There’s a curious title for the second-season premiere of TBS’s Sullivan & Son: It’s called The Pilot, One More Time (10 p.m. today).
Set in a Pittsburgh bar and starring Pittsburgh native Steve Byrne, the Season 2 premiere aims to restate its premise for the benefit of viewers who might have missed the show’s 10-episode first season.
We’re on in the middle of summer and we only get 10 episodes, so we’re gone for 42 weeks of the year, Byrne said in a recent phone interview. We have to reintroduce ourselves. We wanted to redo the pilot one more time for folks to understand it’s about having those things in life that matter. It’s always about being with family and friends.
Byrne stars as Steve Sullivan, a successful corporate attorney in New York who returns home to Pittsburgh to run the family bar and spend time with his mom (Jodi Long) and dad (Dan Lauria) and a gang of friends who are bar regulars.
As is often the case in TV shows, the first season of Sullivan proved to be a shakedown cruise. The show also featured 11 regular or semi-regular characters in its first season. For Season 2, one barfly, Doug (Brian Scolaro), has been dropped while the rest have been added to the opening credit sequence.
Over the course of those first 10 episodes we would try things out and see what worked and what didn’t work, Byrne said. Towards the end of the first season we figured out what works for each character and each actor and I think when we came back into the second season we had clear-cut, definitive voices for each character.
In addition, Sullivan also has its guest cast to consider. In Season 1 that included Pittsburgh native Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly), who will return to Sullivan in a Season 2 episode.
I felt like we never did him justice (in Season 1). He was just a facilitator, Byrne said. We brought Billy in the writer’s room (before Season 2) and hammered out something that I think will be pretty darn funny. He and I will be adversaries in this episode.
Community and Hangover star Ken Jeong guest stars in the second-season premiere as Steve’s brother-in-law. Byrne and Jeong had actually been collaborating on an Entourage’ for nerds that took place in Silicon Valley when Jeong became an overnight star thanks to The Hangover.
The show’s Pittsburgh references continue unabated in the second season, including characters chanting Let’s go, Pens! while watching TV. In the second episode of the new season, Steve’s former love interest, Melanie (Valerie Azlynn). declares, There’s nobody datable in Pittsburgh!
Byrne said the bar’s exterior that’s shown on the show is a building on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., that was dressed to look like a neighborhood bar, but he said, We had a crew go out to Pittsburgh and film a bunch of exterior shots of the city itself.
That’s one of the things I’m really proud of about our show, he continued. We didn’t make it a traditional New York-Los Angeles-Chicago kind of sitcom. I love the fact that it takes place in Pittsburgh. Working on the show makes me miss it even more.
On the day of our chat, Byrne was still recovering from an incident that delayed Sullivan production for six weeks. Three episodes had already been filmed when he was attacked by a cab driver in Los Angeles. Byrne’s jaw was broken and wired shut and he was on a liquid diet for the duration. His jaw was broken the same day Penguins star Sidney Crosby suffered the same injury in late March.
I was almost judging my own recovery timeline by his, Byrne said. He got back a week earlier than I did.
Byrne could not discuss specifics of the incident, calling it a pending legal matter.