Netflix’s most nominated TV program at the Golden Globes this year is new single-camera comedy The Kominsky Method, a passion project of Chuck Lorre, the king of old-school network sitcoms like the crowd-pleasing CBS mainstay The Big Bang Theory. (You can read Lorre’s update on Big Bang‘s final season here.)
The Kominsky Method, which stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, received three noms this morning, best comedy series and acting noms for Douglas and Arkin. The comedy, about an aging former actor-turned-acting coach (Douglas) and his agent and friend (Arkin) represents a wild-card entry in Lorre’s long career, dominated by broad, multi-camera network sitcoms, from Grace Under Fire and Cybill to Two and Half Men, Mike & Molly, The Big Bang Theory and Mom. No show of his had never gotten more than two Golden Globe nominations in a single year until The Kominsky Method today.
Lorre was slogging through rainy traffic when he spoke to Deadline and he sounded giddy as he spoke between the flapping of his windshield wipers. “It’s a very sunny rainy day today,” Lorre said of the nominations for his upstart show.
“I hate to use the overused word but it is the best word I can use: There’s just a lot of gratitude that people are enjoying what we have done. For the Hollywood Foreign Press to acknowledge this effort it just means a great deal to me. It was a personal to me. I really wanted to write about getting older and the trials and tribulations of decay. To be acknowledged for that? It’s extremely gratifying. I’m a very happy guy this morning.”
While Lorre is happy today, The Kominsky Method was not a sure thing, and it hinged entirely on Douglas signing on. Here is how Lorre described his options for the show after sending the Oscar winner the pilot script:
“If Michael Douglas doesn’t read the script and say, ‘Yes, I’d like to do this with you’, than that script would be a doorstop today. If he says ‘yes’, we do it but if he says ‘no’, then the script is landfill. When Michael called me and said he liked the script and wanted to talk about it, that’s when it became something. That was the major obstacle to cross in order for this to become a reality.”
With Douglas on board, Arkin soon followed. That made it far easier to stroll into the offices of Netflix to pitch the show, Lorre said. “Walking in there sandwiched between Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, that’s when the show started to feel real,” he said.
Once the production was underway, Lorre was caught off-guard by the working experience.
“The big surprise for me,” he said, “was how much I fell in love with the process. It was a big change for me in the approach to comedy and storytelling.”
This is only the second single-camera comedy series for Lorre, following Young Sheldon on CBS. He co-created The Big Bang Theory spinoff with Steve Molaro who runs day-to-day on the sophomore comedy, and it runs on a commercial broadcaster with set length and ad breaks. The Kominsky Method is Lorre’s baby, with him as creator, executive producer and showrunner. And it runs on an SVOD platform with no commercials. (This is Lorre’s second comedy for Netflix following the multi-camera Disjointed.)
“The single-camera and the Netflix approach — no commercials, no time limit, you’re free to just tell the best story you can tell without forcing it into a box,” Lorre said. “The viewers have the opportunity to watch more than one episodes so there’s a flow to it. It’s like reading chapters of a book, you don’t read one and put it down for a week. The whole tone of the work changes for the viewer when they watch it that way.”
Still, Lorre said it was not an instant embrace. He was so accustomed to the structure and rhythms of network shows that it took some time to get his bearings.
“Yes it was liberating but I had to learn how to be liberated, I had been trained to do things in a different way over a long period of time and I had to make a conscious effort to change my approach. ‘Wait a minute, this moment here can play without sticking a joke in because I don’t have a commercial coming up. I can just trust the moment to play as it is. I don’t have to worry that I will lose the audience after four minutes of commercials.”
“It was a learning curve and I had to trust that the comedy could play in a new way and in a different environment,” Lorre said. “And guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks.”