Thrilling Adventure Hour #78: Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, “Mortified on Mars”
By Katie Levine on July 2, 2012
Starring Marc Evan Jackson as Sparks Nevada and Joshua Malina as his faithful companion, the Barkeep. Also starring Annie Savage, Mark McConville, Andy Richter, and Jim Beaver. Recorded February 4, 2012.
This episode was originally conceived as an homage to our friend Dave Nadelberg and his show, Mortified (currently a series on the Sundance Channel, entering its second season soon). Mortified is a show in which people share their teenaged artifacts (diaries, letters, etc) in order to “confront their past with tales of their first kiss, first puff, worst prom, fights with mom, life at bible camp, worst hand job, best mall job, and reasons they deserved to marry Jon Bon Jovi.” Mortified runs live shows in a dozen cities around the US. To learn more, visit GetMortified.com.
Dave began his show a couple of years before we began ours, and he provided us with valuable information and advice when we first started out. “Mortified on Mars” is our small way of recognizing his contributions to the Thrilling Adventure Hour and thanking him.
This episode is also the second part of a two-parter that finds Sparks without his badge and without Croach, his faithful Martian companion. I suggested a cattle-drive to Acker several years ago when I was reading Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (the best Western novel of all time). It seemed like a fun thing for Sparks, since we’d stripped him of his badge, gotten him dumped, and had Croach left him, leaving him at a loose ends. Marc Evan Jackson takes it very personally when we take away all of the things that go into making Sparks. Which is why we keep doing it.
Pairing Sparks with Josh Malina‘s Barkeep for a couple of episodes was fun because it created a different dynamic than the Sparks/Croach relationship. We also wanted to give Barkeep a little character arc as he seeks and rejects adventure (or “trouble”), something we’re still playing out in the live show. And having both work for Andy Richter‘s citified greenhorn Pembroke Cartwright is a funny contrast to our western heroes, both of whom can use the ego boost of knowing what they’re doing out on the trail. Andy is the most generous actor on stage, and the way he plays with MEJ — infuriating Sparks and endearing himself to the audience — is just hilarious.
We’d had the terrific Mark McConville (of Superego; we’ll take any opportunity to play with those guys) as Highwayman Dan the month previous, and we wanted the coolest Western hero to play his dad, Nice Man Dan. Who better than Jim Beaver, who knocked us out in Deadwood (and late of Supernatural)? Jim plays smart and cranky better than anyone, and his understated delivery wrings laughs out of every line. We can’t wait to have him back.
I wouldn’t hesitate to say that we’ve written some terrific songs with Andy Paley for the show, and “Riding the Galactic Trail” is one of the best. It’s a song to which we return time and again (we last used it when Andy Daly guest-starred as Sparks’ horse and they duetted); “Galactic Trail” provides a kind of wistful through-line to Sparks’ story. It’s about Earth in many ways, and a resignation to being away from home that Sparks must always feel. It was fun having MEJ and Josh sing it (with Andy, McConville, and Annie Savage), as both of these characters have been through some tough times lately. I liked the way they connected for a bit during the song.
Josh also killed in the opening Sparks Nevada theme. It’s always fun having someone steal it from MEJ, and Josh really played it hard. It’s a great encapsulation of their chemistry during that song. The song, by the way, was the first thing written specifically for the show, by our friend Eban Schletter who posited a “Sparks Nevada musical” back in our sixth episode (in 2005). Eban has a new album out this week and it’s really good. Check out http://www.ebanschletter.com/ for details.
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