Michael Price Interview: F is for Family Season 5 | Screen Rant

After four acclaimed seasons on the streaming platform, Netflix's F is for Family is coming to a close with season 5. Co-created by Bill Burr and Michael Price and based on the former's stand-up comedy and childhood, the final chapter of the series sees Burr's family man Frank Murphy struggling to process his grief over the death of his troublesome dad while also trying not to screw up raising his newborn daughter.

Related: F Is For Family Voice Cast & Character Guide

Ahead of the show's swan song, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with F is for Family co-creator Michael Price to discuss the development of the fifth and final season, losing two writers and star Michael Kenneth Williams during production, and more.

Screen Rant: The show has been an incredible ride from the start, it's amazing to think that it's already been on for five seasons. What is it like for you looking back on the journey that you've had so far with the show?

Michael Price: It's incredible. It's five seasons, but in my life, it's almost 10 years. The very first I heard of this project was I was invited to have a meeting with Bill Burr and Peter Billingsley in February of 2012, that's when this whole thing just slowly got started. But then since we really got going in earnest in the summer of 2014, it's just been this all-consuming thing ever since, even during the downtime, because every season there would be a super-intense couple of months in the writers' room and coming up with the stories and the scripts and doing the recordings.

Then I had this amazing situation worked out with The Simpsons where that remained my main job, but they would let me go away for a while and come back and then for the next seven or eight months, it would be full-time work at The Simpsons, but then doing all the stuff that needed to be done for F is for Family, like edits and all kinds of stuff on my own time or lunch hours or during work at The Simpsons. Then the show would come out and we'd start all over again. It's been great, it's been an amazing journey. I just had the opportunity to see just about everybody last night, we had kind of a premiere/series wrap party last night and it was the first time we all got to see each other in person, most of us, for almost two years since COVID.

So that was very bittersweet and very wonderful, I was getting a lot of memories and we had people who worked from the first season on, among other things, and it's just been an amazing journey. I'm so glad and so grateful that I got to have that meeting with Bill Burr all those years and start this process.

Since you mention The Simpsons, both of these shows are very much like varying ends of the dysfunctional family spectrum. What's that like for you going from the wackier tone of The Simpsons to the pretty grounded, and R-rated, nature of F is for Family?

Michael Price: Yeah, I mean, every time I'd be in The Simpsons, I'd be like, "I can't wait to go back to F is for Family," because Simpsons is wonderful, it's fantastic, but like you said, there is some stuff that we couldn't do there. Then when I'd get back in F is for Family, I'd be having to wrestle with the idea of having to come up with 10 episodes, in this last season it's eight episodes, that track multiple characters, story arcs and have cliffhangers and cover all this ground and also be funny and also be interesting. I'd be like, "Oh, I wish I could just go back to The Simpsons where we could do an episode about Krusty being in a play or something, you know?" [Laughs]

They're both wonderful in their own ways, and they're both different, and I think that's great because when we first started to work on this show, we all knew we wanted to make this different. There's plenty of animated shows about families out there, so to make just another Simpsons, or another Family Guy just seemed like it wouldn't fly. So what we hit on, which all stems from Bill's viewpoints as a stand-up comedian and as a person, was just the ability to translate his worldview and his experience and a lot of mine too, as a kid, to animation in a way that hadn't been done and that's what made it such a challenge, and so fun and made it different. Then, once we went to Netflix, they very strongly suggested that we do the serialized storytelling and arcs and all that stuff, but we weren't really prepared for it at first.

We thought the show would have more of a Simpsons style of storytelling, like self-contained episodes, but once we embraced this, we just loved it and it made the whole show possible. I can't imagine what the show would be like if it was that kind of episodic structure as opposed to serialized.

So then with that serialized format, did wrapping it with season 5 come organically? How did the decision come about to have this be the final chapter for the show?

Michael Price: Well, I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to say that this wasn't our choice. Every year we'd come out and then we'd wait around and about a month or so later, we'd hear from Netflix, "Guess what, we want another season! You guys are doing well enough by our metrics to warrant another year." Part of that would be us going to them first, once the new season comes out, we would then go to them with our idea of what the next season would be.

We'd have a meeting where we go there and say, "Here's, basically, where we're going for seasons 2,3,4," and it's largely what we ended up doing, so they have an idea of where we thought the story could go. We did this for season five not knowing it would be the end, it would just be season 5, what we ended up pitching was largely what we ended up doing for season 5. But then when season 4 came out, we got that call we always get where they're like, "Well, guess what, we're picking you up for another season, but we've decided that this should be the last one." I will say, I was disappointed and sad, but at the same time, I was so happy. It's their decision, it's their money and it's their network, so they have their reasons I'm sure.

I've been on other shows where we just get canceled and that's it. So to have a chance to then write towards an ending that I think is emotionally, narratively, and comically satisfying was a real gift. It was great to go into it that way, but it didn't change a whole lot of what we wanted to do with the season, but it did where the last couple of episodes go.

With that in mind, series finales are so rare in being satisfactory and while there feels like more room to explore, F is for Family does feel like a good wrapping of Frank's arc. What was that like for you and Bill and the writers' room finding the perfect ending for the show?

Michael Price: It was hard, I'll say that, it was hard for a number of reasons. First of all, it's always hard to say goodbye, you're absolutely right about finales being very difficult to pull off. Secondly, partly due to the timing of things, that we wanted this last season to take place during the holidays, during Thanksgiving to Christmas, and we knew that it would be ideal and best if it can come out at this time, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So because of that, and because of the amount of time it takes to produce episodes, that's when they reduced our order from ten episodes to eight, so now we only had eight episodes to wrap the whole thing up and still be a funny show the way we like it to be, so that was hard.

But I think the opportunity we were given we gave ourselves, I guess, not knowing it at the time that we set up the end of season 4 with this health crisis with Frank's dad just when he started to make an emotional breakthrough with him and then his death really set us up for like, "Okay, this is now the opportunity for Frank to sort of put this to rest, put his past to rest." He even says it I think, in one of the episodes like, "Close the chapter on this f***ing lunatic that was my dad," and also his mom as well, who we meet in this new season played by Patti LuPone. But how his past and how his parents and how his upbringing shaped him to be the person that he is now and how he can then move forward and put that away and come to terms with it in a way that will make him a better father and a better husband going forward.

Especially now with the other thing we created back in at the end of season two, which we didn't know how it was going to impact, is that they're having another baby and what that means for being a kind of do-over baby. [Chuckles] Like, "This is the one I'm not going to mess up," you know, so it really helped us work going towards an ending that he hasn't changed completely, he's still going to be Frank, but he's learned something important about himself and about life and that, hopefully, going forward, he's going to be slightly less angry and a more present husband and a father.

Since you mentioned the passing of Frank's dad in the show, this season almost feels really about loss both in the show and behind it, what with Michael Kenneth Williams and your two writers. What was that like for you exploring this element both behind and in front of the camera, so to speak, for this season?

Michael Price: We got the order to make the new season in late July of 2020, so COVID was at its height, so all that horrible stuff was all in the background the whole time. We ended up creating the entire season remotely using Zoom, and then we were completely devastated. The two guys who passed away on our staff, [one] was David Richardson, who was my number two or whatever you want to call him, and my executive producer since day one. I've known him for many years, worked with him before on something else, he was a huge, huge, huge part of the staff.

Then the other one was Marc Wilmore, he did play the bartender, but he was more of a writer and a producer. I've known him for many years as well, going back to my work on The PJs in the late '90s and the Simpsons and he was so essential and so funny. We were just talking about him last night, he wrote everybody so well, he was hysterically funny and great, but he really shined with the characters like Rosie and Smokey, so it's really unbelievable to me. When we couldn't get the actors to record their lines, because they were busy doing other things, some of us would do temporary records called scratch, where we temp the lines, often, Marc would do the temp lines for Smokey.

So we lost both Dave and Marc within about a week and a half of each other in the beginning of January or mid-January 2021, we were finished with the bulk of the writing on the show, but we still had some stuff coming up and it was devastating. As far as editing the shows, I still hear Marc's voice in those lines for Smokey, and then we got Michael Kenneth to come in and do his part and he was so wonderful and such a sweetheart, such a gentle man, nothing like characters that he played on The Wire and all these other shows.

I got this on the tiny little bit of these records, but I could tell that he was just a really sweet and nice man, and then to have to go through the process of replacing Marc's stuff with Michael's was a little hard, because we wouldn't hear Marc anymore. Then to get that news on Labor Day weekend that Michael had passed was just absolutely devastating as well, so it's been hard, you're right, it's like a season about loss, about dealing with loss, with all this real loss going on around us.

My condolences for your loss, I can only imagine how it must have been from a personal perspective as much as a professional one. I had spoken with Michael earlier this year about coming back and he was like, "You might see me."

Michael Price: Bill even said, I can't quote him directly so I'm quoting indirectly, but it was along the lines of, "Well, in a way, if we had to go out, if this was the last season, maybe that was for the best because I can't imagine how we could have done another season without those two writers and without Michael or Smokey." They were that important to everything.

So you had the wrap party with the cast and crew, but how are you feeling going into the lead-up to the Netflix release?

Michael Price: Well, it is a little bit like being pregnant in a way. [Chuckles] Now, I've never been pregnant, of course, my wife was many years ago with my son, but it does feel like now I want it to come, I can't wait for people to see it, we're so proud of it. We've seen a few advanced reviews that people like it. So I really can't wait for it to come out and for everyone to have a chance to see it.

It's Thanksgiving weekend, so I need to spend a good amount of time with my real family, but I will be sneaking off to look at Twitter on Thanksgiving Day, probably, and on Friday and Saturday to see if people are watching it and what they're saying. Who knows, I think somewhere in the back of my mind, my ultimate fantasy is that this just blows up and people rediscover it, and then maybe somewhere down the line, Netflix asks to do a movie or some kind of project based on it or something like that, I would love to do that, but we'll see.

But I think Bill was right, he said something like, "We're not going to focus on anything else, we're just gonna focus on making this last season, this last eight episodes, the absolute best we could do and just go out on top and leave them wanting more."

Given your work on The Simpsons, myself and audiences have been clamoring for a Simpsons Movie sequel since it first came out. Do you have any thoughts on whether that will ever happen or if you know what ideas the film might explore if it does get off the ground?

Michael Price: I have to think that it will happen someday. I'm not in the upper echelons in the world of Jim Brooks and Matt Groening and Disney, I don't know if they've talked about it. Over the years, there have been a couple of steps in that direction, there was an episode I wrote that was on TV about four or five years ago ["Fatzcarraldo"] where Homer found this old hotdog stand that he loved as a kid that was a train car and he discovered that it was being shut down, so he stole it and pulled it away on the back of his own car. It was kind of based on the movie Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog. [Laughs]

So when I was getting ready for that, suddenly I got word that Jim Brooks was so excited about it and was like, "I think that could be the next movie." It didn't turn out that way, but there's been a couple of story ideas bandied about over the past few years where they're like, "What if this was the next movie?" So I know that it's in the ether and that they would like to do one. I think it would have to be the right story and the right everything coming together. Again, I have no insight into this at all, but Disney seems to be the kind of place that wants to get a lot of content out of the things that they have, so that's why there's eight different Marvel TV shows now and nine different Star Wars TV shows.

I think with a property like The Simpsons, they treat it with incredible respect, but I'm sure that they would love to have something like another movie or whatever, something else besides the regular show. I hope someday they could do it and if they wanted me to work on it, I'd be thrilled.

Related: 10 Times F Is For Family Tackled Deep Issues

F is for Family season 5 is now streaming on Netflix.



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