TruTV’s ‘Those Who Can’t’: a talk with the executive producer Dean Lorey

Those who can't image

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The idea of viewers embracing self-absorbed, fundamentally unlikable characters goes back to “Seinfeld.”

Then a decade ago, FX hit the jackpot with “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” now in its 11th season on sister station FXX.

TruTV is trying out a similar tact with its teacher-focused comedy “Those Who Can’t.” Three teachers and an idiotic librarian are the focal point. The joke of course is they are more juvenile than the students. And they’re all incompetent and stunted in varying degrees. The hippy-dippy, eager-to-please principal is no better.

In the first episode, the teachers plant drugs on a student they don’t like just to get him expelled.

In the third episode, the incredibly dopey P.E. teacher Andy Fairbell struggles up a rope, then falls from about 30 feet. The Spanish teacher Loren Payton shows off his language skills by creating a (“virgin, barely alcoholic”) margaritas. The history teacher Billy Shoemaker gets so angry when his stool breaks, he throws all the students out of the class and hurls the globe.

By episode four, Sarah Michelle Gellar shows up as a psycho PTA president who takes away a vending machine from the teacher’s lounge, creating a kerfuffle with the teachers. So one teacher starts “baking” candy to sell on the side, in an extended “Breaking Bad” joke.

“I have tenure dip****,” said a home ec teacher in that episode to another teacher who discovers her work. “I could kill a kid and not get fired.”

In other words, this is not a school any real student would want to be in.

But that isn’t the point. It’s simply a venue for the Denver comedy group the Grawlix to goof around.

“The show is designed to highlight their very specific and quirky sensibilities,” said executive producer Dean Lorey, who grew up in Conyers and graduated Heritage High School.

And their behavior is chronically fire-able.

“A friend of mine said during his days as a school teacher, he’d watch ‘Boston Public’ and he’d count how many times teachers did things that would get them fired,” Lorey said. “Think about our show in that context. It’s a string of ‘You’re fired!’ moments.”

He said in his high school days, he had his share of strange teachers. He especially enjoyed a P.E. teacher who taught driver’s ed but “used us to drive around town to do his errands.”

The characters on the show, Lorey said, are hopelessly immature. “They’re marking time thinking something spectacular is going to happen,” she said. “But this is their lives. This is it for them.”

Cool fact: they used Van Nuys High School, which was used for the classic 1982 Cameron Crowe film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

“That was a formative movie for us,” Lorey said. “What’s really funny is the school is used so much for films and TV, the students basically ignore us.”

They also used a classroom to write scripts: “We’re sitting at student desks working on episodes, which is a weird environment but kind of fun.”

It’s the Atlanta-based network’s first scripted effort, debuting three weeks ago. A second season is already in the works.

“We’re really excited to be the first scripted comedy network on the network,” Lorey said. “It’s uncharted territory. What’s nice about truTV is they’re a comedy network in which we can be an extension. We love ‘Impractical Jokers.’ We hung out with those guys. We love them. It’s really collegial.”

TV PREVIEW

“Those Who Can’t,” 10:30 p.m. Thursdays, truTV


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