For web video old-timers, the premise and cast of the branded comedy FCU: Fact Checkers Unit, debuting this week on NBC.com, may seem familiar — and that’s because there’s a strong chance they’ve seen it before.
The tale of a team of magazine fact checkers who will go to any lengths to confirm celebrity gossip for print began originally in 2007 as a short film on Funny or Die, starring Bill Murray (for real).
And while the new series’ guest cast isn’t quite on Murray’s level, the show’s dry wit remains consistent — even three years later.
FCU was directed by Dan Beers and created by Peter Karinen and Brian Sacca, the latter of whom also star as the show’s central fact checkers. After the original short was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, they made some effort to try and sell the concept as a series, even working with an ad agency to bring in brands — but for the most part it served as a calling card for their talents as they pursued other writing, acting and directing work. “We just saw it as a short film that we were happy with and proud of,” Dan said via phone.
Three years later, enter executive producer Tom Bannister, who originally saw FCU at its Sundance premiere but wasn’t able to track down its creators until the spring of 2010, when he approached them about turning the show into a series. In a matter of months, Bannister brought on Samsung as a sponsor and got production rolling on the first eight episodes.
The fantastic Kristen Schaal reprises her role as a FCU assistant, and guest stars appearing as themselves include Luke Perry, Donald Faison, Dave Navarro and Alex Trebek. “People were more willing to be in this because Bill Murray was in the first short — it definitely helped our cause,” Karinen said via phone.
And while some episodes began life generically, tailored later for the guest star’s personality, some episodes were directly inspired by the casting. For example, Perry’s paranoia that his house is haunted in Episode One came about because Karinen and Sacca heard he had grown a beard.
The FCU team continues to work in traditional media, developing projects for film and TV, but returning to the web gave them an opportunity “to go make something and get it out there. With TV it takes so long and even then nothing may happen,” Beers said via phone.
No plans have been made for the show beyond this first season, though according to Karinen, “There are lots of facts out there — we could do 200 episodes of this show, it could go on indefinitely.”
Added Sacca, “There will always be celebrities, and there will always be facts that need to be checked about them.”
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