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In CBS’ new sitcom The Great Indoors, Joel McHale (Community, The X-Files) stars as Jack, a renowned adventure journalist for an outdoor magazine, Outdoor Limits.
But his globe-trotting days are over when the publication is moved to a web-only edition by its founder and outdoor legend, Ronald, portrayed by Stephen Fry (Bones, 24: Live Another Day, Blackadder). Jack now must oversee 20-something millennials in the office, who think the outside world is just as exciting through a computer screen.
Joel McHale and Stephen Fry visited with the TV Critics Association about their new comedy, which premiered on October 27th 2016.

Do you think millennials are really as coddled as they are in this sitcom, with such overly politically correct workplaces?

The Great Indoors, TCA - Joel McHale
The Great Indoors – Joel McHale answers press questions after the TCA presentations at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, August 10th 2016 ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Francis Specker

Joel McHale: You’re going to have to see the first season of The Great Indoors to get all those jokes. If we are actually offending millennials and that is the reputation of the show, this is the best press ever.

Stephen Fry: It’s not only coddling, is it? I think there’s two sides is the point. There is an element perhaps of coddling, but there’s also an element to which you have it tougher than the generation before, that it’s harder to get an apartment.

McHale: I think it’s generational, because you have Stephen’s generation. He was born in 1905. (he laughs) But it’s about three generations together.

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Great Indoors, 102 “Dating Apps” – Jack (Joel McHale) and Roland (Stephen Fry) ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Monty Brinton

Joel, how tech-savvy are you really?

Joel McHale: I buy a lot of technology, and I understand about 30 percent of it. So I love having it. I have a Tesla, but I could not open the garage door with it.

Was that a real bear cub that you guys were holding in the pilot?

Joel McHale: It was a robot.

Stephen Fry: It was as real as can be.

You both were holding it. What was that like?

Fry: I’ve still got a little hurty place on my finger where he gave me a friendly nip.

McHale: You saw how big it was. Now it’s four months later and it could kill all of us.

That’s how fast it grows. If we used that bear in November, it would be a very different show. But it was very sweet. It loved cranberries.

Fry: And it liked English fingers.

Joel, during the pilot season, what was on your checklist after ‘get to act opposite baby bear’?

Great Indoors, 102 - Joel McHale
Great Indoors, 102 “Dating Apps” – Jack (Joel McHale) ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Monty Brinton

McHale: To get to act opposite Stephen Fry.

I still don’t know why he agreed. He clearly doesn’t need the money or the fame. I feel like it’s a joke that he’s pulling on us and he’s going to quit onstage right now.

But I’ve always wanted to do a four?camera sitcom. You always hear the criticism about them, but I believe they are funny. And, obviously, CBS is very good at making them.

When I saw Mike’s (Gibbons) script, other than the horrible grammar, misspellings, and it was almost all handwritten, (he laughs) I thought this is a world that’s a big sandbox. That’s how I felt about Community when I first read it. I was like, ‘Oh, this can go anywhere.’ So that all wonderfully came together. And I bought a new house, and I need to pay it off. (he laughs)

Stephen, you are a double outsider because you are from a different generation and you are also an Englishman acting in America. What are the things that you find about American society in general that has taken you a while to get used to?

The Great Indoors, TCA - Susannah Fielding and Stephen Fry
The Great Indoors – Stephen Fry (with Susannah Fielding, left) at the Panel session for the show at the TCA presentations at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, August 10th 2016 ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Francis Specker

Fry: Well, where does one begin? It’s a very alien culture here, most peculiar. It’s like looking into a pond and seeing strange, new life forms.

I think you begin all of these things linguistically. Language is the first thing we bring, and obviously, there is a shared relationship between English and American English. And I (had to) get used to the peraphrastic way that Americans speak around things in terms of tenses. It took a long time to get used to the fact that things will be rather than are.

If you go into a shop and say, ‘Where are the socks?’ they will always say, ‘They are going to be on the first floor.’ And you say, ‘When? I really want them now.’ They say, ‘No. They are going to be there now.’

It’s little things like that. But then you become very used to the country, and it’s very friendly, very nice. Quite seriously, what I like about working in America is the work ethic. You all work very hard, and you are not embarrassed about working hard. So people reply to emails quickly, and they answer the phone and speak, and they are as good as their word.

This very meeting is so peculiar to me. I don’t know who you all are. I don’t even know what TCA stands for – oh, right, the Television Critics Association! Generally speaking, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just an adventure to work here.

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Great Indoors, 103 “Step One: Shelter” – Roland (Stephen Fry) ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, photo by Cliff Lipson

The Great Indoors Soundbyte

Stephen was asked about his good friend, Hugh Laurie, whom he starred opposite in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster, who has had many adventures working in America. Click here to listen to his reply.

Note: In keeping with the theme of the sitcom, and the perceived notion that everyone should win so there are no hurt feelings, at the end of the panel each journalist was given a trophy just for participating in the press conference.

'The Great Indoors' TCA participating trophy!
‘The Great Indoors’ TCA participating trophy! ©2016 Judy Sloane