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“Hot Damn!” The best improvised moments in TV

Written by TV

Some spoilers for TV shows so look away now if you haven’t seen How I Met Your Mother or One Day at A Time.
Time seems to cease to exist in TV and film sets. Sitting around for hours just waiting for the next shot to be set up means actors can come out with some absolute gems when the director shouts action. So I’ve hit the internet to find out some of the best ones. And hot damn, they’re good.
Credit: YouTube

Let’s get the slightly more sad ones out of the way first. Whilst How I Met Your Mother has divided people – but you can’t deny Jason Segel’s reaction to finding out Marshall’s dad was dead is absolutely heartbreaking. The actor chose not to read Lily’s line before his – he only knew the sentence ended with “it”. So his line “I’m not ready for this”, was his genuine reaction to finding out the news from Lily (Alyson Hannigan) that “he didn’t make it“. In an Entertainment Weekly piece, Executive Producer Carter Bays claims he and director Pamela Fryman both had to look away, trusting Segel’s performance would pack the emotional punch they needed. And if you weren’t tearing up even a little bit in that scene, then are you okay?

Another touching moment came from One Day At A Time. When Elena explains to the family that her and Sid were harassed on their way home after a date, Lydia gently reaches across to take Sid’s hand and hold it tight. After Rita Moreno’s character struggled with the conflict between her Catholic heritage and her granddaughter’s (Elena) sexuality, this was such a small but powerful moment that showed Sid was truly accepted in their family, and Lydia fully understood Elena. The show deals with a lot of heavy topics in more light-hearted ways, yet this small act proves it to be one of the best ways their characters have handled a topic yet.

How Pratt came up with that on the spot I have no idea, but it feels good enough that I honestly thought it was written into the script.

Credit: YouTube

But there are two iconic shows that have some of the best improvised moments – and may or may not be personal favourites of mine… Parks And Recreation – that glorious show of absolute chaos in Pawnee, has some of the most iconic improvised moments, that if I didn’t mention, I think Sophie might never talk to me again. Whilst creator Mike Schur has said pretty much all the cast members have their improvised bits in the show – one of the absolute best is when Chris Pratt’s character (Andy Dwyer) decides to google Leslie’s flu symptoms and came out with: “Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the thing up here and it says here you could have ‘network connectivity problems.’” (S3, episode 2). How Pratt came up with that on the spot I have no idea, but it feels good enough that I honestly thought it was written into the script.

Just as notable is Donna’s line “Do I look like I drink water?” (be honest, you practically heard her say that), and the multiple *ahem* interesting drunk dances by characters drinking ‘Snake Juice’ were also made-up on the day. Amy Poehler was actually directing that day, so the dancing was all to make her laugh and throw her off focus – little did they know it would end up in the final cut. I’ll take a wild guess that Little Sebastian did a lot of improv as well.

The running “title of your sex tape” joke? They did that so much off-camera that they started including it during filming as well

Oh yes. Andre Braugher’s line and possibly one of my favourite Brooklyn Nine-Nine moments – was improvised. What a legend. In fact, some of the best catchphrases the show has were written into the script after the cast would repeat them on set. Terry Crews is reported to have screamed “Nine-nine!” at everyone during long days of filming to hype them up, whilst Andy Samberg just kept saying “cool” so much after takes that “cool cool cool cool cool cool cool” (add/delete an appropriate amount of “cool”s depending on situation) became one of Jake’s things. And the running “title of your sex tape” joke? They did that so much off-camera that they started including it during filming as well; “Kind, sober and fully dressed.” Good news, everyone. We found the name of Santiago’s sex tape!” Right, now I have to binge-watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine again – anybody else up for it?

Featured image credit: Netflix on YouTube

Last modified: 14th May 2020

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