By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
After Hours is in its fourth season and the videos can be found at Cracked.com. Each episode features Michael Swaim, Katie Willert, Soren Bowie, and Daniel O'Brien sitting around a restaurant table pontificating about a topic that ranges from "8 Mind-Blowing Connections Between the Works of Joss Whedon" to "Why Mario is Secretly a Douchebag." Typically the dialogue is fast paced and each person contributes to the conversation in order to make connections that are not dissimilar to their article's list-style format. This past Saturday, the quartet was joined by Jack O'Brien and Cody Johnston for The Making of After Hours: How a Conversation Becomes an Episode panel held at Comikaze.
The creative team explained that for this panel, they would propose a topic to the audience for the purpose of brainstorming ideas for a future podcast. This would allow the audience visibility into how the creative team develops their episodes. In order to save time, since the panel was only an hour, the team said the topic was "What fictional workplace is under- or overrated?" The team said they would start off.
Bowie said one of his favorite movies is Short Circuit, and he argued that NOVA Laboratories would not be a bad place to work, because the scientists pretty much had free rein to develop robots, although one accidentally becomes sentient. Yes, there were work hazards, and General Washburne wanted to shut the lab down, but otherwise, it wasn't a bad place to work.
Willert offered up Central Perk from the long running television show Friends. She thought it would have been a horrible place to work. It was a small coffee house that had limited seating. How often did six assholes sit around on the best seat – the cushy sofa – sipping on one drink for long periods of time, effectively negating the server's opportunity to earn tips from other patrons. In addition, the 'friends' didn't treat the servers well – remember Gunter? Now, Daniel O'Brien did interject that Gunter worked at the coffee for ten years even with no upward mobility. Johnston said that was because Gunter had a crush on Rachel. Willert agreed.
Swaim threw out Bruce Wayne's conglomerate that included WayneTech, Wayne Shipping, Wayne Steel, WayneYards, Wayne Aerospace….well, you get the point. Swaim explained that any success or failure is unknown because Wayne Enterprises builds everything, or maybe nothing at all. He felt that the company was very direction-less. Swaim also thought that working for the police department in Grand Thief Auto had the perk of just hanging back and wait until the driver is out of the line of sight because then you could catch the driver. However, there existed the real chance of driving past a person standing on a street corner shooting everyone in sight, especially cops.
Daniel O'Brien struck a cord when he said the Empire (Galactic Empire) from Star Wars. The Empire obviously had good benefits because after the first Death Star was destroyed, they were able to build a second one. Of course, there was a good laugh about some lowly worker offering to put a metal cover on the Death Star's Achilles Heel, but like in the real world, the peon was ignored by upper management. Bowie countered that Empire employees were probably drafted, which led to a discussion of whether they joined the Empire of their own accord or were conscripted.
Johnston had two ideas. First, he figured that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be great because it would be infiltrated by Hydra. "Hail Hydra!" And the second workplace was Hogwart School, where you did not have to do any work. Daniel O'Brien asked if the train conductors were wizards. The consensus was that they were, to which he figured they probably did not have much job satisfaction.
Willert mentioned the Cheers bar would be great because that is where fun stuff happened. Jack O'Brien observed that the fictional bar was probably portrayed the way it would have felt when a person is drunk. Johnston contested the choice as being a workplace of employee abuse, citing the slap scene between Sam and Diane.
The panel then took a break from brainstorming and shared a script from an upcoming episode that would reference Forest Gump and Back to the Future. The repartee between the panelists was fast paced and sharp witted. Afterwards, Jack O'Brien opened up the floor to the audience, asking us to suggest fictionalized workplaces for consideration. Quickly, a line congregated ready to offer up suggestions.
There were several fictional workplaces mentioned: Weyland-Yutani, Umbrella Corporation, Cobra Industries, Pan Pacific Corporation, Westeros, Foot Clan, Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, Planet Express, any merchant shop in The Legend of Zelda, Omni Consumer Products, Saruman's Isengard, Aperture Laboratories, and any public works department of cities where superheroes resided. And before one knew, the hour was up!
All panel photographs courtesy of Michele Brittany.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer and editor of James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (McFarland & Company). She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies and can be followed at Twitter @mcbrittany2014.