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Discontinued Interview: Brian Volk-Weiss On Ryan Reynolds & Harley-Davidson Cologne

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Screen Rant interviewed Brian Volk-Weiss, creator and director of the nostalgic docuseries Discontinued from The Nacelle Company and Maximum Effort.

SUMMARY

  •  Discontinued is a new show that explores the biggest flops and failures of recent decades, including the BlackBerry and Legends of the Hidden Temple.
  •  The show was originally conceived years ago and had a different pilot episode that was ultimately canceled. However, the show has now been revived with the help of Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort and host Bruce Campbell.
  •  Maximum Effort’s involvement in the show has elevated its quality and added a darker comedy vibe. The show aims to cover multi-generational topics and iconic products, while also highlighting some bizarre and unsuccessful ideas, such as Harley-Davidson cologne.

Discontinued is a new show from The Nacelle Company and Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort that takes a look back at some of the biggest flops, failures, and fade-aways of recent decades. The first episode covered a number of cultural landmarks from the 1990s and early 2000s including the BlackBerry, the Furby, and the Nickelodeon kids’ game show Legends of the Hidden Temple. The series also examines more recent endeavors like the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel, which was shuttered less than two years after opening.

The idea for the show came from The Nacelle Company’s Brian Volk-Weiss, who is also responsible for the hit Netflix show The Toys That Made Us and has spoken with Screen Rant about his Icons: Unearthed series. It’s not Volk-Weiss’ first attempt at making the show, either; a very different pilot episode of Discontinued aired in 2018, only for the show’s title to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This time around, Volk-Weiss’ knack for creating compelling documentary series combined with Ryan Reynolds’ charming sensibilities—and the charisma of series host Bruce Campbell—have landed Discontinued a fun and nostalgic full season.

Screen Rant interviewed Brian Volk-Weiss about bringing Discontinued to life twice, how the show’s subjects were chosen, and more. Note: this interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Brian Volk-Weiss On Discontinued

Discontinued aim

Screen Rant: I watched the first episode, but I was also looking up the show; did you make this before, in 2018?

Brian Volk-Weiss: I had this idea, I would say, at least seven or eight years ago. I sold it to the CW and it aired as a backdoor pilot, and it was the highest-rated acquired special; they billed it as a special. They aired it and it was the highest rated special of that year, but the advertisers hated the show because it was focusing on the past. We had been given a blinking green light to a huge pickup–it was a 20-episode or more pickup–and then the ad sales department basically had to kill the show. So you’re right, this was actually round two, but I will say that was an exponentially different show.

I just love the idea that Discontinued was discontinued, and now it’s back. What made you want to return to the show a few years later?

Brian Volk-Weiss: It’s so funny. I hear all the time that I’m such a great salesperson. First of all, it’s not true, but second of all, if I did do something right where I’d be like, “Yeah, I guess I kind of deserve credit for that,” it’s that I just never give up.
When I develop a show and then I’ve got to go sell it, I envision this wheel. You know those knuckles from Tinker Toys; you plug the sticks into them? Imagine one of those spinning, but instead of having round holes, it has keyholes. I always feel like, when you pitch a show, you’re trying to put a key into the hole as it’s spinning, and that’s very hard to do, especially if it’s spinning fast. So, I just basically don’t stop.
After the show was not picked up and I got the rights back, I was constantly pitching the show and constantly getting rejected. But, as with many things in my career, I had a very lucky break: I had pitched the show to an executive who worked at a company and then went to go work with Ryan Reynolds at Maximum Effort. After he got the job, he called me and was like, “Hey, man, you pitched this show years ago that I love. Are the rights still available?” Of course I said yes, then we did a deal and made the show.

With Maximum Effort, did Ryan Reynolds have specific opinions about the show, or things he wanted to touch on?

Brian Volk-Weiss: Oh, yeah. Like I said, the whole show changed. If you watch the original and you watch this one, you’ll see the premise is the same, the spinal column of the show is the same, but everything else is different. I would say, conservatively, us working with Maximum Effort raised the quality of the show two letter grades.

What Maximum Effort did was it brought in Ryan’s voice and Ryan’s tone. He has this darker comedy vibe, and we are more of a bubbly, lighter comedy vibe, typically. By combining that which we do with one another… you should have seen these notes. I have never received better notes. Most of the time when we get notes, it’s like, “Make it funnier,” and you’re like, “Can you be more specific?”

The notes we got from Maximum Effort were like, “Hey, love that joke, but what about this?” I appreciate that they were always very polite about it, but their opinions and their suggestions and their alt lines were always better than what we came up with. So, it really was this phenomenal collaboration. Their notes were great and it made the show what it is: this blend of edge with, hopefully, a lot of laughs and knowledge.

I’ve seen the first episode, and I love the things that were chosen for it. I have really fond memories of Legends of the Hidden Temple. I have good Furby stories from friends. How did you choose what to focus on, and which generation to speak to?

Brian Volk-Weiss: A lot of what we learned starting all the way back with Toys That Made Us is what we used here to pick the subjects. It’s not as apples to apples, because one of the interesting things about Discontinued is that it’s a different length of time for everything. Some things are discontinued after a week; some things are discontinued after 20 years. We really had to figure out a way to do what we do as a company with pop culture, but at the same time find a way to do it that worked for the show.

For example, starting with Toys That Made Us, we always try to do multi-generational topics. When I was five years old, I played with Bumblebee and Optimus Prime; my five-year-old in 2023 is also playing with Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. So, if you look at a lot of the things we talked about, they’re multi-generational topics. That’s number one.

Number two—and again, this goes back to Toys and Movies That Made Us, Behind The Attraction, Icons: Unearthed, and all the shows we do—we want everything we’re covering to be some degree of iconic. My oldest kid is nine, she wasn’t alive when BlackBerry was at their primacy, but she knows what a BlackBerry is. With BlackBerry, the question then becomes, “Well, how did you blow a 15-year lead to Apple?”

The opposite of that is, like, Talkboy. My daughter, my kids, and most people maybe have heard of Talkboy because of Home Alone 2, and everybody loves that movie even in 2023, but how many have held it? How many have used it? And then every now and then, like with Hidden Temple, we break the rule about iconic, and we really try and make it something special that just was like, “This was just so crazy we had to cover it.”

Did you have an item on the show that was particularly close to your heart, or that you miss?

Brian Volk-Weiss: There are a lot of things that I miss; that’s easy. Almost everything in the show. But I’ll tell you my favorite thing.

I’m so glad you did a little research and knew about the 2018 CW version, because when that was over, I saved the New Coke can. We had an unopened New Coke can, and I saved it as a memento of making that show. I save at least one memento from everything we do, so in this version of Discontinued, it’s the exact same can.

In case you were wondering, “Well, did you take anything from the new version?” Yes, and I’m looking at it right now; it’s sitting right next to my New Coke can. I took the Harley-Davidson cologne.

What does that smell like?

Brian Volk-Weiss: It’s really f***ing bad. And I don’t think it’s because it’s old; I think [it’s] because it was a really, really, really, really stupid idea. Harley-Davidson makes great motorcycles. Anybody who wants a motorcycle, go get a Harley. But, if you want to wear cologne—they also made perfume—I do not believe the Harley-Davidson corporation should be your supplier.

Even Yamaha’s not trying to do cologne. That’s wild.

Brian Volk-Weiss: It really was wild. And that’s a big part of this show and why I think it’s very different from other things that we’ve done. We never try to punch down, typically, but [with] this show, sometimes you just can’t help it. What we also tried to show was… do you have any idea how many people are involved with greenlighting a motorcycle company to produce a cologne? There’s a lot of people involved with that. It’s always amazing to me how many people are sometimes involved with a horrible idea. For the most part we don’t punch down, but every now and then, when it comes to Harley Davidson cologne, it is what it is, guys.

About Discontinued

Discontinued with bruce campbell

Discontinued is a funny and informative look at the world’s most famous — and sometimes infamous — discontinued foods, toys, customs and businesses.

Check out our interview with Discontinued host Bruce Campbell.

Discontinued premiered on Maximum Effort Channel on Fubo on Thursday, November 30th at 8:00PM ET. Starting December 6th, episodes will move to Wednesdays at 9:00PM ET. It will also be available to watch on Fubo as well as Amazon Freevee, LG Channels, Plex, Sling Freestream, Tubi, VIDAA, VIZIO Watchfree+ and Xumo Play.