The first episode of Seeso’s new original series, Bajillion Dollar Properties, features rivalries and drugged-out actors, but a chess match between real estate agency owner Dean Rosedragon and office manager Glenn is the real highlight. It shows just how much improv and negotiating have in common.
The show was created and executive produced by Kulap Vilaysack, and as we sit on tanned leather couches in the bar of the Driskill in Austin, Texas, attempting to navigate various SXSW-related body pains, she explains the shorthand pitch for the show was “Reno 911 set in the world of Million Dollar Listing.” The home-based reality shows give viewers a chance to see “how other people live.”
“I like following these realtors who have very high-strung personalities, and watch them sort of put that aside to deal with even stronger personalities in their clients,” she said. “So I saw that this would be a good playground for the improvisers I know to play heightened versions of these types of people.”
The show, executive produced by Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, is semi-scripted. The highly improvised storyline is pushed along by intimidating realtor Chelsea Leight-Leigh (Tawny Newsome) and agency owner Rosedragon (Paul F. Tompkins), whom Vilaysack imagined as J. Peterman meets the Most Interesting Man in the World.
Vilaysack is also the co-host of podcast Who Charted?, which, she tells me, started after a particularly robust Four Loko party. At Esther’s Follies last weekend, she and co-host Howard Kremer did a live taping of the show, along with Tompkins and series executive producer Scott Aukerman. There was a larger sense of the improv that goes into the show, but heightening the series even further is its main character: Los Angeles.
“A town of dreamers, people with big ideas,” Vilaysack said. “L.A., through and through, I love L.A. But it’s a heightened reality. You’re always pitching, not just in, like, television, but in the juice that you want to sell.”
After watching the first two episodes, the throughline between realtor and improviser becomes more apparent. The realtor, Vilaysack says, has to be a “therapist, party planner, voice of reason… you have to play all these roles. And then you’re gone until the next sale.
“It’s just a very high-stress situation, and from high stress comes high comedy.”
Screengrab via Seeso