Urban Outsiders... The Commentary
So here's the rundown of our episode, along with some insights on what actually happened during the shoot. Very exciting, I know. And it's even more exciting thanks to Steve Albright who did all these screen captures for us.
After a lovely teaser where I make my first appearance, followed by Matt James' show introduction, Matt discusses how he's in Echo Park to save our yard. This location where Matt crosses the street was scouted by Steve on the last day of shooting. While Matt was off doing something important, Steve took off with Rupert (producer), Bernie (director), and Ian (cameraman) to show them locals. We were all very excited that they found this and used it.
Next they did a pan down of me and Steve-- a shot which they reused many, many times in the episode. This was shot when Matt was sick, with all of the neighborhood kids out watching us. What's ironic, is that only one of our neighbors ever asked what was going on; you'd think they shot shows on our street every day.
We explain why we love Echo Park and then they showed images of downtown LA, which is really only five minutes from us. What's ironic, is that they did capture some of the old Broadway theaters, and since Steve and I are members of the LA Conservancy we appreciated the fact that they showed things we really do love about this area; I think production was just happy that they could finally use all that footage they shot, which doesn't fit with any of the other episodes.
Incidentally, Matt describes Echo Park as, "...a hip, vibrant part of LA." I knew we were on the pulse.
After our close-up couch interview where we look pretty good even without makeup, Matt says via narration, "Their funky lifestyle is reflected by their creative jobs..." CUE US MAKING COCKTAILS.
To be clear, we shot that at 10am on the day we found out that Matt was sick, and there is only pink lemonade in those sugar-rimmed glasses. Normally they never want to show you drinking on these shows so we did a "chink don't drink" action, but they chose the one take where we did look like we were drinking. Yum.
Because Steve and I have similar voices and we often overlap our dialogue, here is the script breakdown for what was said.
MATT'S NARRATION: Steve may be pretty hot on interiors, but outside the yard is more like a psychedelic children's nightmare, than a cool, fashionable adult hangout.
RICK: It's pink stucco, so it looks sort of like icing on a cupcake.
STEVE: Uh huh...
RICK: With purple trim...
STEVE: And then the green wall...
RICK: A green wall...
STEVE: It's really bad.
RICK: And multi-colored floor. It's just... it's not our taste. Yeah, it's a little more than slightly embarrassed.
I don't know... but what I'm now embarrassed about is that they said I was a writer and yet I spoke like that on television.
So then we come outside. Did our rundown of what we wanted, which was basically a rehash of what we said to Matt and the producer at our initial interview, and which we would repeat during our couch interview the next day.
Here is where Steve says he likes the "alien" plant (the aeonium). Then I give Matt the crazy gay eyes and say, "Can you do it?" That was improvised because we didn't know what else to say to end the interview, they liked it, so they kept it.
After the commercial break, we come back and are shown drinking cocktails again.
Then we rehash what we want in the yard, with a couple variations. We also get Matt's computer graphic and explanation.
Then Steve and I sit at our dining room table and look at the blueprint. We taped this on like day three or four, so we'd already seen the design, knew Matt was sick, and had seen some of the tiles laid and the redwood batons placed on the wall. This is probably normal for production, and possibly explains why so many home owners on Urban Outsiders are a bit stiff during this portion of the show. I have nothing to back that up-- After all, we appear quite natural in this moment, don't we?-- but we always cringe when we watch other episodes because we know how difficult it was to make this moment look good.
Please note the autographed Foxy Brown poster in the background.
Then work begins outside. This and all of the following bits were shot on Day 1 in the afternoon.
Here, Matt discusses how we save some plants to use later and, by extension, save some money. Well, the truth is that the sun that landed Matt in the hospital also fried all those plants. They died. But fortunately, Matt had ordered similar plants so it looked like we saved them on camera.
Then we ask Matt a question, which is another set up scene. If you watch closely, you'll see Steve step on a broom and the handle fly up, hitting him in the back. Fortunately, he's a professional and didn't crack on camera.
After Matt's explanation for why he wanted bigger flower beds, he holds his hands out and says, "Yeeeeaaaahhhhh Daddy!"
Now, some narration as we walk through the alley...
MATT: With the California sun beating down my neck, (Foreshadowing, anyone?) I'm glad to see our two local boys getting stuck-in. But with only this tiny access to the garden, even they're having trouble with their back alley...
Anyway, then we get our tiles.
MATT: Here you go, dudes. Your tiles have arrived!
STEVE: TIIIILES! (Said like the singer from the song "Weird Science" said, "SCIENCE!")
No, we don't know why Steve did that. But this was Day 1, late afternoon, and the tiles actually arrived in the morning before Matt even showed up. So perhaps this explains Steve's expression.
MATT: And they cost a fortune, but... it's worth it (that's why we're laughing, above.)
And as we bring in the tiles, you get to see our muscles. SWEET!
We come back from commercial and once more, Matt summarizes the main plot, we see the ugly yard, and then I say the following...
RICK: You know, if we finally got the backyard fixed up, I think it would finally make our "place" into feeling like a home.
This is really Day 2, just as Matt says, though he technically got sick with sunstroke at Home Depot the night before. And yes, it did start to rain on Day 2 and they tarped the patio so they could lay our tile.
And here I am discussing the situation in a clip that will be used on all the future commercials.
You'll notice, green sweatshirt. Then you'll see someone in a green sweatshirt painting, and then me in a red shirt painting. But when Matt narrates, he says that we both painted. Well, Steve was working that day making snowglobes for Disney, but through the miracle of editing and wardrobe changes, it looks like two of us.
Then there's this whole segment on pots. Very educational.
Finally, Matt returns from bedrest and tells the viewer how worried he is that we might have messed up, and that he hopes it's, "The bee's knees." How cute is that?
To be clear, when they show Matt entering our yard and he looks amazed, that was all real. This was the moment when he really did see the yard for the first time and he was blown away. One of the big excitements-- which people on the message boards have noted-- is that this is the type of yard you can only really do in California. So yes, he was super excited that his vision had turned out so well.
If you look closely though, behind Ian in the picture you'll notice that the box for our laundry is already in the yard. We lifted that over the roof on Day 4 or thereabouts, and in the episode you see Steve switch shirts mid-move. There are many reasons for them to do this-- namely in the current edit it keeps Matt more involved-- but also we used almost all of the crew people to get it in and they like to keep them as "behind the scenes" as possible.
Okay, onto the plants...
An "HGTV" style moment is where one talks in a robotic tone like Vicky, from Small Wonder while trying to behave enthusiastically on camera. We did this take a number of times because we'd been working for days, the plants had been sitting in our car port for days, this was our last day of shooting, and it was just really exhausting.
Steve's best line: "I've never had so many plants I was already completely terrified of killing."
CUE DANCE MUSIC while we carry the plants into the yard.
At this point Matt says we should have the yard finished by tomorrow. Well, not really. We did everything in one day, which will become clear by the end of the episode.
So then we come to the one moment in our episode where I make a snarky comment about helping Matt plant in the yard.
Here's the image to go along with it...
Matt puts a plant in place.
MATT: Happy there?
RICK: Oh yeah...
MATT: You can come and help me, if you like.
RICK: (with snarky disgust) We could...
STEVE: We probably should.
We laugh-- just joking-- and go to help.
So let me explain. Before the taping, we'd seen two episode of Matt's UK show, The City Gardner, and on each one they had home owners just sitting in the window watching Matt do all the work. On Day 1 we made it clear that we did NOT want to be seen like that. So the crew kept trying to catch us when we were looking out that window, and it became a big joke.
On the last day of shooting, the director finally said, "Would you get in the window and do it?"
Steve and I looked at one another and immediately realized we were getting a dream garden at a huge discount, and dammit, if they asked us to plant shirtless we'd do it at this point. So we did (um, the window, not the shirtless thing). And that's how this moment was born.
And so we planted and planted...
Then Steve and Matt roll the laundry cover in place.
Back to Matt's narration...
There are just a few finishing touches, and this haven is just a couple of balls from finished.
And yes, he does chuckle when he says, "balls" and there's an obvious reason for that.
But that happens after he talks about the gazing balls and how they create a bit of garden whimsy.
Matt then does an explanation of the yard, what happened with it, and then we cut to night because it was now 10pm when we did the final interview. Bear in mind that we bought dinner for the crew at 8pm or so, drank some beers, and when we set up for the interview I thought it was only appropriate that we had martinis... These were loaded.
Which also explains the following dialogue.
MATT: Is [the yard] enough of a mixture for you guys?
STEVE: It's perfect.
RICK: It's got those classic elements-- blah blah blah-- modern twists-- blah blah blah-- like, we love your balls.
And as you can see, Matt laughed.
Laughter. Though they did cut Steve's line: "I can't believe you just said that!" More laughter. I should have said, "Okaaaayyyyyyy!" (snap, snap, snap.)
And we really do, too.
Thanks to the Urban Outsiders crew. You not only saved our yard, but you made our "place" into a home, and even motivated us to paint the pink cupcake house so that it matched our beautiful yard. We really couldn't be happier.