While it may sound crazy to say one the most humane, and heartfelt cartoons of the 2010s was about a talking blue jay, his raccoon friend, a yeti, and a gumball machine as their boss, crazy is the correct answer. Regular Show, which aired on Cartoon Network from 2009-2017, was at the vanguard of animated programs that broke boundaries with a surreal sensibility that appealed to both adults and younger audiences. At the heart of Regular Show was its creator, J.G. Quintel, a CalArts alumnus who approached animation with a lo-fi aesthetic that wasn’t afraid to explore the furthest dimensions of the bizarre.
Quintel’s latest animated outing is Close Enough (now streaming on HBO Max) which, while sharing some aesthetic qualities of Regular Show, is an entirely different beast. Close Enough centers on thirty-somethings Josh (Quintel) and Emily (Gabrielle Walsh), their daughter Candice (Jessica DiCicco), and divorced—but still living together—friends Alex (Jason Mantzoukas) and Bridgette (Kimiko Glenn). If Regular Show is about figuring out life during your twenties, Close Enough is about the Sisyphean hurdles of adulthood: the indignity of dead-end jobs, the stresses of parenthood, and the quotidian annoyances that define a typical day. And according to Quintel, the development of the show was based on the notion that he “wanted it to be about a family and I knew I was going to try to base the situation off personal stories and things that had happened to me because that would make me laugh.”
And indeed, the development of Close Enough was an incredibly long process. Back in 2017, a “teaser trailer” was released just prior to San Diego Comic Con; I remember playing the trailer on repeat.
But, as it turns out, the short clip wasn’t really a trailer at all. Indeed, that was more like the pilot pitch. As Quintel explains: “At the time, I pitched the story and the concept of the show. And [the network executives] said, ‘OK, we like this, keep going and show us more.’ And they let me use the Regular Show crew to do that. And so the idea was like, we’re gonna write a couple of episodes… So we boarded a bunch of funny material, like a Comic Con teaser type of a thing where we’re just like smash cutting to really awesome-looking stuff based on the characters as we knew them.”
That pitch ended up being successful and the show was green-lit. It only took several more years before the show finally made it to audiences. There were several snags, not including that the first season wasn’t even written before the widely-released trailer. But even more pressing was that Close Enough had been slotted to premiere on TBS alongside another animated project that heavily featured Louis CK.
About a year or two after the trailer debuted, internet chat boards, especially those on Reddit, were constantly filled with speculative posts about Close Enough being canceled. I will admit that I also thought that Close Enough was doomed to be forgotten. But that’s not really what was happening. “It’s hard to wait,” Quintel quipped. And, as Quintel told me, once the show got going on the production side, the studio “let us like take our time to get it right.”
Perhaps the wait ended up being a blessing in disguise.
If the situations on the show may feel different from Regular Show, Close Enough’s perspective is what we need right now at this moment. It’s a fresh, hilarious, and heartfelt show about family and friendship. Its bizarre detours are a welcome mirror to the mundanities of everyday life. And besides, “It’s just really fun to take advantage of animation,” says Quintel.
Before our conversation ended, I asked Quintel what he hopes viewers take away from the new show. He told me that: “I think for the Regular Show fans out there who are supportive and are going to give us a shot at this new show, I think they won’t be disappointed. I think they’re going to like it and it’s definitely in the same vein if they liked that. But Close Enough is more grown-up, and it will deal with more problems that are probably more appropriate to their age now… I’m hoping that it can introduce [viewers] to our brand of humor in a little more palatable way.”
Close Enough‘s first season is streaming now on HBO Max.