Hayden Black Talks About ‘Goodnight Burbank’

John Savageau sat down with actor, writer, and executive producer Haden Black to talk about his hit series 'Goodnight Burbank'. Photo By Deborah Dodge

By John Savageau

Hayden Black, actor, writer, and executive producer of Good Night Burbank believes Americans are exhausted from the challenges and labors of daily life, and need an outlet allowing them to laugh.  Good Night Burbank provides that opportunity, bringing together a cast of hard working, nutty, eccentric people together in a fictional newsroom located in Burbank, California.
Black finds Burbank the perfect setting for his show.  “It is really a normal city, a normal American place, which just happens to be perched on the edge of Hollywood” says Black.  “Many studios are here, but Burbank is really just a normal town.”
This adds to the satire of Good Night Burbank.  Black wants the viewer to know “news people are normal and should not be elevated” to a stature or level higher than anybody else.  Good Night Burbank helps bring the newsroom back down to the level of “every person” America.
Good Night Burbank news room characters represent a diverse mix of backgrounds and cultures, including a white Christian co-anchor, a handful of Brits, an Arab Muslim, an Estonian, an African American hailing from the Deep South, and others, with each bringing their own twist to the story.  Just like the rest of Burbank.
As the news crew goes through preparations for the evening news, Black draws out the personalities, strengths, and shortfalls of each member of the team, presenting them in a way viewers can identify with, and either see themselves, or others they know in each of the characters.
“We are a multi-cultural society” points out Black, himself a native of Salford, England.  Even with cultural and ethnic diversity built into the cast “there is a harmonious relationship, with most of the cast members just trying to do their jobs.”
Of course the diversity spawns occasional twists, such as when the Christian Co-Anchor is paired with a devout Muslim make-up artist. Blacks understands the potential sensitivity of presenting issues of racism or bigotry in comedy, but adds “most people do not even realize they are racists or bigots at some level,” and if a bit of humor can relieve some of the emotional pressure that brings, it may have the additional effect of “helping us better identify with others.”
And that is one of the compelling qualities of Good Night Burbank.  The scripts allow humor at several levels.  Perhaps due to his British roots, Black has a flair for adding subtle humor throughout the show.  For those who are watching an episode while exhausted, desiring comedy that requires little thought, Good Night Burbank offers a release to viewers.  For others, the show embeds nuance and subtleties that will keep any viewer engaged in an intellectual sparring match with the cast.
The choice of a news room setting was not random.  As a child, Black watched his mother, watching the evening news, and saw a level of complete trust in his mother’s eyes when listening to journalists.  In those days Black remembered “news people were trusted, and we believed everything we were told.”
He also recalls news stories were often selected for not only their sensationalism, but also appeared to “scare people just before they went to bed.”  This fear served the purpose of compelling viewers to keep tuned to the station for new developments, or additional stories that ultimately kept them both tuned in and completely stressed.  The show plays on both the sensationalism and trust factor traditional news shows present, and exposes this “intellectual fraud” in each episode.
“I hope people do not come to trust us like the Daily Show, we just want them to laugh.”
Black outlines a strategy to ensure Good Night Burbank establishes a “layer of absurdity, with multi-layers of humor” designed to tweak viewer’s inner-intellect.  Black freely admits viewers require a higher level of intelligence to fully appreciate the vision of Good Night Burbank, particularly given the level of satire in each episode.
The show avoids “mugging” the audience with predictive, slap-stick comedy, preferring to respect a viewer’s ability to absorb multiple concurrent events.
For example, the newsroom itself is located in a temporary garage, as the main location was burned down in a recent fire.  However it is also written into the script the Good Night Burbank station has at least two assigned helicopters.  At the same time the helicopters are following a car chase through Glendale and Burbank, another headline feature story on a gym being planned for a local high school might then grab a higher “breaking” priority. “Like anybody really cares…”
Black avoids humor that hurts, is mean, or is cruel to any character – there is enough of that in real life.  Which leads viewers to understand the newsroom is simply an intellectual rally point for viewers to escape into the personalities and lives of Good Night Burbank’s cast.   Viewers are given a 30 minute release from their own lives, bringing not only laughter, but also a sense of appreciation for others who have the same stresses and conflicts in life.
Season 1 of Good Night Burbank with 6 episodes is available on Hulu TV, or via the Good Night Burbank website athttp://goodnightburbank.com.
Black is currently writing Season 2, and will bring back the cast for another round of fun, humor, and satire focusing on Burbank’s unique image within L.A. and America.

All Photography By Deborah Dodge