‘NTSF:SD:SUV’ Meets Its Match in U.K. Counterpart During ‘Movie Event’
The agents of the National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sports Utility Vehicle team are headed to Little Britain for the series’ half-hour “movie event,” titled “U-KO’ed.” But because there’s no such thing as Little Britain, the cast actually shot for a week in London. That makes the show’s fictional British neighborhood of San Diego, replete with “replica” London landmarks like Big Ben, Tower Bridg, and the Gherkin, appear even more authentic than the “Wee Britain” portrayed in Season 3 of Arrested Development.
But NTSF:SD:SUV creator and star Paul Scheer said his biggest takeaway from the experience was the food, both good and bad.
“The food in London is amazing — or at least our experience was — but the craft service and the food that you get on set was the worst,” Scheer told Spinoff Online following the finale’s premiere at the Vista Theater in Los Angeles. “It’s like being served up by, like, the guy on You Can’t Do That on Television, like, barf.”
“They really believe that a cucumber sandwich is a full sandwich,” Brandon Johnson, who plays Alphonse, complained good-naturedly. “In America, obviously, we think a sandwich has meat and cheese.”
“Brandon wouldn’t even eat in London,” Scheer explained. “He would only go to a place that was like a — I don’t know if you have Cosi’s out here. Cosi’s is, I guess, in New York. But basically like a pretend deli. So that’s all he would eat at, was the pretend deli. He’s like, ‘I’m eating my American food!’”
“U-KO’ed” features British guest stars such as Julian Barrett of The Mighty Boosh, Saskia Reeves of Luther, character actor Roger Ashton Griffiths and Colin Salmon. Scheer said he had wanted to work with those actors but it was too complicated to get them all work visas to shoot in the United States so instead he convinced Senior Executive Producer Mike Lazzo to allow the show shoot in the United Kingdom. The episode even features the National Terrorism Strike Force’s British counterpart, the Socialist Terrorism Task Force: United Kingdom: Double Decker Bus (STTF:UK:DDB for short).
“They were very accommodating to us even though they had no idea what this American show was about,” Johnson said of working in London.
Scheer said that while NTSF originated as a parody of police procedurals like CSI and NCIS, he feels it has begun “pushing the limits in weird ways.” One episode last season, “Time Angels,” featured a completely different cast and had nothing to do with NTSF, while a more recent one, “TGI Murder,” saw the characters attempt to run a bar together. In “U-KO’ed,” shows like Sherlock and Downton Abbey are spoofed relentlessly, but Scheer said he does try to keep things relatively consistent.
“I think that our show stays a lot within the world of our show. But we try to push it to see how far we can get it,” he said. “For me it’s like, just, ‘What have we not done?’ And that’s the only way I can think about it.”
“I feel like, you know, when you’re doing parody like that it sort of has to grow and become about something else and not just straight parody of crime shows every episode,” added June Raphael, who plays Piper.
In another Season 3 episode, “Trading Faces,” Piper pretends she’s swapped faces with the other characters to trick them into telling her why no one wants to go to her board game night. She impersonates them behind their backs — including the robot S.A.M. — with varying degrees of success. “I’m always looking for an excuse to do voices and characters,” she said, although she jokingly worried people would think she was using the episode as a Saturday Night Live audition reel.
Raphael said she’s excited to see Scheer’s latest pilot for Adult Swim, a Pretty Little Liars satire called Filthy Sexy Teen$ that was announced earlier this year, but what she really wants the show to spoof next is something like the political thriller Scandal.
“My guilty pleasure is Scandal right now,” she confessed. “Have you seen it? It’s the best show on television. It is the best show on television. It’s better than NTSF. I’m so fine saying that, I’m so absolutely fine saying that. It is absolutely addictive, and I watched both seasons in, like, two days, like a crazy person.”
She’d also love to see them tackle “a parody of one of those super-soapy procedural law-related show — in which I play the lead, of course.”
Johnson said the series won’t stray too far from its roots, however. “We’re going to continue going after the crime shows, but I think we’re going to find our own legs in our own universe just the way that Children’s Hospital has,” he said.
Scheer said that whenever they come up with an idea for an episode, they check to see whether shows like CSI or NCIS have already done it. Surprisingly often — considering how ridiculous the plots of NTSF can get — they already have. “When you watch a show like NCIS and CSI, those are straight episodes, but they’re hilarious, because they’ve done so many crazy things,” he said.
What we can expect more of on NTSF is nerdy pop-culture references. “We’re nerds, all of us,” Johnson said. “The writers, the actors — every one of us is a nerd. So we’re always going to find something in pop culture that we can poke fun at and say, like, ‘Hey, do you remember this from Star Wars? We’re doing the same bit!’”
He continued, “I’m going to tell you right now: our goal at NTSF is to get every nerd involved from every nerd show. We had a Mr. Show reunion. We had a Freaks and Geeks reunion … we had two of your favorite drug addicts, one from The Wire and one from Breaking Bad. That was Skinny Pete, because we don’t fuck around. We got you. Pop culture’s what we do. If a show is on the air right now and you like it, it’s going to be on our show.”
The NTSF:SD:SUV half-hour movie event, “UKO’ed,” airs Thursday on Adult Swim.