Never underestimate the power of a good fart joke. In fact, just bringing up farting in front of the cast of CBS’s new sitcom, “The Millers,” elicits a delightful giggle streak from star Margo Martindale. The show’s first episode features a lengthy fart-related sequence, but creator Greg Garcia (“My Name Is Earl,” “Raising Hope”) says he’s already planning on taking a break from flatulence-related humor.
“In the next eight or nine scripts that we have I don’t think a fart joke’s appeared yet,” he says, but he reserves the right to rescind his word. “I’m not saying it won’t, because fart jokes are funny.”
“The Millers,” which premieres Thursday, Oct. 3 on CBS, stars Will Arnett as a recently divorced man whose life changes even more dramatically when his parents (Martindale and Beau Bridges) decide to split up too after 43 years of marriage — and his mom moves in with him. JB Smoove (“Leon” from HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) co-stars as Arnett’s best friend Ray, a news cameraman who’s excited to be Nathan’s wingman as he returns to the dating scene.
This marks the first sitcom for Martindale, who’s known most recently for her stage and drama roles on FX’s “The Americans” and “Justified.” She was offered a Norman Lear sitcom years ago but turned it down since she thought she’d get other sitcom opportunities in the future. Obviously that didn’t happen, and she’s happy to be on “The Millers” — even if it took her to age 62 to do it. “I always wanted to be on a sitcom, I just started killing people along the way,” she jokes of her killer roles on FX.
Martindale got to bond right away with her TV son Arnett while shooting a hilariously awkward “Dirty Dancing” sequence for the pilot.
“That’s really what brought us all together was a love of the film ‘Dirty Dancing,’” Arnett joked to reporters.
“We are absolute natural dancers. Can’t you tell?” Martindale laughed.
“You actually can’t really tell, but we did work on it very hard,” Arnett added.
Arnett says that since he spent the better part of the past decade working on single-camera sitcoms, he was ready to try something new. “Those can be a real grind and not ultimately as fun,” he says. “I know that might sort of seem like a trite reason to do it, but I’m 43 years old and it seemed to me like a great time to do something I was looking forward to doing every day and going into work.”
In fact, before his previous NBC comedy, “Up All Night,” imploded very publicly, he’d embraced the show’s planned switch to a multi-cam format. “It was something I was open to and that sort of took on a life — or death — of its own,” he says.
“The Millers” has seen its fair share of changes too and the first episode hasn’t even aired yet. The actors who played Arnett’s sister and brother-in-law in the pilot have been recast (adding Jayma Mays (“Glee”) and Nelson Franklin (“Veep”) instead), something for which Garcia takes full responsibility. “That’s 100 percent on me. Those characters in the initial script were underdeveloped,” he says. “I didn’t do a good enough job of conveying to the audience who they are. I did not write them funny enough material — my attention was on some other things in the pilot. … We’ve rethought who those characters are and I think we’ve done a better job this time.”
“The Millers” premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 at 8:30/7:30c on CBS.