"Electric City"Who knew "Electric City" was a secret minireunion of "Bosom Buddies"?
Well, not quite — but the cast for Tom Hanks' animated post-apocalyptic Web series included not only Hanks himself (as square-jawed spy Cleveland Carr), but also Holland Taylor. Her character Ruth Orwell, a shadowy matriarchal power, was named after a producer's great-aunt. Taylor though associated the name with Ruth Dunbar, her role in the 1980 show starring Hanks and Peter Scolari. The comedy — about pals so desperate for affordable New York housing that they went undercover in a women-only boarding house — lasted just two seasons, long enough to be Hanks's breakout vehicle.
Other fun bits of trivia emerged during a Yahoo! Twitter chat with producers Bo Stevenson and Josh Feldman, who created the animated dystopia with Hanks. While "Ruth Orwell" may not have been of his choosing, Hanks did scatter names of literary figures or people from his life when he wrote the original pilot in 2003. ("Death of a Salesman," for instance, inspired the name for revolutionary leader Dr. Loman.)
The 20-episode venture focuses on the survival of a third generation after a cataclysmic event. It's "human behavior at its most messy, and human behavior at its most noble," he explains in the series' intro. Besides Hanks and Taylor, the cast also featured Jeanne Tripplehorn ("Big Love") as Hope Chatworth, Ginnifer Goodwin ("Walk the Line," "A Single Man") as Jean-Marie St. Cloud, Jason Antoon ("30 Rock") as Knobs Butler, and Paul Scheer ("30 Rock") as Walter La Fong.
We followed up with producer Stevenson (the one whose aunt is named Ruth) to give him a chance to flesh out some answers in the Twitter Q&A:
What inspired the series?
In a New York Times interview, Hanks explained how "hilarious" it would be to mash up 1960s sci-fi kids' shows like "Fireball XL5" and "Clutch Cargo" with the deadliness of "The Godfather" and throw in puppets. (The puppets didn't pan out.) Hanks also cited books by Alan Furst and Robert Heinlein.
Was anything in it based on any real-life events?
No, Stevenson says, but "the Electric City is based on the intricacies of the human condition." Stevenson explains, and the dramas that unfold every day in our world, from Arab Spring to Occupy.
Where is Electric City?
Stevenson was inclined to spill the beans on this one, but his co-producer Feldman wants to keep some secrets. Suffice to say the city is in the United States. Hints Stevenson: "Think about the icecaps melting and sea level rising. Where's the new coast."
Is there anything you can tell us about the ciphers and codes?
Ever since the cataclysmic event wiped society off the grid, the population of "Electric City" has operated in a kind of 1720s America, with no digital technology. Tap codes are used by "Electric City" citizens to communicate in bartering scarce supplies... and revolutionaries plotting overthrow. The idea was taken directly from American prisoners in Vietnam, Stevenson explained. "They would create those ciphers and they would tap on the walls to talk to each other and the guards actually could figure out the ciphers pretty easily.. The guards let them do it so [the prisoners] could keep their sanity."
How did the composers work with the animators? Will a soundtrack be released?
Composers Alli Noori and Leo Z created themes around the script, and then reconciled them with the animatics — the black-and-white pencil drawings — that the animators created after the actors' voice recordings. Compositions were refined again after the color production was completed. "We're just so proud of the music," Stevenson says. One Twitter participant said he bought the app just to play the music on his iPad. "Nobody's doing wall-to-wall original score on the Web," Stevenson says. "That's as good as any soundtrack I've heard in years." And enough people have been asking for the soundtrack that it just might happen.
What does the final episode mean?
Stevenson's nonspoiler answer: "That means the Electric City will never be seen the same way again."
Is there going to be a Season 2?
"There are just so many more stories to tell in the Electric City, it's infinite," he says to Yahoo!. "The fan response has been so great. ... We hope to deliver many more chapters."
Watch the first episode of the 90-minute digital series below, and follow @ElectricCityAMP for clues and updates.