Alumnus Sam Richardson is always looking for opportunities to say nice things about Detroit. So he decided to make a TV show about it.
The show is Detroiters, a sitcom about minor league ad men Sam Duvet and Tim Cramblin, whose goofy friendship thwarts their career success. Sam and Tim, played by Richardson and cocreator Tim Robinson, aspire to big advertising accounts but inevitably wind up producing low-budget TV spots for local mattress retailers and hot tub salesmen. Regardless of their success — or lack of it — every scene of Detroiters includes its namesake city.
“When we pitched it, we were like, ‘It takes place in Detroit. We want to shoot it in Detroit.’ The whole time it was, ‘It needs to be in Detroit,’” Richardson told the Detroit Free Press in 2016. Comedy Central agreed, and the show uses Detroit locations such as Temple Bar, the S. S. Kresge World Headquarters Building and the Woodbridge neighborhood for filming, while Richardson and Robinson make sure to cast local actors.
Born and raised in Detroit, Richardson performed improv comedy at The Second City Detroit and Hamtramck’s Planet Ant while studying theatre at Wayne State. Joe Kvoriak, former director of promotion and outreach for the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, noticed Richardson’s talent immediately.
“Sam always had a very strong presence onstage. He kind of radiated, I think,” Kvoriak told the Free Press.
After honing their skills in Detroit, Richardson and Robinson went on to the original Second City in Chicago. It was there that the idea for Detroiters began to develop.
Richardson says the show offers an honest look at the people of the region, actively working against stereotypes of the city as “full of parolees and cons walking the streets looking to steal stuff,” he told Vice last February. Instead, Richardson knows metro Detroit is home to “sweet, kind, Midwestern people,” and makes sure this comes through in the show.
Viewers and critics agree that the charm of Detroiters comes from the way it plays off Detroit culture. Threaded through the episodes are parodies of vintage Dittrich Furs and D.O.C. Sexy Specs commercials, friendly Red Wings fans venturing into the city for games and the Woodward Dream Cruise. There also have been recurring cameos from local TV anchor Mort Crim.
In addition to Detroiters, Richardson appears as Richard Splett in HBO’s critically acclaimed political comedy Veep. For his acting success and entrepreneurial drive, Richardson received an Arts Achievement Award from the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts in 2016.
Comedy Central renewed Detroiters for a second season after its early 2017 debut received strong ratings and positive reviews. The second season premiered in early 2018.