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No one would ever claim Eagleheart was a series for everyone. It’s an outwardly irreverent affair that plays with a dead seriousness and more than a dash of self-deprecation. Given its elevated premise, kooky surrealism, and the general nincompoopery displayed by its lead character, Chris Monsanto (played by Chris Elliott), there’s plenty to give rise to a good ol’ fashioned head-scratcher session. But once you immerse yourself in the premise and the show’s universe you see it for the absurdist performance piece that it is. And never was that more evident than in the series’ upcoming third season (premiering November 14), dubbed Eagleheart: Paradise Rising. While still featuring favorites like the charmingly hilarious Maria Thayer and the goofy Brett Gelman, season three also has something none of its previous iterations did: a season-long story arc.
“Say what?” you gasp. “I know!” I reply. “It’s true! It’s true!” It seems our fair Eagleheart is growing up a bit — but only in that regard. And while that might cause fear to strike the hearts of some, it’s actually a breakthrough. For a show built on action-packed, incredibly short episodes that tell a whole story in under 15 minutes, it may be a shock to the system at first. But having watched the first three episodes, it’s clear to see: if anything, this through line elevates the show and makes the mockery that is Eagleheart all the better.
“I think this is sort of the natural progression of where it needed to go,” explained Elliott. “It feels like this was lurking in the background of everybody’s minds all along. Maybe even subconsciously.”
And it all feels natural, too: the first three episodes are still played fast and packed. Now, though, there is a chance for a bit of character development. Things are heightened even further. It’s an incredibly tricky balancing act that has proven itself an exciting challenge for Elliott.
“It’s not anything that I’ve been able to do in what I’ve done before,” Elliott said. “I mean anything I’ve ever created is always somewhat sketch oriented. I haven’t wanted people to give a shit about my character, so you know — it’s a new experience for me.”
What’s evident from talking to the Get a Life funnyman is that his sense of humor is unstoppable — it seeps into everything he does and sometimes it takes a minute (or, say, 30 minutes worth of interview transcribing) to catch every instance of his own comedic commentary. It is equally self-deprecating, knowing, absurdist, and knowing — it seems almost impossible for Elliott to be anything but a truly funny guy. Even simple things (like, uh, checking your notes, for example) turn into moments. It’s not hard to see why his fans are so loyal.
Chris: “I wrote a bunch [of notes].”
The series’ other half, Maria Thayer, is hardly the comedic slouch in this partnership. Her comedy carries a sort of quiet assuredness that forces you to pay attention. She’s unassuming and meek one second — and frantically working out her issues in a high-pitched, fruit-headed version of Punch and Judy the next. Her character Susie Wagner tackles the job of being Monsanto’s straight man (relatively speaking — I mean, you saw what we just wrote about the fruit before, right?) with aplomb, but she gets her own moments of delightful kookery in as well.
“Susie, in a lot of ways, is a really straight character,” explained Thayer. “But she has a lot of stress on her, so it’s fun to have it pop out. “ Given Thayer’s vocal acrobatics this season, it’s amazing it wasn’t her vocal chords that did the popping. Given that it’s Eagleheart though, you shouldn’t count it totally out of the possibility realm.
Just wait until you meet Wagner’s Wee Pea Pals. All I’m saying. And considering the goings-on in the first three episodes involving Monsanto’s other partner, Brett Mobley (played by Brett Gelman), Wagner’s role in Monsanto’s life becomes all the more intriguing with many an outburst ahead.
Though it exists in a universe where the options are really, truly limitless, the grounding that comes from its this interconnected season allows for one hell of a breakneck first episode. I mean, shit is crazy. Things happen quickly — disjointed though they seem at first glance. But ultimately, “everything that is sort of set up in that first episode comes back during the 10 episodes, and there is resolve at the end,” explained Elliott.
Hey look! Is that television’s greatest TV president, Martin Sheen?
Ultimately, it's the growth of the series that has given its stars a new sense of anticipation. “This new storyline, this new sort of version of Eagleheart is really exciting, and the fact that it’s grown into this,” said Elliott. “I’m really excited to see how an audience stays with it.”
And if you’re a comedy nerd — stay with it you should. What the writers have managed to pull off (at least from what we’ve seen in the first three episodes) with the new format, while still holding onto Eagleheart’s charm, is nothing short of impressive. “This is like the perfect show, right now, for me. It’s goofy and and bizarre and surreal, and on some levels it has this sort of meta thing going on. But at the same time you actually care about the characters and that’s really hard to do. The writers have done a really great job of pulling that off this year.”
Eagleheart: Paradise Rising premieres Thursday, November 14 at Midnight on Adult Swim.