NBC's new series Growing Up Fisher premieres on Sunday, Feb. 23 right after the Winter Olympics closing ceremony. Want to know more about the show? We've got eight fun facts.
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At last month's Television Critics Association event the cast, including J.K. Simmons, Jenna Elfman, Eli Baker, Ava Deluca-Verley, Lance Lim, as well as Executive Producers DJ Nash, Jason Bateman, Jim Garavente, and Tucker Cawley were on hand to chat about the new series.
It's Based on a True Story
The premise of the show - a blind man who tries to hide that fact from the world - may seem far-fetched, but it's based on reality. "It's based on my childhood," Nash said. "My dad went blind when he was 11 and hid blindness from pretty much everyone outside the family for a long, long time. And then when my parents were getting divorced, he got a guide dog so he could be the dad he wanted to be even though he didn't have the help he had before. And so we went from sort of helping him hide this secret to him becoming a poster child for the blind like he's never been till right now. [So] the story in the pilot is pretty much exactly what happened.
But It's Still Relatble to Any Family
Even though the show has an unusual main storyline, every family will be able to relate. "I think what we're all excited about the show is that, even though there's a very specific hook to the show, it's a universal story. It's a story about a family who, in times of great need, are selfless for the sake of family," Nash said.
It's a Serious Tale Told Not Too Seriously
Though Nash admitted that, at the time, he would like to have changed parts of his childhood, he decided not to change anything for the show. Some of the experiences were heavy, but also kind of comical. Nash said, "I wouldn't change a thing. All of these experiences have sort of prepared me for my own life as a father. The story about a father looking back at the way his father fathered him -- for me, I laugh when I think of when my dad was cutting down a tree with a chain saw and having us point out to him 'Where is the house from here?' I mean, that happened, and it's really funny, and I think the distance of telling it as a flashback lets us laugh."
Being Blind is the 17th Thing Wrong With Mel
Though Mel's blindness will factor into the show, there are plenty of other things the show will highlight about the dad. "It's amazing because you guys see the first thing about Mel is that he's blind," Nash said. "My dad being blind is like the 17th thing that's wrong with him. Like he's stubborn. He hugs too much. Do you have any idea how hard it is having a father who's a blind lawyer? I couldn't complain about anything. You know, like, 'Dad, I'm having trouble with my book report.' 'I went to law school blind.'
The Show Has Blindness Consultants
Though Nash has real-life experience with blindness, the show works hard to make sure that they get that aspect of the story right. "We spent a lot of time getting that right in the show," Nash said. "We have a blind consultant. We have a visually impaired consultant who has a guide dog. We have a sighted consultant who has worked with blind people helping them assimilate to their world."
They Don't Use a Real Guide Dog, for a Good Reason
Mel does have a guide dog on the show, but there were many reasons why they couldn't use an actual guide dog on the production. "My dad got a guide dog when I was 12 years old, and it changed my life completely. He's on his fourth dog now, and so I am really familiar with those schools, and I support those schools. The dog here has a different role. It's not as much about keeping J.K. from falling off a curb as much as it is about hitting a mark and having a look, or when we need him to stop at a construction hole, stop on cue and not be fazed by 167 crew members around him. So [as] much as it would be amazing for the story, the backstory, to have a real guide dog play the role, (A) I don't want to take a guide dog away from a blind guy; and, (B) the needs of the role are different," Nash said.
Everyone is Going Through Adolescence
While a lot of the focus on the show is about Mel and his issues, every character will be going through their own stuff, including Elfman's character Joyce. "I love so much," Elfman said about her character. "DJ always said he couldn't believe his dad was doing that, and he couldn't believe what his mom just said, like, you know, things that would come out of her mouth. And I think the fun for me is there's a decreased perception she has. She kind of sees life out of a bit of a keyhole, you know, and I think her journey is to expand that, but it hasn't yet. So things go by her. Certain obvious importances just totally are not on her radar. So it makes her quirky, which I really liked."
Nash added, "Yeah. I think this family - each of them is going through their own adolescence at the same time. I think the kids are trying to have their normal adolescence at two very different ages, 12 and 16. And then Joyce has had this delayed adolescence. And Mel, as he's coming out as being blind, is having an adolescence of a different kind."
Jason Bateman Was the Only Voice
When Nash first began to pitch the idea for a show based on his family, he only had one name in mind for the voiceover: Jason Bateman. But he never expected to actually get Bateman. "From the original pitch when I had it, it said, 'Voiceover. Think Jason Bateman.' And then I went in to pitch Jason and Jim. And I've known Jim for a long time. He's known this story for a long time. And I omitted that part of the pitch," Nash said.
What do you think now that you know more about Growing Up Fisher? Will you be watching the series premiere after the Olympics?
(Image courtesy of NBC)