'Mythic Quest' Season Two Puts Pandemic In Rear View Mirror
Apple TV show still found humor while shooting during COVID-19
Last year "Mythic Quest" produced a Quarantine Episode that cleverly used Zoom to reflect what many of us were going through. The Apple TV+ series now returns for its second season.
"Mythic Quest" lifted our spirits with an episode that showed how a staff working from home had to deal with new technology that frequently drove them crazy. Here's the story I did on the episode so you can appreciate the wild creativity of the show.
The episode made viewers feel inspired and feel that we were all in this together.
The goal for season two was to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
"We felt like people were really going to be looking toward their entertainment, certainly their comedies, to not necessarily move completely past the last year, yet looking more towards the future optimistically," explained star and show creator Rob McElhenney.
And while season one ended with a bonus episode, season two was launched last month with a special bonus episode called "Everlight."
"We came up with a special episode which can address and kind of bridge us back into a normal fun office comedy so we can all kind of get back to normal rather than talking about viral loads," said actor and executive producer David Hornsby.
So they tried to write episodes that had little to do with the pandemic.
"That said, we were shooting right in the middle of the pandemic and we had to be very cognizant of the fact that it could have been potentially very dangerous. In fact, it was very dangerous. And that's why we had very strict protocols all the way through the process," McElhenney said.
Writer and co-creator Megan Ganz noted, "I've been tested for COVID over 60 times in order to do comedy. I didn't think that my comedy career would lead to so much nasal swabbing. But here we are."
She also never expected a comedy show about the gaming industry needing to hire an epidemiologist.
"We had epidemiologists, we had doctors, we had people standing around with six foot poles that would just walk around and be like, oh, you're too close," Ganz said. "Everything changed. I mean, even little things. I was saying that I didn't realize how nice it was before when I'd have a joke on set, an alts for a line, and I could just whisper it to Rob and David and get a second read on whether it was funny. Now I just had to shout it out like across the room, which is a very vulnerable place to be. And no amount of masking and protection protects you from the silence that occurs when you shout out a joke that nobody likes."
The character of Brad, played by Danny Pudi, proved well suited to a pandemic work place.
"In some ways, Brad was built for this because he is not giving high fives at work. He's not hugging anyone. He is very comfortable in his own space with his hands in his pockets, you know, conniving, planning, you know, studying people," Pudi said.
"Mythic Quest" looks behind the scenes of creating an epic multiplayer video games. So while epidemiologists provide COVID-19 information, Ubisoft, an actual video game company that’s also one of the show' producers, is on hand to provide a different kind expertise.
"It's like being on a medical show and having a doctor on set," joked Hornsby.
McElhenney added, "They give us access to so many different things that we would never have access to. And mostly they create a certain level of authenticity that we're desperately trying to to recreate."
So the show addresses real workplace issues in gaming such as a lack of female talent in high positions and a certain lack of appreciation for some of the artists who work on the games. But it does all that with a sharp sense of irreverent humor.
Charlotte Nicdao plays Poppy, the game’s lead engineer who got promoted to co-creative director at the end of season one.
"It's very helpful having one of our producers, Jason Altman, on set most days, because I have to say a lot of technical jargon," Nicdao said. "So I feel like we got a lot of times with me, like getting halfway through talking about something and then being like Jason, was that right?"
"None of us knows what we're talking about when it comes to the tech stuff for the show," confessed Ganz. "So writing dialogue for Poppy is very challenging. In fact, when in the scripts, whenever we need Poppy to say what it is she's working on, I just write the word 'haptics, haptics, haptics' over and over in bold. And then the Ubisoft people go in and fill that with actual tech language that makes sense."
And when the series needs to actually show what the characters are creating they have a real gaming company on board to help produce results.
"What's most amazing is we devised really weird and wonderful things to happen in the video game," Ganz said. "And then actual artists build these moments like we have a person digging with a shovel and making crude shapes out of it. Somebody spent a lot of time making that actually work so that you can actually move the characters and play it. So it's just been the most fantastic partnership. And they are there in the writers room all the time and they're really helping us guide the show."
That collaboration has proved successful. "Mythic Quest" may focus on gaming but it captures universal truths about both office life and living in a world still dealing with a pandemic — and it does both with clever humor.