A chat with Mike Trapp about his fantastic TV show — Ultramechatron Team Go!
Photo: Licensed by the author on Shutterstock.
Back in August 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to publish an interview with one of my favorite creators on the planet — Brennan Lee Mulligan, the creator and Dungeon Master of Dimension 20. Today, I’m sharing with the Newsbreak platform an interview with another of my favorite creators on the planet — Michael Trapp. Trapp created many great sketches over the years for Collegehumor before the layoffs in January 2020. With Collegehumor’s Dropout's debut, he created the shows, Um, Actually, WTF 101, and most recently Ultramechatron Team Go!
That last one made me laugh so much! It is reminiscent of a TV show a lot of millennial kids grew on — Power Rangers. UTG follows the adventures of a small team of warriors with their giant robot who defend earth from the evil space wizard, Galatax. Well, that’s the premise — many laughs down the road, something a little bit different awaits. But aside from the laughs, Trapp and the team created a rich story with many satisfying easter eggs.
I asked Trapp about the writing process, the editing, comedy, and more. I love this show, and this interview was very insightful!
Before we dive into it, please be advised that this interview will contain spoilers.
Trapp, thank you so much for this interview! I think my first question to you must be the initial motivator. What prompted the idea of UTG in the first place?
The slightly cynical answer here is that the idea sprang a little bit from solving a money issue. I wanted to come up with a way to tell a scripted, sci-fi story without the budget that the genre typically requires.
This got me thinking about Power Rangers, which was a ton of fun even though (or maybe because) it required a lot of suspension of disbelief. And the mech genre felt perfect for parody — the show is essentially a workplace comedy. The workplace just happens to be a giant fighting robot.
'Ultramechatron Team Go!', like other Dropout shows, is focused a lot on the concept of comedy. The ultimate goal is to make people laugh. Despite all of that, you and the team successfully woven an intricate and rich narrative the whole season while keeping us laughing. Would you mind sharing some tips about that process?
For me, the best comedy comes where the unexpected meets the
inevitable. You need something surprising to get a laugh, but an
unexpected turn still has to obey some kind of logic, or your script will
fall into chaotic randomness.
We tried to hit this balance by grounding our jokes in character as much as possible. For example, we knew pretty early that we wanted to have Galatax be something of a sad sack. The juxtaposition of all-powerful wizard with pathetic loser started a simple one-off joke in the pilot web series.
In the bigger series, we were able to take that joke and build on it: what is Galataxʼs life like when heʼs not fighting the Ultramechatron team? How does he handle his constant failures? Asking serious questions about silly jokes leads to richer characters, which leads to even more jokes.
Many people in their 30s like you and I will associate the show with the original Power Rangers we saw as kids. Now that weʼre older, we understand that Power Rangers was about wonder and awe more than anything else. The story didnʼt really matter. We didnʼt really care about Kimberlyʼs Olympics career. The special effects and our “Wow!” and “Ah!” was all that mattered. What do you hope people take away from UTG as it dives deeper into the past?
I hope people can sense the unbridled joy that went into making the show. Obviously thereʼs comedy in the script and the performances, but there are Easter eggs hidden in the art design and some moments that only work because of an unexpected crash-zoom from the camera or a perfectly timed cut in the edit. I think thereʼs something special about that creative enthusiasm, and I hope it comes across.
In the ‘behind the scenesʼ video posted on Dropout, David Kerns reveals some of the interactions between the actors in the cockpit were pure Improv. Could you expand on that? How big was Improv in making the show what it is?
I love incorporating improv in the stuff we make. Most of it comes in at the end of scenes — weʼd reach the end of scripted lines and just keep going until the director called cut. Some of it would come from a mistake — a flubbed line or a strange delivery, that everyone would just add on to.
Since all the coverage for the cockpit scenes was shot simultaneously, we had the freedom to feed off each otherʼs energy and improvisation with the knowledge that it was all usable if it worked.
I know from the CH podcast that you usually shoot a couple of sketches whenever you have a filming day. Iʼm not experienced with Filming, but that sounds like a ton of work to me. How long did it take to shoot UTG? Did you incorporate a similar schedule where you filmed many small bits over the same day to cover more ground?
We shot the series over the span of about 21 days. We shot scenes batched by location, which is pretty typical, but we did shoot an unusual amount of pages per day. Most productions aim for around three pages per day. In the cockpit scenes, we were shooting 13 pages per day.
It will probably be hard to choose, but Iʼll ask you anyway. Looking back over the season, what is your favorite scene or episode, and why?
I really love “Galatax Go!” as an episode. One of the benefits of
having your own platform is that no one can tell you not to do crazy
things like this episode. Even still, I kind of expected SOMEONE to
Now, we gotta talk about that Galatax episode. Many words have been said about the brilliant performance of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Angela Forneroʼs acting in this episode, as well as Jessica Rossʼs
excellent writing. But I want to take you back to the editing phase. If the pure comedic episodes are the sea, this episode was an island of
Drama. There were some funny bits here and there, but the
energy was completely different. Walk me through the process of
weaving such an episode into the script of a comedy show.
We planned this episode very early in the writing process as
something of a joke on the audience. We thought it would be funny to
spend eight episodes establishing a goofy, heightened, sci-fi tone and
then to thrust people into a realistic, mumblecore-type episode.
For me, the joke of the episode is how deeply we committed to being very
serious in the middle of a typically silly show. Paradoxically the more
serious the episode got, the funnier it was to me.
In the end, itʼs not that hard to weave into the rest of the series because even though it is so wildly different, that fact of that difference is what makes it
Hereʼs a weird question for you: During the last episode, you assembled many characters into the Ultra Mechatron to defeat Captain Duke. Would you say this was a subtle reveal that Dropout shows exist within one universe, and crossovers may exist in the future?
This grew out of the question, “What would be the most chaotic group
of characters to control the Ultramechatron?” And the answer is
“characters who donʼt even belong in the same universe”. Since we
established the world of Ultramechatron Team Go! already has interuniversal travel, it weirdly made sense to crossover with other characters from Dropout shows.
Ultramechatron Team Go! as an overall experience was a pure gem. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it gave me many good laughs. Now that you have the benefit of hindsight, would you change anything about the show?
There are always things I want to change. For this show, there are a
few small plot holes toward the end of the season that I wish I had a
little more time to fill in. They can be justifiably handwaved away by
the silliness of the show, but they do still bug me.
I also wish we had time to do a ska cover of the theme song to conclude the Skalossus episode.
Trapp, thank you so much for your time! I love you and what you do and appreciate this so much! My first question was about the past. This last one — as you probably guessed — is about the future: Gillian seemed pretty pissed as she held Galataxʼs staff in that closing scene. Does that mean weʼre going to get a season 2?
Thanks for watching the show! Iʼm not sure yet if there will be a
season 2, but if there is, Iʼd love to explore how the team would react
to a new “big bad” and see how they come to terms with their own