For New York Comic-Con 2022, The Workprint was able to sit down with Solar opposites showrunner, Mike McMahan and producer, Danielle Uhlarik. We talked about lawsuits regarding the series and what ridiculous extraterrestrial things to expect this year in this interview filled with more legal problems than I ever knew possible on Hulu.
How do you guys get away with making fun of Hulu so much?
Mike: “We stole it from the Simpsons. When The Simpsons makes fun of Fox, it’s saying we’re a partnership. We’re an identity. I think us making fun of Hulu is the only time anybody’s ever really talked about Hulu. They just loves the attention. There’s not bad press.
So if we have an alien being like, “Fuck, I hate Hulu,” there’s a guy at Hulu going, ‘Did you hear that? SOMETHING JUST SAID HULU ON TELEVISION!’
They know it’s coming from a place of love. Hulu is why we’re able to make a crazy show like Solar Opposites. So, when we’re making fun of Hulu that’s like us saying it exists in the world of this show and it’s a weird parasitic/symbiotic relationship. We wanted to amp up what The Simpsons had done for Fox to a much more ludicrous degree.”
Danielle: “And there’s no way we could do it if they weren’t such amazing partners. They’re such fans of the show. They should probably say no more to us.”
The Halloween Special. A hit for you guys after the first couple of days… and The Great Pumpkin?
Mike: “We fucked him up.”
Danielle: “He can grow back. He’s a pumpkin! He can come back greater!”
Mike: “More like an okay pumpkin now. Not so great anymore.”
When the character starts saying the phrase ‘The Great Pumpkin’ did you really have to look into that (legally)?
Mike: “I don’t know. I hope not <laughs>”
Danielle: “We’ll find out after this interview!”
Mike: “If we’re saying something funny usually we can get away with it. Sometimes we’ll get a call from Disney IP being like, ‘What is this?’ and we’re like: ‘Ah, you got us on that one! We’re just being idiots’.
All of our holiday specials are commenting on holiday specials, right? There’s only a couple big Halloween Holidays specials that we’ve seen a billion times and its mostly the great pumpkin. So, having the great pumpkin come into it, and subverting what makes it special and riding its corpse around to get out of the situation they were in is classical Solar Opposites heartfelt Holiday stuff.”
Danielle: “And we did get to call Disney standards and practices in the episode.
Mike: “We did. We’ve had a lot of calls with Disney S&P, in fact, we had to go to a whole new Disney legal group called Legacy because we were making fun of so much Disney IP that we had to go to their new lawyers that only protect the IP and they loooooovvveee us. I wear my son’s Mickey Mouse hat on the zoom calls. They’ve gotten over it but Josh Bycel, my co-showrunner, is always like, ‘You’re going to wear the hat, right?’ whenever we have that type of controversial type of conversation.”
In Season 3, there’s a bit with the T-Rex where it kills a number of different families. Where did that bit start? It’s wild.
Mike: “I love dinosaurs. I have 2 kids and they talk about dinosaurs at all times. There’s a 99 ships episode where there’s a countdown of all the other ships that we talk about from the home planet in every opening. It was like, let’s break the format of the show, and see how all of those aliens died and it turns out… 50 of them died from dinosaurs in space.
There’s something absurd about it. How dinosaurs feel sci-fi even though they feel terrestrial. They feel very silly even though they’re scary. There’s something in it where the aliens in it call how hackney it is. T-Rexes can swap this fine line between hackney or awesome. I wanted to do that comedy thing where 1-hackney, 2-not hackney, all the way up to 50 etc.”
One of the strengths of the show is that the characters are cognizant they are in a show and they comment on that but it never becomes overtly Meta-text. How do you walk that line?
Mike: “We never explicitly say this but we dabble in Alf situations. We’re trying to write a comedy that never has rules that make it less funny than it could be, but keep enough rules so it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a jumble. Occasionally, when you least expect it, we like to break the wall but not so much where it feels hackneyed.”
Danielle: “I feel like our north star is, if it’s funny, let’s find a way to put it in the show even if it doesn’t makes sense or break a rule. If we keep laughing about it in the rule let’s figure it out.”
Was there ever a moment in the series where you absolutely knew… we’ve gone too far.
Mike & Danielle: “YEAH!”
Mike: “Usually, if there’s a moment where it’s, ‘WOW, how were they able to do that?’ that’s because there was something twelve-times worse then that there that’s even more fucked-up.
There was one T-Shirt, we can’t tell you what it is, but it resulted in lawyers from Disney calling me saying that people in another country were going to use my e-mails in Discovery for a lawsuit they were in, because the t-shirt was so fucked up that it accidentally was similar to a different trial Disney was being sued for regarding that funny T-shirt.
Though I can’t tell you what it is, I think about it all the time. Anyway, when they called me and I told them we could just use a different stupid T-shirt and was claiming, how I didn’t know the Disney IP they were talking about. I kept changing different ones like: Peter Pansexual and stuff like that. You never want someone at Disney to look at the big red button that cancels that show, and be like, it’s time to press that button.”