Saviours of “The Specials”

Katy, one of the producers of “The Specials” explains how the producers of “Game of Thrones”, Rosie O’Donnell & Oprah Winfrey saved our show.

In March 2011, it had been nearly 2 years since we had made Season 1 together. We still kept in touch with Sam, Hilly, Lucy, Lewis and Megan but me & Dan had run out of money and had gone back to our day jobs. All the same, we had begun to get itchy feet, we were missing the guys and the show we made together too much, so on 25 March 2011 we went down to Brighton to see them. We went to the pub (the Good Companions where we filmed the karaoke scene in Season 1) and asked them if they would be interested in making another Season of “The Specials”. Everyone was keen to do it again but we still didn’t have any money, so it was going to be a struggle…

Carolyn Strauss
Carolyn Strauss.
Dan Weiss
D.B. Weiss.

On the way home on the train, feeling a bit squiffy thanks to a evening of beer, Katy got an email from someone called Carolyn Strauss. The email said she wanted to speak to us about “The Specials”. When we looked Carolyn up we couldn’t believe it — as the head of HBO Entertainment, she had commissioned all our favourite shows, from the Wire and the Sopranos to Sex and the City and and was now Executive Producing “Game of Thrones”! We drifted back to the London on the train on a cloud of drunken wonder!

A few days later we had a telephone conversation with Carolyn who was absolutely lovely. She told us that herself and D.B. Weiss (the creator of “Game of Thrones”), had been watching “The Specials” while editing their show and loved it. They wanted to talk to us about getting “The Specials” on to TV!

Soon after we met Carolyn & Dan in London to discuss if our 10 minute webisodes could be turned into half hour episodes for television. We all thought it could be done. Next plan was to find a network that would like to take the show. This process took a while and ended up involving Rosie O’Donnell who had also become a fan of “The Specials”. Rosie sent our trailer to Oprah Winfrey and all of a sudden we got another mind-blowing email: Oprah was up for it. It was ‘go go go!’ Needless to say the guys had been following these developments closely and were overjoyed when we told them they were going to be on television in the USA!

Rosie O'Donnell
Rosie O'Donnell.
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey.
Sheri Salata
Sheri Salata.

Next up we had a conversation with Sheri Salata, the president of Oprah’s network OWN. She was also wonderful and stressed that OWN were ready to offer us the support we needed. In the end, we agreed to license the series to OWN, not sell it, so we could ensure the series would continue to be available to all our fans across the world. It wasn’t our smartest decision financially but it has turned out for the best, as here we are now launching both series online for you all to see!

Megan and Lewis on a date. Lewis is looking at his phone.

Check out the extended Lewis & Megan date in Season 1, episode 2.

Making Season 2 and recutting Season 1 with the support of Carolyn, Dan, Rosie, Oprah and Sheri (who all became Executive Producers on the show) was amazing. We were nervous that our new collaborators might want to change the series, but in fact they were as protective of “The Specials” as we were. They were equally determined that the guys continue to do their own voiceover despite the challenges of understanding them (particularly with the additional complication of British accents). In fact they hardly ever asked for any changes, but when they did, they improved the show. For example, they asked us to extend the scene where Lewis and Megan are on a date in episode 2 of Season 1. We had a look and added more footage of Lewis struggling to talk to Megan and we think it’s better now than in the web series.

When we took much longer to shoot Season 2, compared with Season 1 — a year compared with 3 months — they never hurried us along. When we hit problems in the edit, particularly with the tricky first episode of Season 2, Carolyn & Dan suggested solutions and helped us over the hump and gave us the emotional support to get us over the line. They were incredible and their support of a project like ours meant so much to the guys and Carol & Dafydd. Truly, Season 2 of “The Specials” and our new website would not exist if not for the support of these amazing people!

Lewis and Dan with the Season 2 tapes ready to be sent to OWN.

Lewis and Dan with the Season 2 HDCAM SR master tapes ready to be posted to OWN.

Lucy, Paul, Chris, Hilly, Nick, Lewis, Megan, Richard and Sam celebrate the broadcast of the show on OWN.

Season 1 & 2 were finally broadcast on OWN as a back-to-back marathon on 7 September 2014. It was a wonderful moment for us all. Of course, we all celebrated in true Specials’ style with a party at the house and loads of cocktails!

The OWN trailer for “The Specials” marathon.

BBC South East covered the launch of the television series on OWN. You can check out more of the press coverage in Buzz.