When it comes to Apple TV+’s original comedy content, everyone is talking about Ted Lasso – and rightly so. Ted Lasso is wonderful. Arguably even better, however, and far less well-known, is another of their comedy offerings: Mystic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.
Almost seemingly in reaction to Glenn Howerton “leaving” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia after its thirteen season so that he could headline NBC’s A.P. Bio, Rob McElhenny, Charlie Day and Megan Ganz – also of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame - launched their own comedy side-project: a sitcom set in the production offices of an MMORPG.
We sat down with two of the show’s creators, Rob McElhenney and Megan Ganz, as well as stars Charlotte Nicdao, Ashly Burch, Jessie Ennis, Danny Pudi, and Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham for a chat about bringing the show back in these tumultuous latter-days of COVID-19.
Jessie: I feel a great sense of pride knowing that we get to bring this kind of joy to other people.
Danny: I would say the same. For me, personally, in my own life, I’ve leaned into comedy as a healing mechanism and comedy’s always been a wonderful tool for me to understand the world and my place in it, so particularly in this time period - to be able to create with people that you love - I felt very grateful for that. That we were able to work on a show that could tap into what a lot of people are feeling in this moment, was really just lovely.
The show’s first season was solid stuff, but it was inarguably bolstered by a hastily-assembled pandemic special, akin to similar offerings from the likes of Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and even South Park.
Whereas the other shows arguably fell victim to doing half an hour of jokes about making TV over Zoom, Mythic Quest fully explored the human emotion currently at stake and gave us something not just timely but remarkably poignant and truly emotionally cathartic.
It seemingly set the tone for the show’s second season, which largely throws away the show’s comedy of cynicism in favour of giving us something more optimistic and with a surprisingly tender streak.
Rob: The biggest inspiration was putting the pandemic behind us. We wanted to make sure we were doing a show that was looking toward an optimistic future. We recognised that a return to normalcy is not going to happen soon, it’s not going to happen easily, but we felt that by the time this is going to air that people are going to be ready to put COVID behind us.
Ashly: I know from my own life, when there’s a trauma or a tragedy, it’s really difficult in the moment but it can actually lead to a tremendous amount of gratitude and hope if you’re able to move through it and process it. This is our attempt – our funny, goofy, high-concept attempt – to help people process this idea of going back to life as normal. We’re going to move past it and even if dark days come again, there’s always going to be moments to celebrate and to have hope and have light.
Charlotte: Ultimately, it’s a celebration of hope, which I think is sorely needed at the moment.
Perhaps the single most surprising things about Season Two, however, is the way that F. Murray Abraham’s character - the washed-up, sci-fi author C.W. Longbottom - forms its emotional backbone. Those familiar with the show’s first season will no doubt be shocked to discover that the alcoholic braggart takes centre stage for a couple of this season’s standout episodes and – amazingly – provides the show with a startling degree of tear-jerking emotional resonance.
F. Murray: First of all, thank you for that compliment. I like those two episodes too, very much. I think that it gave me an opportunity to do everything: I was able to make people laugh and cry and make myself laugh and cry.
Megan: I think it’s a very hopeful story that, at any age – at any point in your life – you can decide to make the decision to try something new and stretch yourself and make mistakes and fall on yourself, but that is what living is.
F, Murray: You were able to see a real human being, which I think is one of the key aspects of this series. Each character is real – is a human being. There’s a great sense of humanity here, but I think that everybody dearly loves C.W. I like him. I want to be his friend. I want to hang out with him. I’m having such a great time with this show. It’s just a sheer pleasure... and they pay me!
Megan: When we were looking for an actor for C.W., we said to our casting director, Jeanne McCarthy, “We’re looking for an ‘F. Murray Abraham type’. Obviously we can’t get him but someone like that” and she came back to us and said “What about F. Murray Abraham?” We were like “Oh yeah, right. Like he’d ever...” The casting of Murray was beyond our wildest dreams so we tried to make the second season rise to the level of actor that we had.
F. Murray: Oh!
Megan: He’s blushing now.
Mythic Quest’s creator and star Rob McElhenney recently made headlines for buying Wrexham FC with friend, Ryan Reynolds. Despite his interest in British football and the Apple TV connection, don’t expect him to turn up on Ted Lasso anytime soon.
Rob: What’s Ted Lasso? I’m not aware of Ted... Ted Lasso? Is that a television program? Look, we spend enough time working on Mythic Quest and we don’t need to help out a small, little thing – what is it? Ted Lasso? That sounds silly. What’s that about?
A new Mythic Quest special, Everlight is available on Apple TV+ now and Season Two (featuring a truly magnificent pair of C.W. Longbottom episodes) will be released in its entirety on May 7th.