Will Arnett and Margo Martindale
There seems to really be no way to talk about CBS' new sitcom The Millers without talking about farts.
The series, premiering Thursday at 8:30/7:30c on CBS, stars Will Arnett as TV journalist Nathan Miller. When Nathan reveals his recent divorce to his mother Carol (Margo Martindale) and father Tom (Beau Bridges), Nathan's parents also decide to split up and Carol moves in with Nathan. But ever since the pilot was made available to critics, the most-talked about scene of the show involves Martindale's character unknowingly passing gas. Needless to say, the focus on flatulence has concerned creator Greg Garcia, who insists there's more to the show than fart jokes.
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"We're not the farting show that some have made us out to be," Garcia tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "I'd like to say it's not starting to bother me, but it's starting to annoy the hell out of me. There's a minute of farting — not even farting — fart jokes in the pilot. It's a minute of a 21-minute pilot... and then it becomes every headline. There's a scene with a few jokes and a callback at the end. It's not like, 'Oh my God, my farting mother has moved in with me! What the hell am I going to do?' The basic fact is: If it wasn't getting laughs, it wouldn't have stayed in."
Has the whole thing been overblown? "Overblown!" Martindale screams in laughter. "There's so many jokes! I think people have made a mountain out of a fart cloud. ... I find farting hilarious. Do I want to be the one doing it? Not really, but do I find it funny? I really do." Perhaps it's just that critics don't want to see Martindale, who won tons of adoration and an Emmy Award for her menacing performance as Mags Bennett on the second season of Justified, cutting the cheese? "If they only knew me in real life, that's all I can tell you," Martindale quips.
But doing a comedy is a bit of a departure for Martindale. "I loved doing Mags Bennett. I found her fun because she was so incredibly mean, and on The Americans, I was so sinister," she says. "Those are very different muscles. This is good for me letting go, but it's also incredibly challenging because it's done so quickly. In four days, we put up a play in front of an audience without a net. I find that exciting."
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Martindale says she was attracted to the project by Garica's script, which was inspired by the members of his own family. "The situations are all made up for fun, but the characters are kind of rooted in my own parents," Garcia says. "They aren't divorced, but they still bicker and there's fun stuff to play there. I've been finding myself coming up with situations that are good for sitcom stories but then asking myself, 'How would the real people in my family react to those situations?'"
While Carol will remain shacked up with Nathan, Bridges' character will move in with Nathan's sister Debbie (Jayma Mays) and her husband Adam (Nelson Franklin). Garcia says that, despite the parents' separation, keeping the family together will remain key. "They're making a go of being single, but the theme of this show is that they're still going to remain a family," he says. "They stayed married all this time for the kids, and now it's time for the parents to spread their wings and do what they probably should have done 25 years ago.
"Ultimately, these two people are still going to care about their kids," Garcia continues. "They're going to bicker and they have their own issues with each other, but when it comes to the family, they want to keep that as much intact as they possibly can. ... I think they're more of a family now than they have been in the last 10 years."
Adds Martindale: "I sense an enormous amount of love. We're still a family and we still love each other the wrong way."
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Unlike his other family comedy Raising Hope, which features a madcap performance by Cloris Leachman, Garcia doesn't worry about how The Millers portrays the generational differences between his characters. "Beau does a lot of silly things, but here's the thing: My dad does a lot of silly things," Garcia says. "My dad's a smart guy, but he doesn't know how to work the coffeemaker at my house. I'm not saying all people in their 70s don't know how to work a coffeemaker; this specific character doesn't. With me always thinking of the people in my life, even if a situation isn't relatable, hopefully the way people are reacting to it is relatable."
But Garcia wants to make it clear that the characters on the show aren't exactly like his family. "My mom has never farted as far as I know," he jokes. "She isn't a farter."
The Millers premieres Thursday at 8:30/7:30c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)