Behind the Scenes of Psi Cops with Creators Bart Batchelor and Chris Nielsen!
We chat with the creators of the new Adult Swim animated comedy series Psi Cops
Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Hey, do you love comedy? Do you love shows like The X-Files? If so, you’ll be thrilled to know that Skybound Galactic, Skybound’s joint venture with Sony, is bringing the animated series Psi Cops to Adult Swim U.S. this Sunday, July 7. The show initially aired on Adult Swim Canada as the network’s first original animated series, and follows special agents Kydd and Felixx, who join a rag-tag group of experts at the secret agency Psi Cops to investigate alleged sightings of aliens, ghosts, demons, and other hocus-pocus nonsense. The show’s executive producers are Robert Kirkman and David Alpert, and it was created by and stars Bart Batchelor (Felixx) and Chris Nielsen (Kydd). We just had the opportunity to chat with Batchelor (who sits on the right in the above photo) and Nielsen (on the left) about their dream project. Here’s what they had to say…

How did Psi Cops begin?

Batchelor: Well, we started with YouTube videos, animation for YouTube. Specifically, we created a show called World Doctors, which is about two idiots traveling the world trying to import medical stuff that will save/ruin people's lives. Through our business partners, World Doctors made its way to David Alpert, CEO of Skybound, and he loved it. He said, “I want to make something kind of like that. We would love to make a show with you. But we do genre stuff, and World Doctors is based in the real world. So do you have any ideas for a genre-based show?” As a team, we landed on Psi Cops, which is a show about two supernatural investigators, kind of like X-Files. Which fits perfectly into the Skybound genre universe.

Nielsen: When we landed on it, it was like a switch flipped – “Oh, this is such a ripe world for us to play with…” Our elevator pitch for it was “Imagine this Scully and Mulder, but two idiots have their jobs.”

Batchelor: 2016 was when we first made the demo for the show. It's been a long process. DA had just made a movie with our partner. Air, with Norman Reedus. They'd done that in Vancouver and Chris, our partner, he hooked us up. Chris Ferguson is a producer. He makes tons of movies. And you could say that the whole thing started with him. He loved World Doctors and wanted to form a company that made animation. We formed that company, and he approached DA to let him know what we were up to.

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How would you describe the first season?

Nielsen: The show is very flavor-of-the-week. But the overarching story is about a fledgling paranormal research agency getting off the ground. So it's a very simple story, but it's their journey toward becoming better paranormal investigators.

Batchelor: It's definitely a procedural show. It goes episode by episode, with a monster of the week – an alien, a demon, a shapeshifter, a ghost, whatever. But it’s 24 episodes, season 1, so there’s lot of little hidden story arcs going on, conspiratorial stuff going on. And then we're going to be answering that in season 2. But as a whole, it's pretty much like X-Files in terms of a monster of the week.

So you already have a multi-season plan in mind?

Batchelor: It's funny, we chat about this a lot… A good procedural show, in our opinion, sort of limits those big story arcs. The really great ones just drill into great episodes every week. That would be our dream. The lovely thing about the paranormal universe is there's so many stories, there's so many myths. We liked the idea of just being true to the procedural format, and just making it fun and not get into its own mythos, you know?

That's smart. History has shown most shows that delve too deeply into their own mythos are asking for trouble.

Batchelor: Totally. Lost was amazing, but Lost spun out hard. [Laughs.] If there's a storytelling backbone to the show, it's character driven, and we let the characters evolve. Some fun things happen over the season with the dynamics in the office. That's what we're more interested in. So it's kind of more… I guess you could say “sitcom-y” in terms of story scope. It's always returning to base.

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The two of you provide the voices for the show’s lead protagonists. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Batchelor: Absolutely. Well, Kydd and Felixx, as we always say, they have Mulder and Scully’s jobs but they're morons. [Laughs.] But they're more than morons. That’s our quick intro to them. We would say that they're really out-of-the-box thinkers. They're out there, you know? You’ve got to solve a problem, you're going to capture this ghost, how are you going to do it? They are very spontaneous and very confident in the kind of non-traditional approach they take. A lot of the comedy of these two guys comes from their out-of-the-box approach to things. But that as for their characters, Kydd and Felixx… It's funny, but with World Doctors, one of the jokes about it is the two characters are named James and James. They're the same guy. We've essentially just made two of the exact same character part of the joke. Then we went into Psi Cops wanting to carry on that joke that they're essentially just a guy split in half. So the fact that he's his best yes man was so much of the comedy. But through the episodes and voicing they ended up with their own quite specific characters and individuals from each other.

Nielsen: They're not autobiographical, but they reflect us in the way that they approach their job. Bart and I approach our job, the wrong way and the fun way. Always the fun way. It's not about drive or passion or ego, it's about play. That's how they approach the job. If we have to define Kydd and Felixx, Kydd’s the one who takes himself seriously, TV cops are his inspiration, a little bit to-the-point. For both of them, our inspiration was Dragnet, that sort of “Just the facts, ma'am” attitude. And Kydd started to embody that more so than Felixx. Felixx, on the other hand, is the more playful of the duo, the more emotional, who wears his emotions on his sleeve, without thinking. [Laughs.]

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How long did season 1 take to produce and where are you now in terms of planning season 2?

Nielsen: It was 82 weeks. I know that because it was contractual. [Laughs.] So it was it was a good chunk of time. We went into it with six scripts written. But we had to rewrite them, basically on the fly. So production started, and Bart and I essentially wrote the entire thing. We had a writer's room at the beginning that generated a lot of fun ideas and some story concepts. But it was down to Bart and I. We basically put our heads together and wrote the entire thing while we were making it. [Laughs.]

Batchelor: If someone tells you you're gonna start the animation on a project on Monday, and it's Tuesday and you haven't written the episode yet… [Laughs.] But it was it was a lot of fun, and it was an interesting process. Because Chris and I have been creating comedy together for 20 plus years now. And to Chris's point about us writing it, that wasn't our intent. We wanted the full team of people but because we developed this very specific comedy tone and style together, it was really hard to quickly onboard people into learning how to write that way, especially because the only content we really had was our YouTube stuff, which probably totaled an hour’s worth of content. So yeah, we just decided in the end that in order to get the tone where we wanted it for season 1, we would just write the whole thing.

To your question about season 2, the dream is… Well, we're gonna have to see how it does on Adult Swim and we're hoping we get to season 2. We're thinking that with 24 episodes out there now, our vision is a lot clearer, and we'll probably be able to get some writers on board.

Nielsen: In terms of our plans for the future, where they're gonna go what they're gonna do… One of the best parts about a show like World Doctors, on YouTube you're responsive to what the audience likes. I'm so looking forward to seeing what people are going to take away. Already in Canada, people are shipping the characters. Being able to answer and play with that is really fun.

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Is it safe to assume you guys were always big genre fans?

Nielsen: I totally think that’s part of why it clicked so hard for us. I think both of us are big X-Files fans. I was a massive X-Files fan. I was into aliens like crazy, and it was my show. I was like, “Okay, this is rad.” What we'd like to do with it is, we're not necessarily parodying or spoofing it, but we're living in the same world. Which is a really fun thing to do.

Batchelor: Yeah, I was the same with the X-Files every week. It was religious. I was definitely huge into genre work. I grew up with Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and a whole bunch of fantasy books. It's funny how much of that carries over into the paranormal. The dream of a show where people research the paranormal, it's just unlimited in terms of stupidity. [Laughs.]

Nielsen: Regarding the show’s routing… We're both huge comedy fans, and in particular Adult Swim fans. This is a life goal achieved, to get on to Adult Swim. We've been working on it for a long time. It's kind of funny… You could describe Psi Cops as an animation, but to us it's a comedy first. It's a comedy-driven show. That's where we're pulling from all our favorite roots. From the Zucker movies to Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast

I think an interesting thing about our approach to writing Psi Cops was that we never came up with brand-new sci fi concepts. We weren't trying to make the world wacky or zany. As much as you can root a science fiction show in reality, that was our goal the entire time. To let these guys be bigger than life – their idiocy is sometimes the supernatural element on top of it. I think our particular style of comedy works really well in a real-world setting.

Batchelor: The rule in Psi Cops is that the supernatural isn’t funny, Kydd and Felixx make it funny. Wheras with something like Rick and Morty, the supernatural elements are funny in themselves. It sounds bland to say it, but a vampire’s a vampire. There's nothing goofy about them. A ghost is a ghost. But Kydd and Felixx come in and mess with the situation enough that it gets comedic. It gets ridiculous. So it's classic stories and two dudes messing with them. [Laughs.]

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