A reality TV director, an actor, and a former director of operations for events (such as the Academy Awards and American Idol) recently teamed together to create a Santa Monica-based comedy TV show about dating called ‘Swipe’.
The show is an Always Sunny-esque comedy, chronicling the lives of three Santa Monicans looking for love. It’s a tightrope act of sweet and raunchy and is currently being shopped to networks.
“I was feeling a little bit burnt out,” Michael Harrigan, co-founder of Handshake Productions and writer/director of Swipe said of his time before he wrote Swipe.
Harrigan was working in reality TV, helping to produce shows such as MTV’s Undressed and the Ball family’s Ball in the Family. His heart, however, was in narrative, specifically, comedy.
“I was working on a project in Lithuania and, I don’t know man, I was ready to pack it up and call it quits, move back to Chicago. But I had an Idea.”
Harrigan wrote when he wasn’t producing. In over 20 years in Santa Monica and the Hollywood machine, he’s had hits and misses. This idea, he thought to himself, could be a hit.
From lounging at local haunts such as Chez Jay and Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, Harrigan would hear and witness dating situations: hookups, awkward meetups at the Pier, and yes, even dating stories involving Birds.
The common theme of these too-weird-to-be-true dating stories? Online dating.
“Online dating is just… rife with potential,” he said with a laugh. “It’s endless where it can go– tone, genre, story, all of that.”
With the kernel of a dating app show idea growing in his head, Harrigan feverishly fleshed out a show and a season-long outline, back in March 2018.
Having been a purveyor of local watering holes, Harrigan was friendly with many Santa Monicans, including Eddie McGee, a one-legged actor who moonlighted as a bouncer for the time at Big Dean’s, who eventually became a co-founder of Handshake Productions.
McGee was friendly with Harrigan and knew of his ambitions, putting him in contact with Russ Malcomb, a retired Santa Monica-based event producer looking to invest in TV.
Malcomb was new to the TV scene outside of events and wanted to invest in something he believed in.
“I told Mike, ‘I’ll tell you what I can do for you and you tell me what you can do for me’”, he said. “And he showed me this script.”
Malcomb was initially turned off by the script, feeling it was too raunchy for his own tastes. After some nudging by Harrigan, Malcomb showed the script to his 30-year-old niece.
“She loved it. She read it multiple times, laughing out loud. She just didn’t understand what Birds were,” Malcomb said with a laugh.
Malcomb was on board and fronted some money for the production. ‘Swipe’ was officially in pre-production.
After securing local shooting locations at Chez Jay and Big Dean’s, Malcomb and Harrigan assembled their local cast — Bryan Dodds as the adventurous bachelor Chris Mass, Taylor Owen as the girl-that-can-hang-with-the-boys Darby, and finally Eddie McGee, the bouncer/actor.
Typically typecast for roles that focused on his handicap, McGee was ecstatic to land a role that focused on his acting abilities.
“Being disabled is part of me but doesn’t define who I am, you know? I’ve been a fan of Mike’s for a while and has this great grasp of characters. I knew we had something special here.”
“We hit a home run with who we got in such a small amount of time,” Harrigan noted. “No one knew each other at all beforehand, but they all just clicked.”
Due to looming schedule conflicts of actors and locations, shooting took place in a three-day span in July, during some of the hottest days of summer in Santa Monica.
“It was brutal,” McGee said of the heat. “Even indoor locations … you can’t run the AC when shooting due to the sound and hum, we could only pump it up between camera setups. But everyone was fantastic, all cast and crew. We muscled through with smiles on our faces. We were proud of what we were making.”
The show is now filmed and being shopped to networks. All three co-founders of Handshake don’t mind exactly where the show goes, though they hope for network or somewhere that’ll allow a good amount of creative control.
No matter where Swipe lands or doesn’t, the trio know they experienced something special, in their own backyard of Santa Monica no less.
Once in the can, a showing was held at Roundabout, a professional screening room, with an after-party at Solidarity.
“Not the Roundabout in Burbank, the one here,” Malcomb said. “We wanted to keep it here, keep the local feel. Santa Monica is home and we love it here.”
So what exactly do these staunch Santa Monicans hope audiences get from this show?
They say they hope audiences — specifically Santa Monicans — will laugh hard and hopefully relate to the show’s content.
“I liken it to an edgier ‘Three’s a Company’, ‘Santa Monica Sex and the City’ if you will,” McGee says with a laugh.
“When you’re with your closest friends, you have those conversations about dating,” Harrigan added. “We all work and do things around town, we’re part of the Samo culture, and even the dating culture here is unique. It’s hard to date here because everyone’s trying to do something, be something. But hey, it can be fun.”
For more on Swipe and Handshake Productions, visit http://www.handshakeproductions.studio