By David Lillard
Some of the most memorable television comedies are rooted in workplace antics. In shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, the mundane becomes surreal; the quirky becomes absurd. Enter TEETH, a new WebTV sit-com created by Berryville’s Ben Hartland. It features a zany cast of characters played by local actors that inhabit the world of a dentist office. Many of the show’s stories emerge from two local dental offices where Hartland works as a nurse anesthetist. Others come from the cast who are amateur actors, but real-life dental professionals.
TEETH centers around a suburban-raised nurse anesthetist who moves his family to his in-laws’ farm and finds employment at a wacky dental office. He must find a balance between his ineptitude at farm life and a dental office with eccentric patients and quirky staff. Anesthesia isn’t the only element draws from his own life: He and his wife and kids do, indeed, live on the family farm just
They grew from the entertaining stories Hartland would tell friends, stories accumulated from the office. Finally one friend suggested he turn the fodder into a show. Having never written a TV show — or watched a lot of it — he thought, why not? So he wrote an episode. “My friend suggested I write a pilot,” Hartland said. “And I said, what’s a pilot?” Yes, he was new
If it sounds a bit like learning to sail while building a boat, that’s just the beginning. The making of the show could one day be a show in itself.
To Hartland’s delight, the pilot got some notice. TEETH one of three winners in 2023 Scriptapalooza TV Contest, earned a top 10 percent ranking on Coverfly, and reached the semifinals of ScreenCraft
Still, he says, only half joking, “Writing was the easy part.” After he wrote six full episodes, friends suggested filming them. Once again, having never produced a show before, Hartland thought, “Why not?”
Production meetings started in January, and by May they were ready to go. They would shoot two episodes. Everyone was volunteering their time: actors, editor/cinematographers, producers, and even, eventually, Broadway and national touring actor Michael McCoy. All of them were fitting this in around day jobs as dentists, nurses, and
“We learned a lot,” Hartland says. They started editing — not final editing, just rough cuts to turn over to a pro. “I realized it was too much,” he said. Too much that wasn’t what he wanted it to be.
Despite the great excitement and dedication, Hartland and his creative got an answer to the “why not” question. Because you do the pilot first! That’s how you figure out the characters, the holes in the story line, the production issues. It’s what business developers call proof of concept.
So he made a tough decision. “Let’s stop and re-do. Let’s combine Episode One and Two into a new pilot.”
He also learned about the amount of time it takes to write, direct, act, cast, and then edit. “I have a two kids and a farm!” he said, without mentioning a day job.
Twenty actors were involved in filming the new pilot. Now that it’s in the can, it’s in post-production (editing, styling, adding the music, etc.), with a launch planned for October.
You can be one of the first to watch the pilot, plus you can meet all the actors and crew, by visiting www.teethtvshow.com. Read about the people. Sign up for email notifications. Consider pitching in a few bucks to support a local