The Watchman: ‘Room 104’ Checking Out on HBO; Disney Channel Turned ‘Upside Down’
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
The fourth and final season of Room 104 starts on HBO July 24. The 12 episodes tell “a unique and unexpected tale of the characters who pass through a single room of a typical American chain motel,” according to HBO.
Mark and Jay Duplass created the show. Executive producer Sydney Fleischmann said the ethos of the series has always been “creating rules, then we break them. This season, we really put the rules to the test.”
The premiere episode is a funky one. A group of friends adores a teen songwriter who disappeared decades before. One of them finds the man, and gets him to perform for the small group in, yes, room 104.
RELATED: Duplass Brothers Find ‘Room’ for New Season of Hotel Hijinks
Mark Duplass spoke with a musician or two about playing the character, and finally took on the role himself. He sings and plays a distinctive guitar. “We wanted a guitar that was well-loved and well-used,” Fleischmann said. “This guitar has been around the block.”
Fleischmann directed her first episode, called “Generations.” It is the series finale and shows an old man reflecting on his life. Fleischmann’s 92-year-old grandfathers, “in the winter of their lives,” were an inspiration, she said.
She said Room 104 doesn’t feel over. “It really feels limitless,” she noted. “We feel like we can keep going.”
Movie Upside-Down Magic premieres on Disney Channel July 31. Izabela Rose plays Nory Boxwood Horace, a student at the Sage Academy for Magical Studies. While at Sage, she’s quickly shoved into a class for those with upside-down magic — those whose powers don’t quite work the way they’re supposed to.
Nory’s a tough kid. “She has so much energy and enthusiasm and excitement for the world, and for everybody around her,” said Joe Nussbaum, director/exec producer. “It takes a lot to put her down. It takes a lot to crush her spirit.”
The movie is based on a book of the same name. Nussbaum got a look at the script and was hooked. “I loved the concept,” he said. “I loved the idea.”
Nory’s powers are considered “wonky,” in Upside-Down Magic verbiage. She at times turns herself into a “dritten” — half dragon, half kitten.
Upside-Down Magic may put one in mind of another book series/film franchise about a child at a school for kids with magical powers, but Nussbaum said the Harry Potter overlap is minimal. It’s similar “insomuch as it’s a school for magical kids,” he said. “Hopefully it has a different look and a different feel.”
Nussbaum suspects the timing is right for the film premiere. “We could all use a little escapism in 2020,” he said. “We could all use a story of good versus evil.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.