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Tons of people know David Cross as ‘Arrested Development’s ‘nevernude’ Tobias Fünke and Bob Odenkirk for his role as shady lawyer Saul Goodman in ‘Breaking Bad’. But mention Bob and David to cult comedy fans and you’ll get one reaction: ‘I loved “Mr Show”!’
The pair’s HBO sketch series ran for four seasons from 1995-1998, and influenced a whole generation of sketch shows – from ‘Tim and Eric’ to ‘Portlandia’ to ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ – and it helped launch the careers of Jack Black and Sarah Silverman. ‘Mr Show with Bob and David’ (to use its full title) has never had a DVD release in the UK (although the episodes are on YouTube, for now) which seems odd considering it’s Monty Python-esque quality, mixing silly with smart, and merging one sketch into the next.
But now, two decades on (nearly to the day) since ‘Mr Show’ first aired, Odenkirk and Cross are back together. To celebrate the show’s twentieth anniversary, the duo brought back the old writers and supporting cast to make four episodes of ‘W/ Bob & David’ for Netflix. I spoke to Cross about why we should watch.
'W/ Bob & David' © Saeed Adyani/Netflix
‘W/ Bob & David’ is similar to ‘Mr Show’ but not too similar
When they realised the anniversary was coming up, Odenkirk and Cross went to HBO to suggest a reunion. ‘It’s a long and boring story, but basically HBO were not as into it as we were,’ Cross explains. ‘We’re nothing like what’s on there any more. I don’t think they dislike us, they just don’t care about what we do.’ So they went to Netflix, who were more than enthusiastic. Cross says the new series is similar to ‘Mr Show’, ‘but the construct around it is different. It has a different energy – we didn’t link sketches this time, so it’s a little more disparate. But also it’s similar in the sense that, you know, it’s Bob and I. We are both of a certain mindset and certain approach to comedy, and that’s really 90 percent of the show. It’s still Bob and I doing Bob and I stuff.’
If you haven’t seen the original, you’ll want to after watching ‘W/ Bob & David’
‘“Mr Show” is one of a handful of things that I’m kind of surprised when people say they don’t know about it,’ admits Cross. The show didn’t get huge ratings at the time, but it’s legacy is huge. ‘But, I mean, comedy fans know about it, and for the average Joe on the street, if this helps reintroduce or to introduce them to “Mr Show” than that’s fantastic.’
'W/ Bob & David' © Saeed Adyani/Netflix
It’s softer than ‘Mr Show’, but not in a bad way
‘Mr Show’ was very silly, but it also tackled big issues – race, religion, corporate greed. There was a lot of anger behind the absurdity. By comparison, ‘W/ Bob & David’ is ‘tempered’, Cross tells me. ‘We’re just not the same people we were 20 years ago. We still have those feelings, and maybe if we had done eight or ten shows then you’d see more of that. There are a couple of things that touch upon some issues, but there’s nothing really hard in it, it’s all fairly palatable and soft. It just didn’t shake out that way this time.’
More episodes could be on the horizon
Odenkirk and Cross only had time to make four episodes of ‘W/ Bob & David’. ‘I wouldn’t say we slapped these four together, but we didn’t have a ton of time to do them,’ says Cross. ‘We had a very limited writing and production schedule.’ But this could just be the beginning… ‘We didn’t know exactly how it was going to work, but when we sat down with all the writers for the first time it was like we had never dropped a beat, we just picked right up where we left off. And these are people with 15 years more experience as comedy writers – it was great! I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. So we’d love to do more in the future, absolutely. And I believe we will.’
‘W/ Bob & David’ is available on Netflix from Friday November 13.