Erica Oyama got hooked on The Bachelor during Brad Womack's first season on the show — specifically the moment Womack rejected both of the two lovelorn finalists.
Speaking by phone, Oyama recalled, "Everybody was shocked. I was like, wait, he didn't realize he was supposed to pick somebody? I was so invested, because you meet these characters in one season and then get to see them get their time in the next season, and I just got totally sucked in."
So Oyama turned her Bachelor addiction into the hilarious web series Burning Love (which she wrote, and her husband, Ken Marino, of Party Down fame, directed), poking fun at the desperate men and women on America's favorite dating show.
Burning Love, produced by Ben Stiller's Red Hour Productions, has made the rare leap from the internet to television. Season 1, starring Marino as firefighting contestant Mark Orlando, premiered on Yahoo last year. It has been recut for broadcast on E! starting Feb. 25.
The idea for Burning Love began in earnest when Oyama and Marino watched the finale of Season 14 — Jake Pavelka's season — with Adam Scott and his wife Naomi. "Ken and Adam wore suits," Oyama said, "and Naomi and I dressed up in dresses, and I had mascara smeared on my face, and we all had champagne and roses and ate pizza."
Fans of Marino and Scott's other collaboration, Party Down, will be happy to hear plans for the long-rumored movie project are slowly moving forward. "The movie is something that the producers and creators have to finish writing," Marino said. "If they build it, we will come."
Pavelka made a guest appearance on Season 1 (he plays Marino's disapproving brother), blurring the line between reality and reality-parody. Casting him, Oyama says, was partly making amends for an incident that occurred years earlier.
"Before I wrote Burning Love, I accosted him at [Los Angeles mall] the Grove. He was eating lunch with Vienna," Oyama recalled, laughing. "I was sleep deprived and I don't really remember what happened, but I came through some bushes and tried to take a picture of them and meet him, and it just went horribly wrong. He looked scared of me and I had to run away."
In Season 2, which premieres online today, Season 1's spurned dental hygienist Julie Gristlewhite (played by June Diane Raphael) gets her chance at love. Michael Cera, Adam Scott, Rob Huebel, Adam Brody, and (Raphael's real-life husband) Paul Scheer are among the bachelors vying for Gristlewhite's affection — each with his own endearing eccentricity.
"We thought Julie would be really fun because she's so damaged, and we just thought the pressure would get to her," Oyama says, adding that she took inspiration for Gristlewhite's season from Ashley Hebert's season of The Bachelorette.
Marino and Oyama's own love story started on a television show (sadly not The Bachelor). "We met Super Bowl Sunday 10 years ago at Jimmy Kimmel's first episode," Marino recalled, explaining that his wife to be first arrived in his life as a party crasher. "Erica snuck in with some friends to see Coldplay."
The couple will celebrate Valentine's Day with cupcakes, pizza, and post-production work on Season 3, to be titled Burning Down the House — a riff on Bachelor Pad in which contestants compete for a $900 cash prize.