Oct. 10-- LOS ANGELES-The plot gimmick of having a civilian tag along with a real police officer has been a Hollywood constant with such offerings as the feature film "The Hard Way" and the long-running television series "Castle." There wouldn't be a single person alive in Cabot Cove if Jessica Fletcher hadn't stuck her crime-solving nose into everything on "Murder, She Wrote."
The new eight-episode YouTube Red series, "Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television," takes that familiar format and gives it a major twist. The top brass at the Los Angeles Police Department decides that it would be a good idea to form a task force of real homicide detectives with actors who play detectives on TV so they can solve crimes together. This would be like asking "ER" star Noah Wyle to help with a real brain surgery.
Ryan Hansen, the actor known for roles from "Veronica Mars" to "Bad Teacher," plays a strange version of himself as he's the actor who is teamed with Detective Jessica Mathers (Samira Wiley). Rawson Marshall Thurber ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story")-who serves as the director, writer, creator and executive producer of the series-stresses the Ryan Hansen you see in the show isn't exactly the Ryan Hansen you would meet on the street.
"Obviously, Ryan isn't playing himself. He's playing a version of himself. So if you know Ryan at all, you know what a wonderful sort of decent person he is. And I just wanted to show an opposite side of that. I wanted to show the most ridiculous version of Ryan I could write. So it's certainly not him, by any stretch. It's just a weird version," Thurber says. "I just always loved procedurals, and I kind of wanted to do my own spin on it. I was just such a big Ryan Hansen fan. It was just an easy voice to write for because he's so funny and talented.
"And when he's sober, he's amazing."
Hansen jokes that even the people who know him think he's Dax Shepard. He adds that whatever strange version of himself or the genre they gave him, he was on board to do it.
"I just really enjoy having a sense of humor about myself," Hansen says.
Along with poking fun at Hansen, Thurber has loaded the series with jokes based on TV police dramas and movies including the well-worn scenario of having the detectives work for a very angry captain who yells all the time. Thurber says look for gags based on any program executive producer Dick Wolf has put on the air from the "Law & Order" to "Chicago" franchises.
The series will even play with the way it is filmed going from the movie-like quality of a TV drama to the live feel of a situation comedy. He's also put in plenty of jokes about YouTube Red to blur the lines even more between fiction and fictionalized reality.
One trope that Thurber has borrowed is that while the faux detective is solving the crimes (or at least thinking he's solving the crimes) there's a partner who has to treat the world as if it was a real place. That task falls to Wiley whose credits hit more serious notes with "Orange Is the New Black" and "You're the Worst."
Dealing with the twists in the genre weren't a problem. Her biggest concern was trying to keep from breaking up on the set when she was working with Hansen.
"It's a challenge. It really is, especially working with this guy. He was so much fun. He's freaking hilarious. His energy is so infectious that I want to be able to join him. I want to meet him at his energy level, but I just have to do that when the camera goes off," Wiley says. "When you're doing that, it's about trying to stay in the energy that you're going with and know that that is only going to help the comedy and trusting the writing and these guys right here.
"So even though it was hard, I think we did the right thing."
Hansen's ability to make fellow actors start laughing is the reason Thurber wanted him as the star of the series. He had cast Hansen in a small role as an office jerk in the Kevin Hart comedy "Central Intelligence." Hansen was the only person who made Kevin Hart break in a scene and that's when he knew a show needed to be written for Hansen.
"It had to be Ryan or no one else," Thurber says.
'Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television'
12:01 a.m. Oct. 25, YouTube Red
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.