Days of Big Hair Past
Fdelves deep into the most extreme styles of the 1980s in search of laughs. By Karen Idelson.
or those who’ve been missing the sex, violence and shoulder pads of the 1980s, Comedy Central’s new animated series Moonbeam City might just be the salve that soothes a beast that is likely to be hungry like the wolf (yes, we went there).
Created and executive produced by Scott Gairdner ( Conan, Funny or Die), the gritty cop show features Dazzle Novak (voiced by ’80s heartthrob Rob Lowe, also a co-producer on the show) in a parody of a time period beloved for its over-the-top aesthetics and sensibilities.
“I really have a love for ’ 80s shows like Knight Rider that do things like have act breaks where they freeze the frame and the theme song comes in,” says Gairdner. “It’s like saying, ‘We’re not just going to commercial, we’re leaving you hanging by a thread!’”
When putting together Moonbeam City — which also borrows from crime dramas like Miami Vice on the way to getting its laughs — Gairdner wanted actors who could give a Naked Gun level of commitment to their roles, even in the face of silliness. And Lowe was the creator’s first choice for the Novak role.
“Rob Lowe has the ability to be serious in a comedic role and hilarious in a serious role like his work in Behind the Candelabra,” says Gairdner. “He can walk that fine line between two worlds.”
Produced by Olive Bridge Entertainment and having premiered Sept. 16, the show also features the vocal talents of Will Forte, who plays Rad Cunningham, an annoying rival to Dazzle who actively plans the cop’s demise. There’s also Elizabeth Banks as Pizzaz Miller, a sexed-up, bighaired chief of police who comes off as something right out of a Robert Palmer video. Finally, there’s the long-suffering Chrysalis Tate (voiced by Kate Mara) who must watch the idiotic Dazzle and Pizzaz fumble along while she desperately tries to clean up the messes they make.
Gairdner turned to Titmouse when looking for an animation studio to bring his neon visions to life. As veterans of programs like The Venture Bros., the producer had a sense the studio could bring bold choices to the show, which features a character look clearly inspired by the Patrick Nagel prints which canvassed the world for the better part of a decade.
“The craziest design minds are in that studio,” says Gairdner, of the work they did using Flash and After Effects. “They made it way more beautiful than I thought it could be.”
Another bonus in working with Titmouse was discovering the company’s in-house band, Night Club, which supplied the unique mix of music inspired by Toto, Asia and Foreigner for Moonbeam City. Their unusual take on the synth pop adult contemporary sound is most prominently displayed underwater during the fourth episode of the series, “Quest for Aquatica.” [