Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The MVPs Behind "Crashletes": A Conversation With Creator Rob Dyrdek And Host Rob Gronkowski

By: Marjorie Galas

Rob Gronkowski is giggling like a schoolboy.  Actress and self-proclaimed yogi Stevie Nelson has hesitantly agreed to help number 87, or the New England Patriots tight end football player more commonly known as Gronk, in a round of “downward dog bowling.”  Getting into the pose’s inverted “V” formation, Nelson tucks her head in tightly.  Gronk releases a plastic ball down her back that bounces off her neck and perfectly rolls into a strike.  Everyone cheers and the lights go dim on another successful episode of “Crashletes”, Nickelodeon’s latest live action series, premiering on NickToons Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

“Crashletes” is the brain child of creator Rob Dyrdek and executive producer Shane Nickerson.  Dyrdek entered the world of series creation via his MTV breakout hit “Rob & Big” – a three-season long reality series that revolved around the pro skateboarder’s life in the Hollywood Hills.  Initially serving as talent, Dyrdek became a multi-hyphenate upon discovering his skill for writing and producing episodes.  Eager to flex his creative muscles, his follow up was the Nick skateboarding cartoon “Wild Grinders.”  Dyrdek then began experimenting with curated clip shows, a la “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”  Working with Nickerson, they perfected the format on MTV’s long running “Ridiculousness.”  Understanding the power viral content holds, Dyrdek began pitching a curated “stunts gone wrong” clip show to Nickelodeon.  Mindful of the differences between the MTV and Nick audiences, Dyrdek focused on weaving sports blooper clips featuring people, animals and pros with improved banter from host Gronk and co-hosts Nelson and Brandon Broady.  The blend of sourced clips and the hosts’ off-the-cuff reactions provides “Crashletes” an authenticity Dyrdek felt today’s youth market craves.

“We’re in the school of thought that today’s younger kids are so much more mature and sophisticated and sniff out in-authenticity.  They know when something is contrived,” said Drydek.  “We’re mindful of the content we chose and the way it is edited together.  It’s fun and light.  Nothing will ever be mean spirited, it’s more about sitting down, getting lost and laughing whether you’re ten years old or fifty years old.”

Developed through Dyrdek and Nickerson’s joint venture SuperJacket, a production company that specializes in creating “fresh takes on proven formats” and maintains a vast library of curated clips where source material is culled from - the concept came together fluidly. After Nickerson suggested the name “Crashletes” the duo knew they had landed on their concept.

“When Shane came up with the name ‘Crashletes’ it felt like a brand,” said Dyrdek.

With their branding concept in mind, their next step was to develop the look of the set.  The “Crashletes” logo: white and gold letters behind a giant blue foam finger, appears on a paint-splattered bull’s eye flooring.  Surrounded by three open, sports-themed sets, this center piece can be removed to set up activities that riff off clips' content.  Throughout the set, vibrant lighting in red and blue tones help create a stadium-quality atmosphere.  While the design  originated with the producers, they credit their production team in bringing the show’s aesthetics to life.

“It’s so strong, seamless and great because we have such an experienced team,” said Dyrdek.  “Set designers, camera operators, clip producers, story editors: they operate in a deep level of high quality.”

With the meat of the show in place, finding the proper host was the secret sauce that give “Crashletes” its full flavor. While contemplating a series of teen hosts, Drydek recognized a pro-athlete who had a charasmatic personality and a youthful spirit would hit his desired tone.  Gronk immediately came to mind. While he felt nailing the pro baller for the gig was a longshot, he reached out to Gronk's management team: the Gronkowski family.

“The Gronks are like a giant Gronk brain all working together; they're so good.  It was a fun conversation, just seeing how they work,” said Drydek.  “That he was excited to do it and he jumped on board was pretty amazing.”

Every curated piece has a written intro that’s prescribed for Broady, Nelson or Gronk and gives the trio guidance through the spot.  However, to maintain authenticity, the spontaneous comments and reactions to the clip are the focus.  As a child, Gronk dreamed of being a pro athlete.  Becoming an improvising host was never in his radar.  Always eager to try something new, Gronk recognized hosting “Crashletes” would allow him to flex his mental ability and share a different side of his personality people rarely get to see.  He quickly learned to save his energy between takes to remain “on.”

“Sometimes you really don’t know what clips are going to come up next, or what you will see in the clip, so you just gotta be aware at all times,” said Gronk.

Adding to the challenge of remaining quick-witted for the fledgling improviser was an extremely accelerated schedule.  Due to the pro athlete’s training and physical commitments, the crew taped three episodes a day for ten consecutive days, with a typical day lasting ten hours.  While Gronk previously dabbled in some short form video production including music videos and commercials, the demands of hosting an episode were greater than expected, never mind three back to back.

“In football you go out on the field for a few hours of physicality and a workout on your body.  This has been ten hours of mental toughness, which I feel is good for me,” said Gronk.  “Doing the episodes back to back and having to think and come up with jokes right on the spot has been pretty insane.  But it is a lot of fun, especially with Stevie and Brandon.  They’re great to work with and it’s been a blast.”

Drydek commends his cast and crew for managing the challenging schedule, admitting he’d only do up to two episodes a day himself, and would want to shoot every other day. Despite a periodic case of fatigue, Gronk's loved the experience and admits he'd do it again if he found the right project.  He's particularly enjoyed being part of something that's fun, good-natured and suitable for all ages..

“We show people that you can fail, make a little funny joke about it, don’t take it too seriously, and get back up and try it again,” said Gronk.  “I mean, some clips show them getting right back up and doing it again!”

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