‘Bigger Boss?’ Is The Newest Addition To Your Sunday Night TV Schedule

You’ve surely seen the bright yellow posts on Instagram and have wondered what exactly is Bigger Boss?. Well, it’s the newest show on the Jamaican TV block which will premiere exclusively on TVJ this Sunday, Feb. 13 at 9:00 PM.

Bigger Boss?, sponsored by KFC, Jamaica National Group, Sandals Resorts and Courts Jamaica Limited, was inspired by a conversation between a general manager of a local hotel and the hilarious plights that its staff and the hotel industry as a whole have to navigate.

There’s a diverse team of talent that works on the show, including Ity Ellis and Alton Hardware, and as well as budding talent, Gemmar McFarlane, a 23 year old entrepreneur, filmmaker and musician who is one of the show’s writers.

McFarlane is a past student of Ardenne High School and the University of Technology but departed before graduating. He now runs his own production company, Gemagination Studios, but is a multitalented artist who also creates music under the moniker "Inkhosi".

We spoke with McFarlane to speak all tings Bigger Boss? and to get a look ahead of the show before the premiere on Sunday.

BASHY Magazine: Where did your interest with screen writing begin?

Gemmar McFarlane: My interest in screenwriting came indirectly out of necessity. I really just wanted to be able to make my dreams come to life through film and TV and to do that you need a script. I'm the type of film director you'd call an auteur, so I like to have a lot of influence and creative control on my content and the script dictates what you direct, so I learned screenwriting out of that necessity. I’m mostly self-taught and have had some mentorship, but realized I was good at it and fell in love with it.

What was the process like writing a show about one of the biggest industries in Jamaica?

At first I was like, ‘oh man we're limited to a hotel with our ideas? This might be a challenge.’ But then when I got the juices flowing, I realized just how much of a bottomless pit of possibilities a sitcom at a hotel could have when I met up with the other writers and Ity at our hilarious brainstorming sessions. It is indeed a huge industry with so many aspects, especially considering we're going from the perspectives of the workers there and their daily adventures.

What can people expect from the first episode and from the series overall?

Well, without revealing too much, the first episode introduces you to the fictional 'Suite Jamaica Resort' and the unique personalities of the diverse characters and their motivations. It's an orientation for both the new staff arriving at the hotel and the audience who are entering this world. We get that crucial situational set up and catapult you into this new world where anything ridiculous can and does happen.

Overall though, you can expect to see a lot of natural and authentic gags, and even if you don't laugh, you'll be really interested and compelled by the stories. Good, clean watch for the whole family, there's something in it for everyone. There's an eclectic mix of talent, lots of local celebrity cameos, I even act in a couple episodes as a minor recurring character which was trippy having to deliver my own lines and execute my crazy situations. I got a taste of what the actors feel, as I'm known for pushing the envelope and challenging people with my scripts.

How did you choose the cast members?

The casting process was deliberate and private yet inclusive in that the actors were cherrypicked from different facets of the arts and entertainment industry: Ity and Fancy Cat are standup/sketch comedians, Camille Davis is from theatre, Zosia McGregor is from Edna’s drama school and is also a singer and Rushane Campbell is a social media mogul/online content creator. It was purposefully casted this way to have a very inclusive, diverse pool of talent.

What was it like creating a series that was modernized and authentically Jamaican?

It was a breath of fresh air and super exciting helping to create a modern and international yet authentic, Jamaican show. Three of the writers, myself included, are millennial 20-somethings and two are older, so what we have is a lot of fresh spunk, a very current, very in tune with the zeitgeist vibrancy and feel gusto which is nicely balanced out and guided by experienced and wisdom.

Bigger Boss? is being lauded as the "first ever local sitcom". What were some challenges in venturing out into unexplored territory?

First we must recognize the solid foundation that has been set by groundbreaking local television comedies like Oliver at Large, Titus in Town, Claffy and Lime Tree Lane which are considered the godfathers of our new show, but in terms of the traditional, internationally-recognized format, story structure and execution of what a "sitcom" actually is, this is indeed technically Jamaica's first such international TV sitcom project.

There is a a standard code embedded in the DNA of all international sitcoms starting with the way in which the stories/scripts are written which you then take and creatively colour within those lines. It's a very challenging art that we had to quickly research, learn and master. We were used to writing short two to five page skits for the Ity and Fancy Cat show so when we had to write minimum 25 pages for each episode following the sitcom writing style, it was quite the culture shock and took a considerable amount of mental energy and creative effort to complete.

It's like going from running the 100m dash to 400 or 800 meters, but I loved every challenging second of it. Then, of course, it's painful when you get on set and the realities of production kick in, so the director then has to take it and butcher it where necessary but it's all a part of the game. RIP to all my golden scenes and dialogue that didn't make it.

What impressions are you hoping this show has on Jamaica's television landscape?

I'm really hoping it re-invigorates and ignites the taste for Jamaican TV content that we've kind of lost. People from my generation don't even watch TV anymore, to be honest, so I'm hoping that we raise the bar, raise the standard/expectations and spark interest once again in our local content so that it inspires our people and gives them an internationally boastful product that they can be proud of. We want to show them that the revolution in Jamaican film and TV is here and we are upping the ante and catching up to Hollywood, closing that gap Usain Bolt-style.

Can you say that there will be a season two on the horizon?

You'll just have to wait and see! But of course that's our intention. It was never supposed to just be a one shot rifle and if all things go according to plan, we may very well have season two right around the corner.

Is the show viewable to persons abroad?

So the show will be exclusively on TVJ for now. We'll also be having a whole behind-the-scenes show that'll be available online where you get to see bloopers, set life and other great content that won't be on TV.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.