When TVGuide.com spoke with David Cross back in August, he had just begun writing and coproducing a new animated series called Freak Show. Centered on a group of circus freaks who execute low-level missions for the U.S. government, the debut airs tonight on Comedy Central (10:30 pm/ET). Here, the stand-up comedian and star of the cult-hit sketch-comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David was able not only to give us some insights about Freak Show, but also to share a thing or two about why he thinks a certain series he starred in for Fox got the boot.
TVGuide.com: Where did the idea for Freak Show come from?
David Cross: Um, it's really inspired by a lot of Brueghel and Bosch. I'm a big fan of [both]. They're distinctly different, but they're similar in a way. So the painters Pieter Brueghel and Hieronymus Bosch were big inspirations.
TVGuide.com: I feel like you're messing with me.
Cross: No, I'm serious. If you Google them, you'll look at their paintings and understand. Bosch painted those hellish scenes and Brueghel was all about Dutch village life, so it's partly that and partly Get Smart. The tonality is like Batman. So it's goofy, but it's also like Brueghel and Bosch. It's all that and animated.
TVGuide.com: If you say so. You and H. Jon Benjamin are the creators of Freak Show. How did you guys get together?
Cross: Well, I was working with him on Arrested Development in Los Angeles, and I live 3,300 miles away, so I wanted to figure out something to do closer to home in the highly implausible scenario that Arrested Development was ever canceled by Fox. It probably won't happen it's critically lauded, tons of people watch it, the DVDs do really well, and it's won all kinds of awards, so there's no chance that would ever happen, but if it did I wanted to have a show that would be fun and creatively interesting.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like a good plan. How many episodes are being planned?
Cross: Well, we plan to do 200, but seven is what we're working on now.
TVGuide.com: Out of your core group of characters, which is your favorite freak?
Cross: We have a lot of characters who we didn't initially focus on but who have really expanded in the story. The owners and operators of the freak show, Bob and Helen Hartsdale, are really fun. I like Primi, the premature baby that inexplicably speaks with an Italian accent. Will Arnett voices a character named Duncan Schiest, who's basically this sycophantic lackey, a soulless corporate guy, and he's just great.
TVGuide.com: Were there any freaks you wanted to include, but who didn't make the cut?
Cross: No, but we have a lot of peripheral characters, and discussed the possibility of killing off a character every season and bringing in a new freak. We have a lot of side freaks, like the World's Blurriest Woman, Backdoor Man, World's Greatest Grandpa.... New Jersey Guido is another one that is ready to go if we need him.
TVGuide.com: Is it daunting following South Park on Wednesday nights?
Cross: It's an honor. It's flattering and encouraging that they'd want to use South Park to launch this show. I don't find it daunting; I find it exciting. I hope it brings more people to Freak Show.
TVGuide.com: Is your show's material predominantly social satire, like South Park?
Cross: I would say we're closer to South Park than Family Guy or Simpsons or Drawn Together, but we're not that similar to South Park.
TVGuide.com: Are you getting a lot of leeway from Comedy Central to pretty much do what you want?
Cross: No. No. God, no. I'm keeping all the e-mail exchanges and I'll be posting things on my website that sort of correlate with the episode airing about jokes we wanted to put in that we weren't allowed to put in, jokes we fought for. That's a side of the show that's as entertaining as the show itself.
TVGuide.com: Did you have to deal with that while doing Mr. Show with Bob and David?
Cross: Nope. Never. This is a totally new experience.
TVGuide.com: You sarcastically mentioned Arrested Development's cancellation earlier. What do you think about the way it was handled by Fox?
Cross: I think they dropped the ball big time, but I also think they didn't care about the ball. There's a presumption, when you talk about Arrested Development, that Fox sort of mishandled it and didn't know what to do with it. I don't think they cared for it. I don't think they cared for [series creator] Mitch [Hurwitz]. I don't think Rupert Murdoch liked it. In fact, I know he didn't. And every time it was nominated for an Emmy or a Golden Globe, I swear there were a number of people who went, "F--k." I think [former Fox Entertainment president] Gail Berman liked it. She honest-to-goodness liked it, but other people just didn't give a s--t.
TVGuide.com: Thanks for not mincing words.
Cross: Just calling it like I see it.
Send your comments on this Q&A to email@example.com.