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The Untold Truth Of A.P. Bio

What happens when a narcissistic Harvard philosophy professor is forced to teach biology at his old high school in Toledo, Ohio? At least four seasons worth of hilarious hijinks and over-the-top schemes according to "A.P. Bio". The comedy series was created by Michael O'Brien and stars Glenn Howerton, Patton Oswalt, and Paula Pell alongside some of the most talented young actors on television.

"A.P. Bio" delighted viewers in its first season with an endearing cast of characters and a refreshing take on the sitcom formula. Since then, the series has gone through a network cancellation and a streaming revival, all without losing the momentum that keeps it entertaining. The show continually raises the bar on what viewers can expect from it, and there's no sign of that stopping anytime soon. According to its creator, "A.P. Bio" could have ten or more seasons ahead of it, but this is the untold truth behind it.

A.P. Bio Might Not Exist Without SNL

Mike O'Brien created the series and teamed up with Seth Meyers and Lorne Michaels's production company Broadway Video to get it onto NBC. O'Brien and Meyers met each other while working on "Saturday Night Live", which just so happens to also be produced by Michaels's Broadway Video. All three men serve as executive producers on the show alongside Andrew Singer and Michael Shoemaker. They aren't the only "SNL" alums who work on "A.P. Bio." There's some crossover in the writers room, and of course, star Paula Pell also first met O'Brien and the others at "SNL".

Some of the funniest people working in television meet on the set of "SNL." The show brings together the best comedy writers, actors, and producers in the business. It's a melting pot that often becomes the source of collaborations between people who otherwise might never have met, and "A.P. Bio" can be chalked up as another win for the sketch show that's been home to so many.

Welcome to Toledo

Fans of "A.P. Bio" know that its setting distinguishes the show from other mainstream sitcoms and plays a big role in the plot of the series. Toledo, Ohio is the home of Whitlock High and its quirky cast. In the series, Dr. Jack Griffin grew up in Ohio, and he's forced to return after losing out on his dream job to his professional rival. It turns out that Jack and showrunner Mike O'Brien have that hometown in common.

"I had a wonderful time [in Toledo] and loved it," O'Brien said in an interview with Toledo's local paper The Blade, adding, "I didn't know it wasn't the coolest place on Earth." Having found a deeper appreciation for his hometown after leaving it as an adult, O'Brien wanted to explore that relationship through Jack Griffin's character. O'Brien may share a hometown with Dr. Griffin, but he's quick to point out that the character's abhorrent behavior is entirely his own. "The character overlaps with me, but not in that way at all," O'Brien said.

Finding the cast of Whitlock High

Teachers and students are the two main groups "A.P. Bio." When the show began searching for its cast, it started by filling out the staff of Whitlock High. Deadline made the first casting report when Mary Sohn signed on to play the art teacher Mary Wagner in February 2017. By March, when it was reported that Glenn Howerton and Patton Oswalt had come aboard, the show had found most of its teachers. Jack Griffin's biology class is rounded out by outstanding young actors like Aparna Brielle, Nick Peine, Jacob Houston, Eddie Leavy, Tucker Albrizzi, Spence Moore II, Jacob McCarthy, Sari Arambulo, Allisyn Ashley Arm, Miguel Chavez, Jacob Manown, Marisa Baram, and Yuyao Deng.

It's really the students who set "A.P. Bio" apart from other sitcoms on the air. The show doesn't follow a "season per school year" schedule, so the talented group at the heart of the series gets to stick around for multiple seasons. Maybe someday the students will graduate and the show will introduce another group of young actors, but everyone involved in the series is hesitant for that to happen. As Patton Oswalt told Collider, "Maybe that's going to the well once too often, because my God did we luck out with the actors and actresses we got to play the students on this show. Wow."

Helen Demarcus was written for Paula Pell

Some writers create characters with specific actors in mind. Despite having big names like Patton Oswalt and Glenn Howerton on the show, Mike O'Brien has said that he didn't write the characters of "A.P. Bio" for anyone in particular. He was working on the show for about two years without knowing if it would actually make it to air. In those early stages, the characters were either figments of O'Brien's imagination or aspects of his own identity. By the time "A.P. Bio" was picked up and O'Brien had a room of writers working with him, that changed slightly.

While working on the second episode of the show, the writers decided to create a receptionist for Oswalt's character. From the very beginning, the character Helen was written with Paula Pell in mind. "We were like, maybe it's like Paula Pell," O'Brien told journalist Scott Bell, adding, "who we all love and have known for years." Of course, there's a certain amount of risk that comes with creating a character for a specific actress. "We were just fingers crossed that we actually get Paula, otherwise we're going to be asking some actress to basically be doing a Paula impression," O'Brien said. Luckily, Pell joined "A.P. Bio", and Helen is one of the funniest characters on the show.

Showrunner Mike O'Brien is involved in every decision

Showrunners are always wearing multiple hats on set. They are in charge of the writers room, but they also have a hand in casting, costuming, directing, and, of course, the basic nuts-and-bolts of keeping a show funded and on television. Because of all the responsibility, many showrunners will go hands-off where they can, but Mike O'Brien takes an almost obsessive approach to all the decisions involved in bringing "A.P. Bio" to life.

In an interview with journalist Scott Bell, O'Brien explained just how far he likes to go into the "nitty gritty" of daily decision making. "I go into almost every detail. I look at the photos of the five options for every single character's outfit for every scene." O'Brien doesn't need to dictate everything that happens in the show -– he said he'll loop in people with better fashion sense for costuming decisions –- but he wants to make sure he's always involved and is able to take responsibility for everything that ultimately makes it to air. That effort gives "A.P. Bio" a personal touch and the feeling of having been carefully crafted at every level.

A.P. Bio is built around characters with heart

Some of the best sitcoms of all time are based on characters who don't change, even when they really should. The characters in "Seinfeld" are shallow, self-absorbed, and never learn from their mistakes. "A.P. Bio" star Glenn Howerton is a star and writer on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," a show that's become the longest running live action sitcom in history by featuring some of the most awful people in the world only ever getting worse.

"A.P. Bio" purposefully decided to deviate from that winning formula. "I have trouble rooting for characters who are truly bad to the core," creator Mike O'Brien told Collider. Howerton's character may be awful on the surface, but he has a sympathetic, human center, and the students in "A.P. Bio" are full of genuine happiness and desire to learn. Howerton said that balance brings a "level of authenticity" to the show that pulls viewers in. The decision to focus on good people in funny situations goes beyond the personal taste of the show's writers and stars, however. "I think there's a hunger for people to explore some of the happier sides of humanity," Howerton said. "A.P. Bio" manages to show off those happier sides without sacrificing a single punchline.

Some takes are ad-libbed

Every show has lines that are made up by actors on the spot, but comedies tend to contain more ad-libbing than shows in any other genre. Because some of the stars of "A.P. Bio" are themselves excellent comedy writers, people wonder how many of the jokes in the show come directly from the script. Glenn Howerton clarified to Variety that while he is also a writer, "A.P. Bio" is "very much [Mike O'Brien's] show." Howerton also said that O'Brien is "a perfect example of somebody who has a strong point of view ... but who doesn't have a big ego." If actors have an idea for a joke, O'Brien lets them take a shot at it.

O'Brien's willingness to let his actors play around on set undoubtedly improves the show, but it also benefits the young actors who star in it. Sari Arambulo, who plays Grace, told Decider that she "grew a lot as an actor" while working on the show. "Mike and the various directors and producers would let us ad-lib and kind of add layers to our character," she said. The result is dialogue and jokes that often feel startlingly natural.

The Season 2 ratings dip

There was a time when the future of "A.P. Bio" seemed dire. While season 1 enjoyed moderate success, the show saw a massive dip in ratings during its second season. "A.P. Bio" season 2 ranked as the second least-watched show on NBC during its run, and according to viewer polls, there weren't many people sitting in front of their television each night that cared about seeing a third season. Because of the disappointing turnout each week, NBC cancelled the show in May 2019.

Mike O'Brien broke the news about the cancellation via Twitter, writing, "I'm intensely sad to announce that AP Bio will be ending after this season." He went on to say that he felt the series was just hitting its stride and thanked everyone who had been involved in the production. It wasn't long until the hashtag #SaveAPBio began trending with the support of stars from the show like Patton Oswalt, Glenn Howerton, and Paula Pell. Even Mark Hamill sent out a tweet expressing his dismay at the show's cancellation.

Streaming saved the series

Streaming services have saved a number of beloved shows from permanent cancellation, but not many series get their revival as quickly as "A.P. Bio." Less than two months after NBC cancelled the show, the network picked it back up for their newly announced streaming service. Peacock hadn't yet been named, but NBC knew that the service would need a full roster of shows if it had any hope of competing in the crowded streaming market.

Even at that point, there were good signs that "A.P. Bio" would fare better online than it had on cable. During its first season, the show pulled in 35 percent of its viewers from digital platforms, and that number jumped up to 47 percent in Season 2. Those numbers, and the online fan campaign that started in the wake of the show's cancellation, saved the show. "The cast and I are thrilled that we get to make more and I'm excited to work with the NBCU streaming platform," Mike O'Brien said in a statement (via Variety) after NBC made the official announcement.

Peacock allows more experimentation

Shows often get more freedom on streaming platforms than on traditional networks, partly because of the narrower audience and the loosening of restrictions like clean commercial breaks. "A.P. Bio" takes the freedoms offered by its new home in stride. Some of the show's most original episodes and gags have come about during its run on Peacock. Season 3 features an inventive episode composed mostly of "Previously On" and "Next On" segments. In Season 4, an entire episode dives into one student's fan fiction version of the show's reality. Patton Oswalt told Looper that the bits the show explores now are "so wild, and so out there" that they wouldn't have worked in the earlier seasons on NBC.

"We have other concepts and episodes that play with structure like that, that I'd love to do," showrunner Mike O'Brien told Collider. He said that the more experimental episodes are difficult for the writers to create, but that they also give the entire production "a little boost of energy, for sure." The writers' unique takes on typical sitcom formats also reinvigorate the show's audience, and they're part of the reason why "A.P. Bio" is performing better on Peacock than it ever did on NBC.

Joe Manganiello and Bruce Campbell join season 4

"A.P. Bio" isn't just getting wilder plots as the show goes on, it's also finding more and more exciting guest stars to bring into the halls of Whitmore High. The show's recurring cast is already composed of comedic heavyweights like Glenn Howerton, Patton Oswalt, and Paula Pell, but even they get star struck some of the people they get to work with now that the show is on Peacock. Howerton and Oswalt told Looper about their excitement heading into season 4, with Howerton saying "I'm just excited for people to see Joe Manganiello on the show and Bruce Campbell."

Howerton was especially hyped about getting to work alongside Campbell. He told E! News that Campbell was a childhood hero of his and that "Evil Dead 2" "changed my point of view." He confirmed that he's "not being hyperbolic," adding, "He was just so influential to me as a child. I was honored, and he was great."

A.P. Bio could run for 15 seasons

Now that "A.P. Bio" has found a new home on Peacock, the series is set to run for years to come. Creator Mike O'Brien has already thought about the arc his series would follow over the long haul. He told Collider that "the logline of the whole series would be a guy is stuck in his hometown and growing to like it more every day." O'Brien has already thought about what the show might look like after a decade or more on the air. Eventually, the dour Jack Griffin will "be fully decked out in Whitlock High School gear selling 50/50 raffle tickets at the basketball game and cheering on all the students."

Howerton knows exactly what it's like to be a part of a show that lasts well over a decade. "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" will soon return for its 15th season, and it's been renewed through season 18. Howerton is more than ready to take "A.P. Bio" just as far. "My feeling ... is that Mike is honestly just getting started with this show," he said. "I'd like to keep doing it for a long time."