things and see what they think.”