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Resensitizing 'Til Death

Published October 30, 2006 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox.
'Til Death Brad Garret and Joely Fisher in Til Death
Fox’s new sitcom ’Til Death has struggled in the ratings, but they’re still working on it. Eight episodes into their first season, the main initiative has been to give the older couple, the Starks, played by Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher, more vulnerability. Don’t worry, giving them some sensitivity won’t take away their bite. Even when Eddie (Garrett) finds out his young neighbor had a sex dream about him, it lets him be funny and human.

Interview: Cast of 'Til Death

“He has the bite but we see why the bite’s there,” said Garrett. “We see like in this script this week, he’s felt like Chewbaca his whole life, he’s felt like where the villagers are going to get the torches because this is how I felt my whole life and it gave me a certain edge in real life. I never felt like I fit in. I always felt like the freak. I was always so different. I was six feet at 13 and I couldn’t play any ball. I was very odd as I am now and I never fit in. it’s that circus type of persona. So he gets one minute, it isn’t about having sex with Woodcock’s wife. It’s that someone thought I was cute that’s really cute and half my age and I want to revel in it. It’s okay, it’s healthy. So seeing revels of that opening enough to where his securities are makes me even bite harder. It gives me the latitude to really show who it is, so it’s not getting rid of his edge. His edge is what he is. What’s great is it’s just showing it differently.”

From the beginning, the point has not been to make the Starks like the Bundys. The Starks still love each other even though they fight. “I think that’s the most delightful thing about it,” said Joely Fisher. “I think first of all there’s no comedy if you don’t have conflict, and I think that they are people who just merely have a shorthand about dealing with each other. They’re people who have been together this long, they’re so familiar with one another. They know what the other one is thinking, breathing, saying, wearing. There’s no need, let’s just cut to the chase. And I do. I don’t want ever ‘Oh God, that show, they bicker…’ I want it to be that these people love each other. There’s got to be a reason why they’re together 20 years and it wasn’t to stay together for the children because you don’t see them around. There’s a chemistry I think between Brad and I, so therefore there’s a chemistry between the characters. And that’s her gentle giant. They manipulate each other to get what they want and hug and kiss at the end.”

Still, if ’Til Death has been too loud for some viewers, Garrett is going to tone it down. “What I love about this script is there’s a real vulnerability aspect to my character which we’re trying to bring more of,” said Garrett. “The louder someone yells, the more wrong they know they are. That’s what we’re trying to get to. I’m trying to yell less and we’re trying to find the characters more and in the eighth episode, we’ve really made a great jump I think in really defining who we are. I think the four characters this week especially, have really sunk in. And a lot of it is on the shoulders of the actors as well as the writers. It’s very, very hard. Okay, you’ve been married 20 years, go. Who are you? That’s what’s hard about TV. You have not enough time to do it right or enough time to do it over, so you’re rushing. I have to know 40 pages of dialogue in three days. On Raymond, I said three lines and I had a bag of chips.”

The younger actors are feeling the improvement too. Kat Foster, who plays Steph Woodcock, feels her character evolving along with the Starks’. “I think the dynamic within the couples are changing,” she said. “The dynamics of each character are changing. The relationships are changing. We’re getting deeper and deeper and more cohesive as a cast and more grounded and funnier. Certain things in the writing have changed. I just think that the older couple has become gentler and I think we’ve sort of started fighting a lot more. Paradise has sort of cooled down a little bit as it would in a normal relationship whereas perhaps the first few episodes painted the older couple as maybe with more contention. That’s softened a little bit. And it feels great the way that things are going. I’m talking really fine tunes, really, really subtle stuff but it feels different and I feel like you can tell the difference.”

'Til Death airs Thursdays at 8PM on Fox.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Fox.

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