When AMC president Sarah Barnett addressed a room full of journalists at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour, she chastised the marketplace for being dominated by volume, imitation and data-led decision making, and boldly boasted a counterstrategy that involved much more risk-taking.
“We believe what matters is new stories that surprise and delight audiences,” she shared. “We embrace awkward originality, genuinely surprising ideas, risks that are complicated and maverick big swings rather than just the comfortable familiar.”
Dispatches From Elsewhere, written, produced and starring Jason Segel, is exactly that. This trippy, Wizard of Oz-like journey follows four complete strangers as they embark on an eccentric game (or maybe it’s a mission) that slowly brings new meaning and clarity to their lives. You’ll be just as befuddled as the participants — Peter (Segel), Simone (brilliant newcomer Eve Lindley), Fredwynn (André Benjamin) and Janice (Sally Field; yes, the “you like me, you really like me” Sally Field!) — in wondering if this journey is some secretive self-help session, a government social experiment or just a ridiculous hoax. Whatever it is, all of the participants seek something more to their lives.
This is a bit telling, also, on the state Segel was in when he penned the series.
“I had just finished a decade on How I Met Your Mother, and I suddenly had this blank canvas ahead of me and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I was also realizing I hadn’t done an artistic check-in with myself in a really long time and the things that I was sort of known for were no longer relevant to me,” Segel tells. “I realized that that was a really scary and interesting feeling I hadn’t encountered in a long time — not knowing what to do next, not really knowing who I was at 34 years old, because who I was had been dictated to me for quite a long time. And I wanted to write about that.”
Having just finished reading the unconventional Infinite Jest, Segel found himself alive again with ideas. He actually stumbled into a real life “crazy experience” involving politically, ethnically and socioeconomically random people, all in different stages of their lives, who were taking part in this thing because something was missing from their lives. “That was just so interesting to me, that we all maybe are much more alike and much more confused than we are being told to believe,” he shares. “I wanted to make a show about how we’re much more similar than we realize that we are.”
The outcome is unlike anything you’ve ever really seen and is filled with a variety of color palettes and music to better understand each character, and the joys and pains of being human.
Dispatches From Elsewhere
AMC, Series premiere Sunday, March 1
Mondays beginning March 2