Jetball features wild corkscrew tracks and robot referees: a perfect example of how much work goes into each detail.
When Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen came up with the idea that would eventually become “Hello Tomorrow!” the showrunners had plenty of ideas for how to build the world of Vistaville, the setting for their Apple TV+ series.
They knew they wanted Vistaville to have a sports team. In a town dripping with quaint mid-century nostalgia, where could you turn for a better foundation than baseball? But like everything else in this world of hoverboard Cadillacs and kitchens full of androids, it also had to have its own bizarre edge, specific to the world that Jack Billings (Billy Crudup) and his colleagues are traversing.
“We wrote the pilot and there’s a ballgame behind it. And we knew it wasn’t supposed to be baseball. So we did jetball, just in the background. When they wrote an episode 2 with us, we were like, “You know what was cool? Jetball. It is an organic process. We didn’t know what a jetball was, but now we’ve invented more of it, and now there’s more of it to be invented.”
From that initial idea came so many logistical decisions about how to make this fictional thing feel real.
They had to think…
…how would the ball move differently:
“Jetball is like baseball, none of us know anything about it. However, there is a ball infused with a chemical or mineral that causes light and wobble when articulated by skilled pitchers. That includes tackling and there are at least six zones,” Jansen said.
…how the field and scoring worked:
“That was something crazy and fun about this show. You can’t just say, “Oh, this is the baseball stadium where the Yankees play.” They painted over all the different lines on the track and practically did it,” Bhalla said. “You also have to think about what is the scoreboard? I remember having to draw out what the scoring is, even though it’s only in the background for a moment.”
…what broadcasts look like:
“Big thanks to our assistant director, Todd Pfeiffer, who moved the close-ups of the bats up to the sky to look like the trading cards of the day, because he had one as a kid. He also plays a manager who yells with an umpbot and gives a Hall of Fame-level performance. Everybody gets in,” Jansen said.
…how can those robot umpires be on the show (a very real thing that professional baseball has been considering for years):
“We thought it was a really funny little wink to throw in there. If they call me wrong, everyone gets mad at them. You say, Oh my God. This is right from our near future,” said Bhalla.
“One day the costume department came to us and said, ‘Well, if the referee is a robot, you’re going to need a hat.’ And they showed us a hat like this wide!” Jansen said. “It’s a joy for everybody to imagine and work at that level. It’s the kind of show that tells you, ‘Oh, no, you can’t just show up in a baseball stadium. Every single aspect of it you have to imagine and get it right.”
And that’s all before you get to the uniforms, concessions, and important conversations the main characters have while watching these games. It’s a small part of the show’s world-building outside of what all viewers can see.
“I was hoping that the whole performance would be familiar and terrifying at the same time. That’s why it’s very important for us to have a little “missing” quality. If we’re lucky enough to get Season 2, maybe we’ll get to see a little bit more of how it works and learn more about the world because there’s a lot to it,” Bhalla said. “The thing about an imaginative landscape like this is that the roots run so deep. There is much more to the iceberg.”
“Hello tomorrow!” will release new episodes every Friday through April 6 on Apple TV+.
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