On Wednesday morning, Mike Catherwood spent an hour on a call with Quibi executives for his new animated project, “Rudy.” Then, he went to pick up his daughter from school. By the time he got home, Quibi was dead.
“I have to assume that those executives didn’t know,” Catherwood told Variety. “Otherwise they’re really good actors. Because we had an hourlong conversation about moving forward in scripts, like what’s working on script number three and what’s not. To then read the news, I was completely blown away.”
Catherwood, whose project had been greenlighted, but not yet officially announced, is one of presumably dozens of series creators and showrunners who find themselves — and their shows — in limbo now that Quibi has called it quits.
“Rudy,” based on a character that Catherwood first created in junior high school, and then voiced on radio shows such as “Kevin & Bean” and “Loveline” (which he co-hosted with Dr. Drew Pinsky), comes from Ed Helms’ Pacific Electric shingle and animation studio Six Point Harness (“Hair Love”).
“We’re definitely going to keep moving with this project, all three of us,” Catherwood said. “But how that’s going to happen and with who is still yet to be seen.”
Catherwood said his attorneys and agents, as well as the teams at Pacific Electric and Six Point Harness, are now figuring out the schematics of the Quibi shutdown and what it means in terms of retrieving the rights to “Rudy” and shopping it elsewhere.
“I’ve talked to everybody involved, including Mike Falbo (who runs Pacific Electric with Helms) and Six Point Harness, and we’re all pretty disappointed,” he said. “I don’t want to be selfish and monopolize the disappointment because everybody’s put in such a tremendous amount of work and has come to have a lot of appreciation and passion for the project.”
Quibi had picked up 10 episodes of “Rudy,” at around 10 minutes apiece, with the first three episodes already written and storyboarded. The next step would be voicing and animating the project — but now, Catherwood notes, the show might need to be re-worked into a half-hour project should it wind up at a broadcast, cable or streamer outlet.
“I would cater it to whatever outlet wanted to go,” he said. “I have three full scripts and the storyboards for them. Those three together could make a really good half hour of TV. It’s serial in nature so that you could easily combine the two with the content that we have. So I’m not worried about like the length or the technique of it, when it comes to putting it on TV. But I’m definitely all systems go when it comes to taking it somewhere else and so is everybody else involved.”
Catherwood said he’s trying not to be discouraged, but “Rudy” has already taken several twists and turns in development. Comedy Central originally picked up the show in 2016, and a pilot presentation was produced feathering the voices of Catherwood, Fred Armisen, Danny Trejo and Kether Donohue.
Per the Comedy Central press release at the time, “Rudy” (written by Robert Padnick) “follows childish ‘cholo’ Rudy Cisneros who, after serving a 15-year prison sentence, wants to dissociate from gang life and start being there for his wife, kids and abuelita.” The show was on a fast track — but then new management put it in turnaround.
“In the beginning, the people who got us involved at Comedy Central all the way up to the top of Viacom were really pushing the show,” Catherwood said. “To the point that I almost got arrogant about the idea that I was going to be like this next ‘Tosh.0’ or ‘South Park’ figure. Because they were flying back and forth to New York and discussing what to pair it with.”
Eventually, Comedy Central released the rights to the show, and Catherwood was in talks with Fox Animation — until the Disney acquisition put on the brakes. But then a friend of a friend sent Quibi’s Jeffrey Katzenberg some links to Catherwood’s “Rudy” work — and the project was picked up from there.
Catherwood, Pacific Electric and Six Point Harness then took the “Rudy” concept and retooled it into short-form episodes, focused on one “A story” about the title character.
“I actually looked at [the shortened format] as a benefit,” he said. “Especially with my history in radio, where 30 seconds is an eternity, I liked the idea of really packing it dense and not worrying about the odds and ends.”
Catherwood said he started to get a sense in late summer that all was not well at Quibi, particularly as news stories began to circulate questioning the service’s long-term health.
“But then I talked to some Quibi people and also my attorney, who had other projects that were up and running with Quibi. And he’s like, ‘I wouldn’t worry too much. They just got this big injection of funding and they’re rebranding and they’re trying a lot of different things,’” Catherwood said. “Then during the NBA Finals and during the MLB playoffs I started to see a bunch of Quibi national TV spots. So I would waver back and forth from extreme worry to total relaxation, and then kind of all the gray areas in between.”
Jokes about Quibi aside, Catherwood lauded the service’s executives for being “really great and supportive of the creative and not getting in our way. So on top of just the general selfish disappointment, I feel bad because I really do think Quibi was trying their hardest to be an artists-forward kind of outlet. There are a lot of people out of jobs and a lot of shows that aren’t going to see the light of day and I just feel really bad for everybody. I really do think that Quibi, their heart was in the right place. Maybe their money wasn’t, but their heart certainly was.”
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