As Ken Marino has discovered, the blueprint for making a hit reality-dating show also works for creating a buzzy web series. The star of Yahoo! Screen’s “Burning Love,” about a hunky firefighter looking for love, recently stopped by to explain how he made such a spot-on spoof of “The Bachelor” (hint: it involves hours and hours of watching “The Bachelor”) and how he got stars like Kristen Bell and Jennifer Aniston involved.
Yahoo! TV: So how did this project start?
Ken Marino: My wife, [Erica Oyama,] and I both watch “The Bachelor” as a guilty pleasure. She started watching a marathon of it when she was pregnant with our first son, and then really got into it -- so I started watching with her. I like to think that we watched ironically, but it’s become something other than that now.
So she wrote up this sketch and was like, “Oh, we should shoot this.” And it was just a one off little thing. But Adam Scott and his wife, Naomi, were fans of the show too, so we all got together and watched the finale one time. Adam and I were going to do something together, and then I read [Erica’s sketch] and it was great. I said, “We should do it -- but as a whole Web series.”
Yahoo! TV: What do you think makes shows like “The Bachelor” so successful?
Marino: They’re compelling. They know how to create dramatic moments -- or at least false dramatic moments. But there’s also something easy about them. You can kind of check out when you watch them.
There are two different types of people who watch: the people who watch it kind of making fun, and then there are the people who really get swept up in it. But then I think there’s actually a third type, which is what I think I am. I watch it and laugh, but then I’m also like, “What’s going to happen?” I can’t help it.
Yahoo! TV: How did you decide which aspects to mock? Even people who’ve only seen one or two episodes of “The Bachelor” can immediately find something familiar here.
Marino: There are certain archetypes -- certain characters that they just repeat every season with just slightly different variations. And they create those characters. Even if those people aren’t necessarily really those characters, they create the drama. So they make those people those characters. And they just repeat every season some version of that.
I think that’s what we picked up on, and you don’t have to exaggerate it too much, you know? In a way, that’s the loving part of what we did. You don’t have to change the tune. You just have to say, “We know what you’re doing. We think it’s funny if we just tweak it a little bit.” We tried to embrace it and that tone in a genuine way.
Yahoo! TV: What kind of shooting schedule is there for a Web series like this?
Marino: We shot it in 8 days, and then we had an extra day to get a couple extra shots. … There are pluses and minuses to shooting in such a short amount of time: You get great people like we got [because it’s easier for stars like Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Bell, or Ken Jeong to commit to one or two days of shooting]. But you have to move super fast and you have to make sacrifices.
Yahoo! TV: Was there any room for improv?
Marino: Absolutely. We’d get the scene, and then one of the ways you shoot extra footage is -- and the cameramen hate me for this -- but I just don’t yell “Cut” and I just tell the actors to just keep riffing on it. We tried to give everybody the freedom to improvise as much as they possibly could after getting what was written.
Yahoo! TV: Visually, it looks so much like what it’s parodying. Has the “Burning Love” house been used on a reality show before?
Marino: No, that’s all lighting. We shot up in like Calabasas or over there, where they shoot “Biggest Loser” -- that area. There are a lot of houses that have that look there. What makes it really look like [“The Bachelor”] is the way the camera moves and how those color filtered lights are shot up. Then put some music on it and all of a sudden it feels like the show. The goal was to embrace the language of the show as much as possible. We thought that that would be the fun thing to do and not break the reality, not wink.
Yahoo! TV: And finally, the question on everybody’s mind: What is Natasha Leggero -- who plays half-naked contestant Haley -- really wearing under that pixilation? Some kind of flesh-colored underwear?
Marino: Nothing. She’s a Method actress. She was wearing a Brazilian wax. It was really bold of her.
New episodes of "Burning Love" are posted Mondays and Thursdays on Yahoo! Screen.