And yes, it’s still working.
It’s difficult to ignore the influence Channel 101 has had on the television business, more specifically on Adult Swim. Fifteen years ago, the Rob Schrab x Dan Harmon produced internet channel was way ahead of its time in terms of giving homes for discarded TV pilots, shorts, and animation that fans and viewers could choose what was worth viewing and what was not. The opportunity to submit content from anywhere in the world to later be featured was in its essence a pre-Youtube/pre-Vimeo destination for content producers to showcase their talents in hopes of being seen by the industry elite.The alumnus from Channel 101 certainly begs comparisons of proliferation brought on by National Lampoon with the likes of Justin Roiland, Jack Black, and Dan Harmon becoming Hollywood figureheads to go along with the litany of personalities that were featured prominently on Channel 101 like John Oliver, Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari, and pre-Adult Swim Tim & Eric.
So it makes perfect sense, similar to the way Saturday Night Live alums would tap rep players to be featured in their blockbuster movies, that Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon would tap Channel 101 alum Brian Wysol to be part of the Rick and Morty writers room in the show’s first season, “to be honest I never thought that making shorts for Channel 101 would lead to a career in making TV shows as I was just making them for fun and not really thinking anything of it.”
Hot Streets premieres January 14th @ Midnight ET/PT only on Adult Swim, but the early roots of the series can be traced back to the Channel 101 days when he produced shorts like “We Solve The Crime” credited as Brian Wysolmierski, which was the story of two FBI agents who solved crimes once thought unsolvable. At the time, Brian voiced the role of “French” and Brian McCafferty voiced the role of “Mark Branski”. Post Channel 101, Brian would produce additional shorts for Shut Up Cartoons like Munroe and Icons of Teen and eventually Zurtrun for Adult Swim starring Scott Chernoff–“Gearhead” on Rick and Morty and also a writer on Netlix’s BoJack Horseman–who replaces Brian as the voice of “French”.
A couple of years ago, Adult Swim Pilots would post-pilot episodes of shows in development, and instead of leaving it solely up to the devices of the Adult Swim brass, fans were asked to watch and vote on which pilot they enjoyed the most. The class that Hot Streets was in also featured Apollo Gauntlet, which would eventually get a full season order and Bad Guys which didn’t. I bring that up because the Adult Swim Pilots program certainly owes Channel 101 a big “Thank You” for the concept that eventually rewards Hot Streets a full season pickup of 10 episodes.
Hot Streets surrounds the supernatural investigations of FBI agent Mark Branski (J.D. Ryznar) who works with his partner David French (voiced by Scott Chernoff), Branski’s niece Jen (voiced by Chelsea Kane), and her cowardly talking dog, Chubbie Webbers (voiced by Justin Roiland). Of the principal cast, three (JD, Scott, and Justin) are Channel 101 alums and two (Justin and Chelsea) are Fish Hooks alums.
Chelsea Kane (“Bea” on Fish Hooks) recalls fondly of both working in the voice booth with Justin (the one-time voice of “Oscar”) and the young producer’s early ideas for what would eventually become Rick and Morty, “this one time I was filming for my show Baby Daddy and both Justin Roiland and Alex Hirsch (Gravity Falls) came by the green room where they found a box of Sharpie markers and began drawing all over the walls. I eventually had to pay for the damage out of my own pocket, but I wish that I was able to take that wall down and bring it home with me.” Chernoff jumps in, “at NBC, there’s a room where Frank Oz (“Yoda”) and Jim Henson (The Muppets) have completely covered the walls in their drawings.”
Brian notes that he discovered Chelsea Kane while he was helping produce “Look Who’s Purging Now” episode of Rick and Morty which featured an animatic with Chelsea’s voice and thought that she would be correct for the role of “Jen”, “I’m really happy that I got the call to be “Jen” because the first time I met Brian I was wearing a VR headset and slamming into walls”. Chelsea voices the role of “Jen” — a Vilma from Scooby Doo-like character– whose job it is to actually solve the major supernatural crimes that happen on Hot Streets which this season consists of mummy invasions, Snake Islands (“when I first read the title of this script, I was like, “HERE WE GO!” says Scott), and as noted from the pilot, some sort of race of infectious brain people. In any event, after talking with both Brian and Chelsea, “Jen” is more or less pitched as the “glue” that holds the show together. Her relationship with Chubbie Webbers is tested, and as Chelsea notes, “sometimes awkward”, but reminds us that her character is a strong and smart girl on TV, “she’s so perfect for the role. She comes in and gets everything on the first try and is always prepared.”
As Jen and Chubbie are working to solve crimes, usually the duo of Branksi and French are desperately searching for a short-cut to whatever case they are solving that somehow comes to play later on in the episode. Noted apple-fucker, Branski, is voiced by Channel 101 alum in J.D. Ryznar (Yacht Rock), and as Brian notes is just “another one of those people, like Scott, that just cracks me up. You really can’t impersonate J.D., he’s like H. Jon Benjamin (Archer)”. Branski is said to be a welcome contrast to French’s more uptempo vocal delivery as given by Chernoff, and as you can imagine, get a group of silly actors in a voice booth together and a LOT of magic happens that gets cut and is often not used in the final version of an episode. The scripts themselves sometimes would get to 24-pages, much too long for a series that’s 11-minutes long, but even more, the material that is presented as a result of voice booth sessions that feature the likes of Scott, Justin Roiland, Chelsea, and JD Ryznar. “‘Snake Island’ easily could’ve been two hours with the amount of material we got.”
So, why not a 22-minute series? Well, ever since Brian’s first writing gig on Rick and Morty, he’s been doing everything he can to suck up experiences in various writers rooms (which also includes those for Robot Chicken), and definitely counts Justin as a mentor of sorts. So, when he asked Justin his thoughts on Hot Streets being a 30-minute series, the Rick and Morty creator was quick to warn Brian of the amount of work that goes into producing longer episode and instead to stay short and sweet. Not that Brian is completely closing the door on the idea, but, “this being my first show and all, I really wanted to just get a handle on the process.”
And what of the voice of Chubbie Webbers? You may remember my review of the pilot episode of Hot Streets where I was a bit worried about Chubbie accidentally being the star of the show and it could’ve been easy as hell for Adult Swim to bank on the success of their main guy Justin Roiland and anyone can tell that the marketing has definitely geared itself in that direction. As a matter of fact, it kind of reminds me of the early marketing efforts of Rick and Morty Season One where there was a lot of attention to the “from the creator of Community” tagline and as such Justin was kind of the one in the shadow despite his Channel 101 short “Doc and Mharti” shorts being the precursor to what would eventually be become the network’s #1 comedy. As I recall, he handled it well, from where I sit, but while Chubbie is a funny as hell character that has a lot going on this season,(“we get to meet his parents” says Scott), he’s definitely not the star moving forward. In fact, Hot Streets is way more Scooby Doo meets Archer, the former of which speaks to Brian’s earlier influences than it is say Mr. Pickles, and relies more so on an ensemble cast of characters. And to Adult Swim’s credit, Brian notes that the only notes that he’s received from the network is of those yearning for more of the show creators own voice, “I love Adult Swim, it’s a dream come true to have a show on Adult Swim because it’s the only place you can do surrealist-absurdist comedy on television. They also weren’t telling me to be more like Rick and Morty or Mr. Pickles, and instead gave me great direction to make sure Hot Streets has my voice.”
Chernoff notes that it was the obvious influences in Brian’s earlier shorts that attracted him to continually work with the Hot Streets creator, “his work is like a cross between early Adult Swim and Hanna-Barbera” of which Brian agrees, “definitely The Brak Show”. Fans of Brian’s work on Channel 101 will be happy to hear that there are full episodes that pay homage to a few of his shorts like “Hot Cross Buns”. “After the third episode of Hot Streets is when, creatively, we get some of our best stuff. As a matter of fact, after watching all ten episodes I think viewers will want to rewatch the first couple of episodes again to kind of get a sense of where we were going later and will gain a newfound appreciation.”
I’m going to end this piece with my favorite part of the conversation I had with the Hot Streets crew. It comes from Scott Chernoff and here it is, “BoJack Horseman is a great show, but those watching the first couple of episodes think they know where the show is going, but as time went on, most were caught off guard by the depth of the show. Hot Streets is a very different show. It’ll get attention from the Rick and Morty fans but people tuning in will definitely be getting a different show. After the first couple of episodes, Hot Streets really takes off and expands and rewards the viewer as time goes on but really anyone can tune in on any one episode and be blown away. I’ll work on anything Brian or Justin gives me. “
Sounds like those Channel 101 alums aren’t going away anytime soon.
Hot Streets premieres Midnight ET/PT, only on Adult Swim, check your local listings. This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.