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Photo: Hulu

Television

‘Solar Opposites’ — Mike McMahan and Josh Bycel talk about “getting away with an incredibly fun show”

Co-creator/EP Mike McMahan and EP Josh Bycel dish about Solar Opposites and the new season.

Solar Opposites finds a family of aliens that take refuge on Earth. Their main directive is to raise the Pupa who will one day evolve and terraform the planet into a copy of their home world of Shlorp. Until then, the intergalactic visitors have much to learn about being human and assimilating into the culture, but not before getting into plenty of science fiction foolishness.

The show is set to return later this week and we had the opportunity to speak with co-creator and executive producer, Mike McMahan, and executive producer, Josh Bycel. The pair provided insight into the adult animated comedy as well as teases for the upcoming season.

Listen to the latest episode of the AIPT Television podcast!

AIPT: For this new season of Solar Opposites, the episode order was increased from eight to twelve. How did you approach this extra room for story telling? Did you find it more difficult considering you have more time to fill or did it give you more freedom in not having to cut as many things from the script?

Mike McMahan: The first thing we did was we all pulled out our celebratory guns and shot them in the air because we were victorious in getting more episodes. We were like, “Woo!” And then were like, “Oh f*ck, what are we going to do.” We knew we wanted to do more fun stuff with the alien family but it also allowed us to do more weird episodes.

Like, we got to do more Wall, we got to do Silver Cops, we got to do “99 Ships,” we got to do the weird line episode. The more episodes of Solar we get to do the better. Nobody is coming into Solar being like, “Oh boy, what are we going to do?” We’re having a blast.

Josh Bycel: Yeah, we’ll fill every space with something weird and new and different for sure.

McMahan: It’s just like, imagine telling kids going into a candy story that they have a bigger bag to fill. That’s what it felt to us.

AIPT: Did you feel there were greater expectations for you from Hulu?

McMahan: Hell no. Hulu doesn’t know what the f*ck is coming to them. We turned in a script and they’re like, “Jesus Christ! This is hilarious!” <Jokingly> Don’t quote me on that.

Bycel: Hulu has been the best partner. Honestly, they have been super supportive since the very beginning. We’re always trying to figure out where it is they are going to tell us no, and they haven’t told us no. I think it allows us to just, as Mike says, to chase the fun and have joy. And that’s what we want to come out in these episodes. Just fun and joy and that’s what we’re really always striving for.

McMahan: Disney gets a little nervous occasionally but we have never had too much grief from them either. We’re really getting away with what I think is an incredibly fun show.

AIPT: It seems like you have a good working relationship with Hulu. This season you poke a little fun at them as well.

Bycel: We always poke fun at them.

McMahan: I just loved when The Simpsons would make fun of Fox. I’ve always wanted to do that and Hulu is cool with it. Just the word “Hulu” is so funny to me, it’s out of love though.

AIPT: Viewers have grown to expect plenty of sci-fi shenanigans from Solar Opposites and this season is no exception. However, there are serious moments and we see the main cast mature, particularly in the finale. You could have easily just made a show about zany adventures but you really invest in the development of your characters. What made you go this route?

McMahan: I think for us, it feels like the zaniness lands more if the characters have heart. If you know that we’re not going to betray you as an audience by having them turn on each other. Look, they can make mistakes. We all make mistakes, but at the end of the day, they do want to be a family and you see that more than ever before. I don’t think Josh would disagree with me.

You like writing characters that you care about more than just jokebook characters. If you can have both, if they can be really funny but you actually care about these guys, that’s the best of both worlds and that’s what we’re striving for.

solar opposites 3.5
Photo: Hulu

AIPT: One aspect of Solar Opposites that really caught on since the beginning was the over arcing narrative of the Wall. Can you talk about the direction you wanted to take the storyline in the new episodes? Do you feel like you have to outdo yourself each time compared to the previous season?

McMahan: No, I don’t think outdo. I think we don’t want to retread. The first season was like an Escape from New York/War of the Roses/Mad Max sort of thing. Season two was a murder mystery that ended up in an outdoor adventure story. Then season three wraps up the “Tim Era” and starts us into a Roger Corman style creature feature. I love the move Piranha. We parody the opening of Piranha in the first episode. I love a movie that starts off with two teens breaking into a government facility and swimming.

It takes the Wall into an amazing place for me. We’ve already made season four. We’re animating it right now. The rise of this malevolent theocracy that’s taking over the wall at the end of season three is something that we see more and a ton of moving forward…It will feel like we kind of done it alongside what is happening in our society right now.

This Supreme Court bullsh*t that’s going down. You’re going to be seeing a weird religious takeover and an erosion of rights in the Wall. And it’s just because we were telling that kind of story as opposed to knowing that stuff was going to happen. But all obviously inspired by the rise of the strong man and despots and f*cking the rerise of fascism.

Getting to do the wall. Getting to do all that stuff. Getting to do the Silver Cops. Getting to build these worlds. Even the “99 Ships” episode where we learn more about the Solar Opposites’ world…It’s sort of the same tone as why did we add heart. Yes, we want to do all the jokes but we also want to say something. Then we also want to do a drama.

It’s all available in here. There aren’t kind of any built-in walls to keep us from making the show in a way that surprises us as much as it surprises you. I don’t remember what the question was but we love making the Wall stuff too.

AIPT: You’re building this Solar Opposite Universe. You have the alien family as the primary plot, then you have the smaller scale with the Wall. Then you’ve talked about it too, in season three you’re building upon this world even more going to a more cosmic scale with Silver Cops. Why did you feel you needed add this portion? It seems the show is always pushing itself and now you have this third area to explore.  

McMahan: I love worldbuilding. I love making new shows. I love exploring fully thought-out George Lucas Star Wars sized used universes. I think that’s really fun to explore as a writer. The one that we created in the Wall was only supposed to be one season, and we ended up loving it so much that we decided to just keep going.

I love what [Robert] Kirkman did with The Walking Dead. The idea of what if you take a zombie movie but it never ends. I think that’s a brilliant structural way to look at things we all love in genre in a way that you haven’t seen before. That was really inspiring to me. I also love how he built out the comic book Invincible and now I love the show. That little things can grow over time. That feels like real life to me. It feels really cool to utilize that structurally.

As we’re learning what Solar Opposites means. When you think about what Solar Opposites is as a show, instead of wanting it to feel like a show about aliens who have a wall, we wanted it to feel like a show that has aliens and then many opportunities to deep dive into other worlds, structures, and narratives. You never know what you’re going to get, but It’s always going to be awesome.

solar opposites 3.3
Photo: Hulu

AIPT: I’ll leave you on this. What are you most excited for fans to see this season from Solar Opposites?

Bycel: I would say, Silver Cops. Definitely a new spinoff. But I really love where we’ve gotten with the family. I really love this idea that it’s taken them three years but they’ve really become an actual family. They started as a team. Just a bunch of literally plants that were grown together. That had no other connection besides that. And they’ve become a family. We do a brother/sister story. We do them going on family vacation.

When we get to the end, the mission was always to protect the Pupa so he can terraform. Well now, what we’ve come to at the end of season three is the only way they can protect the Pupa is to become a family. So, becoming a family is now part of the mission. I really loved what we were able to do with the Solars this year. I just think it’s such a great balance between the Wall and Silver Cops. That you get to have these three fully fleshed out worlds.

McMahan: I’m really excited for people to see “99 Ships” just because I think it’s a hilarious episode that is brutal but funny. I love how much it explains of the backstory of our aliens. But I also think the luxury of this show is that I can’t believe in less than a week we’re dropping the entire season and that somebody can binge it all in a day. They can spend a week or two watching it. Whatever they want.

All this work we’ve done. And all these episodes. We all have our favorite episodes but every episode has something truly deeply hilarious in it. From where the jerks are taking over the town, or the finale which is like The Mist, or the school betting episode that’s got the Lakitu Cloud.

There isn’t an episode that doesn’t have something that I’m just like, “God, I f*cking love that.” Knowing that if you have Hulu or (Disney+) Star and it’s going to drop and you have the whole thing to watch?

Man, I wish I was a young nerd kid right now and I would get that. Thinking of a whole season of Futurama or The Simpsons dropping and I could just main line it would be the event of the year for me. I hope the fans of the show love what we did. I love season four that we’re working on right now. The best thing in the world would be the more people we get to see it, the more that we’re going to be able to make.

If you want us to make a movie or a spinoff or whatever, just get everyone you can to get some eyes on it. We want as many viewers as we can. We’ve been off the air over a year because we’re releasing it internationally at the same time this year so it took a minute to add all the foreign languages.

I spend all my time in this room. This is where I’ve been for three years and I don’t have any perspective of who’s talking about the show and all of that. We’re airing in the summer for the first time. My big hope is, man, I hope people love this season. I hope they tell their friends to watch it. I hope we get to make a million more episodes of this show because it’s such a fun time.

Read our review of season three year and stream Solar Opposites’ new season beginning Wednesday, July 13, on Hulu.


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