Fall TV Preview: ‘The McCarthys’ Creator Talks New Series, Central Gay Character

by | August 1, 2014 at 8:44 AM | Happy Endings, LGBT

Ronny (Tyler Ritter) has a moment with parents Arthur (Jack McGee) and Marjorie (Laurie Metcalfe). (CBS)

You’re part of a tight-knit, blue collar Boston family. Lots of watching sports, talking sports and throwing back more than a few beers doing both.

Can you fit in if you’re the gay son of this brood?

If we’re talking CBS’s new fall TV sitcom “The McCarthys,” the answer is yes.

In the autobiographical sitcom created by out actor/writer/comedian Brian Gallivan (“Happy Endings“), actor Tyler Ritter (yes, son of John, brother to Jason) plays Ronny, the out gay twentysomething who is still very close with his parents (Laurie Metcalfe, Jack McGee), brothers (Joey McIntyre, Jimmy Dunn) and sister (Kelen Coleman). The 21st century twist in the series is that Ronny is already out and his family has, for the most part, dealt with any issues about it to the point they spy on him when he is on a date in hopes he finds true love.

Gallivan sat down with me recently to talk about the new series, shaping the character of Ronny, and what classic sitcoms inspire him so much he annoys his team of writers.

The pilot really takes care of the coming out and family acceptance swiftly. Was that always your plan for the show or was there perhaps an earlier draft where it was a little more heavily focused on it?

Brian Gallivan: I think the plan was always to be sort of beyond it but to not ignore it. I had written for “Happy Endings,” which I loved. And they had a great gay character, Max, who was like so not your stereotypical character. The only stereotypically gay thing about him was that he slept with men. So, in a way, coming from there, it felt like I was dealing with the gay stuff a lot compared to that. But [“The McCarthys”] wasn’t a show about him being gay.

Actor/Writer/Comedian Brian Gallivan based the series on his own life. (CBS)

Obviously dating will probably be a part of the show. Will Ronny end up with a group of friends? I know the joke is that he spends a lot of time with his family.

BG: Right. I think Jeff Hiller who played Philip, the church singer, in the pilot? He’s a friend of mine and I think he’s just hilarious and a great actor. So we have ideas for him to come back. And I think he’d be a fun sort of wingman for Ronny. But I’d love see like Ronny and Philip and Gerard and Sean all go to a gay bar together. And then, hopefully, we’ll add more gay characters

Will we see a sexual life for Ronnie?

BG: He’s definitely going to be a sexual being. We’ve probably got about eight to 10 stories already sort of outlined. He’s dating around at the beginning. He’s not settling down. I think he’s like me too. Like even if he tries to say like, “I had a little fun last night.” Like it’s something also went wrong, ya know?

Was Ronny a tough part to cast?

BG: Tyler came in right before we started, pretty close to when we started shooting. It was a little tough and mostly because of the writing, I think. I had a lot of fun writing the other characters and had made Ronnie the goody two-shoes in the center in amongst all the craziness.

Tyler Ritter as Ronny in 'The McCarthys.' (CBS)

So we sort of took that away and he’s still more reasonable than a lot of them. But we let him be more flawed and have more fun…just make him shift alliances. Sometimes he is one of the bad ones and someone else is being reasonable. So that’s why I think it was tough to cast. Mostly, I blame myself for the writing.

Tyler is just amazing. He is fairly new. I’ve never seen anyone take notes so good-naturedly and eagerly. Just sort of like, “Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea.” For someone in that high-pressure situation, he handled it really gracefully. He’s just a lovely, lovely person.

Are you a fan of family comedies? “Happy Endings” was more of the friend family but curious what you’re a fan of.

BG: I do, mostly in comedies. It seems like with dramas I’m not as drawn to the family ones for some reason. But comedies like “Everybody Loves Raymond” we refer to a lot in the room. Maybe we just have one big simple story with everybody. We don’t always have to be bouncing off to three different stories.

And then also, randomly, some cable channel on the Hub Network was showing “Family Ties” late at night. The writers’ room got a little sick of me because every night I’d go home and wind down by watching an episode of “Family Ties.” And it was really interesting to watch, especially because I was watching their first season. They did some pretty racy things in the ’80s. Do you know Judith Light was seducing Steven Keaton last night?! And they kissed! I feel like nowadays they’d never kiss. And then Alex lost his virginity in like the fourth episode to an older woman! I love those shows. And I love “The Cosby Show.” I love “Cheers,” which was the workplace family. And “Golden Girls,” of course, which is like a friend family.

What about guest stars? Obviously, you have a wealth of people just from “Happy Endings” days.

BG: Right. I think it’ll be fun to bring people in because I love seeing how someone outside this family bounces off this family. We haven’t nailed anything down. So I don’t want to throw any names around. We have ideas, but Ronny’s going to be dating a lot so there’s opportunities there for guest stars.

What do you hope people take from the show?

BG: First of all, I just hope they enjoy it because there are so many things you watch on TV and you’re like, “Another bad show.” So, hopefully, the audience feels like they didn’t waste their time. I’m going to start with very low expectations. And then I think when I was talking “Raymond” and those shows they go, “Oh, that’s on. I can watch that. And I’ll feel sort of comforted for a half an hour.” I don’t have to be blowing people’s minds with ideas. And I think CBS has a great track record of their multi-cams. It’s just like a warm, “oh, that’s a nice place to spend a half an hour.”

“The McCarthys” premieres on October 30th on CBS.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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