Ken Marino has thrown down the gauntlet.
"Is there really a more romantic way to celebrate Valentine's Day than by watching a parody of a show where people compete to fall in love, and once they do, it almost never lasts longer than a few months?" quipped the "Children's Hospital" actor about Season 2 of "Burning Love." "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find one."
"Burning Love," the "Bachelor" franchise send-up Marino produces with his wife, writer Erica Oyama, and Ben Stiller begins airing on Yahoo! Screen today. The first season, which followed fictional firefighter Mark Orlando (Marino) as he searched for his future wife, debuted last summer to critical acclaim and quickly became a viral sensation. (Season 1 will make its TV debut on E! Feb. 25.)
In nod to "The Bachelorette," the second installment of "Burning Love" brings back a contestant who left brokenhearted last season for her shot at finding a husband. Julie Gristlewhite (June Diane Raphael), a dental hygienist from Fresno, California, after hooking up with fellow contestant Carly, realized she wasn't a lesbian and hightailed it back to the mansion.
With the help of host Bill Tundle (Michael Ian Black), she'll sift through show staples -- like the guitar-toting guy who sings his feelings, myriad physical trainers, the token minority, and the suave hottie with a secret girlfriend back home. Marino has assembled an A-team of comic talent to play Julie's suitors, including Michael Cera, Adam Scott (Orlando's life coach in Season 1), Jerry O'Connell, Martin Starr, Nick Kroll, Colin Hanks, Paul Scheer, and Kumail Nanjani.
"As friends of Ken Marino, we were sort of obligated to do this. There was a lot of pressure and guilt to do it as a favor," explained Rob Huebel ("Up All Night"), who portrays a prince who hails, inexplicably, from Maryland. "I have never been away from my royal family, and I don't know how to do anything for myself. Everything is confusing and new to me."
Joe Lo Truglio ("Reno 911!") found himself in the same boat. "There was no saying no, otherwise he was not going to talk to us anymore. He made that very clear, [so] I play Alex, a father who misses his child very much and can't stop talking or boasting about him or crying. He's a sweet guy but becomes quite annoying to listen to."
Describing his character as simply Jewish, Adam Brody ("The OC") had an ulterior motive. "For me, it was like, stand by these funny people and you will be funny by association. It didn't rub off [on me], but people think, 'That guy's hilarious because so are all the guys around him.'"
Not one to let a good opportunity for a little comic ribbing to pass him by, Black interrupted, "I don't remember thinking that. I remember thinking almost the opposite." Huebel then took his shot insinuating that Brody didn't have to work that hard because he's Jewish in real life. "Although I know little to nothing about it, so I had to dig deep to find any jokes or references," Brody said before admitting that he didn't do any research like going undercover at a temple to better his understanding of Max. "I would be allowed in just by being a card-carrying Jew, but I didn't because I don't take my work that seriously."
Black, on the other hand, takes his role as host very seriously. He even refused to talk for a few beats when it was suggested that he might be the worst master of ceremonies as he screws up contestant names, nonchalantly dismisses the eliminated, and has even slyly mocked the process. Lo Truglio shook his head, explaining that "this is classic Tundle. Tantrum Tundle they call him." Eventually he continued and swore he never once missed a chance to study host Chris Harrison. "I have never missed a single episode of any season of either 'The Bachelor' or 'The Bachelorette.'"
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Huebel is on the opposite end of the spectrum. "I have never seen one. I don't like them. I don't like those people. It's fun to make fun of them because they're so dumb. I don't like that they're on the covers of tabloids. I want real celebs on those."
Marino and Raphael, who watch the ABC series as fans and for material for possible future seasons, reminded us that you roast only the ones you love. "The show's a success because you do get invested in these characters and it is good storytelling," Marino said. "Some people believe it, and some people like watching it because they can laugh about it. It is a good world to parody because everyone knows that genre. We were trying to make a bit of a love letter to that genre, but also rib it a little bit."
They tried to capture the subtle differences between "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." Marino said, "Just like the real shows, [our seasons] are different. 'The Bachelor' feels slightly more selfish and 'The Bachelorette' always seems like she is truly there looking for love, while the guys are kind of there to get seen on TV."
Raphael added, "Or to pass the time. Hang out. I find it fascinating that a man in the prime of his life is able to take off that amount of time to do a TV show. That's a certain type of man. The guys are bro'ing out, and there's a lot more self-promotion, while the women always seem more focused on finding a husband and really wanting that to happen. They are much more competitive."
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Brody said, dryly, "Oh, men are funnier in general, so I would say ["The Bachelorette"]." Huebel pointed out that those were letter-writing words, suggested we get a post office box to accommodate the hate mail, and warned Brody that he'd be in trouble from that quote. Brody retorted, with a whine: "From who? Women? 'Ewww. I'm a girl and I'm so mad.'"
Luckily for "Burning Love" fans, even if an angry mob hunts down Brody, Season 3 has already been taped, and it's a play on "Bachelor Pad."
"All your favorite characters from Seasons 1 and 2 and then some new characters from seasons we didn't see in our fictional past come back to compete for money and love, but mostly money," Marino confirmed.
Considering the source material keeps chugging along and providing more scenarios that are ripe for the plucking, like Tierra and her "sparkle" and the dude who carried an egg around, it would be easy to assume that "Burning Love" would continue for years to come. But Marino said, "I haven't thought about any more. I don't think Erica has. We haven't really talked about it. Maybe. But I feel like we've covered it with 1 and 2, and then 'Bachelor Pad' will be its own kind of absurd, crazy thing."
Raphael added wistfully, "It's a beautiful trilogy."
Watch the first two episodes of "Burning Love 2":