"Well, we have a new showrunner and a new group of writers... for the third time," Brad Garrett admits about the new season of his FOX sitcom, "'Til Death." "Yeah, we're still tweaking at year four. It's never done." Garrett and his co-star Joely Fisher recently took some time to chat about the dogged comedy, including why this incarnation will stick, which guest stars you can look forward to and what's kept the show alive so far.
"We really feel that we're finally honing in on what the show is about and that is the relationship between Joy [Fisher] and Eddie [Garrett] in a realistic, 20-year marriage," Garrett says about working with incoming showrunner Don Reo ("Everybody Hates Chris"). "We wanted to have an edge and we want it kind of racy and we want it to be a show that pushes the envelope in a realistic fashion and we think we're getting close to maybe what we want to do." Garrett adds that "it's been a show that has been constantly trying to find its way. I'm not gonna lie. Not just with the viewers, but creatively. And I think what has kept it on is the network and the studio believes in this..."
"Come on," Fisher interrupts. "This [points to her breasts] is what's kept it on." Garrett nods, "Those have helped. The 'blouse clowns' are something that we're [proud of]... you know, look, we're grateful to have jobs. That's how we look at it and at the end of the day, Joely and I are hired hands. We're actors and every job is different and every show is different and you try to make it the best you can. And you hope somebody tunes in at the end of the day and that's all we can do."
"It's been such a strange couple of years," Fisher says about the show's improbable journey. "We lived through the big strike and we had episodes that were in the can [that never aired] and were we coming back and was television going to be changed forever, which I think it kind of did, but to be moved around so many times... and we wouldn't air for weeks at a time. And then last season we aired like four shows, maybe not even, I think it was four shows and then we're going to take a 'brief' hiatus." Garrett adds that 'brief' hiatus turned out to be almost a year.
"And also to be paired with things that it doesn't really make sense, it really doesn't feel like a block of comedy that belongs together," Fisher continues. "And we think that maybe finally we've, in [lead-in] 'Brothers,' found a show that feels. [Brad] says they're the 'Brothers' and we're the..." "They're going to call us 'Jews,'" Garrett deadpans. "We just found out, we're very excited."
Garrett however doesn't take any of the above personally: "Listen, the bottom line is - and I'm talking very realistically - the show performs a certain way. At the end of the day this is a business and if the ratings aren't there you're going to move around a lot. That's just the reality of it. That doesn't help you get an audience base or anything else, but it's the nature of the business." Fisher adds, "The fact that they've let us still have a chance... [and] we sort of have what looks like a core audience because they do return. The people that are there, are there." "They're in one car," Garrett teases. "And they follow us. But they return. They stalk us. I think if it's less than 10 it becomes stalking."
So what's in store for those coming back or just tuning in? Season four sees the show reflecting the current economic crisis as Joy and Eddie's daughter (now played by Lindsey Broad) and her eco-obsessed husband (Timm Sharp) move in, or at least move their trailer into the backyard. Meanwhile, Joy is unexpectedly laid off leading to a string of short-lived new careers. As for Eddie, he'll find a new nemesis in Ms. Duffy (Kathleen Rose Perkins), a new principal who just so happens to be a former student of Eddie's. Viewers can also catch guest appearances by the likes of Richard Lewis, Gilbert Gottfried, Lainie Kazan (as Joy's mom), Barry Bostwick and E Street Band member Clarence Clemons ("Because Don Reo just wrote his book," Garrett jokes).
Both Garrett and Fisher however are quick to point to each other when it comes to identifying the show's real draw. "Not unlike working with Ellen DeGeneres for so many years, I've developed the gift of digging my fingernails really, really hard into the palms of my hand," Fisher says. "So [I'm] actually inflicting pain on myself so I wouldn't laugh. I don't do that anymore - there's so much Botox going on that I can't make a facial expression anymore so I'm the queen of deadpan. I'm kidding. We have such a great time. It's like a real marriage. We have our moments of, the other day you were trying to father me and teach me and sometimes I'm trying to school you but we have a shorthand a little bit with each other, we only really need a glance in the other one's direction to sort of communication something, which is a lovely treasure and blessing to have in this business, in any business, in life itself."
Concludes Garrett, "I've very lucky, I have the funniest leading lady on television."
"'Til Death" premieres its fourth season tonight at 8:30/7:30c on FOX.