When the original Llamas with Hats took off and got millions of views I decided to turn it into a five-episode series. There are popular shorts of mine that don’t really makes sense to continue (A Depressed Whale comes to mind) but the comedy duo of Carl and Paul seemed like it could be consistently funny for at least five episodes.
The plan was to escalate things more and more with the final episode being the full destruction of Earth. After episode four came out, however, everyone had the fifth episode pegged. Most of the comments predicted that the fifth episode would see Carl “blowing up the Earth.” I was embarrassed that my plan for the series was that predictable. Llamas with Hats isn’t as funny if you know exactly what Carl is going to do next.
So, episode five never happened.
Llamas with Hats could have gone on forever. Like Garfield, or the Annoying Orange. Carl would do something bad and Paul would yell at him, over and over again for as long as people would watch. I could have written it well enough to satisfy most people, but it would never have had the same magic as the original episodes. The only way for Carl to continue surprising people was for him to actually do something surprising.
A few years ago I was talking about Llamas with Hats with my partner Scuffy, who never particularly liked the series. Scuffy suggested the llamas should just “blow up.” This sparked an idea for a legitimately surprising fifth episode: Paul would die, and Carl would wander the world without meaning or purpose, and eventually drown himself in a river.
I laughed every time I considered the idea. It was certainly something no one had predicted. It would be like Garfield Minus Garfield, but if Jim Davis himself actually killed off Garfield.
As time went on, the idea evolved. I decided it should take place over a longer period of episodes instead of just one. Carl’s decline into depression and loneliness should be gradual. What happens to a character who was written as part of a comedy duo when half of that duo leaves? What meaning does that character’s existence have anymore?
Episode 5 would set up the problem: Carl’s antics can’t be shocking anymore. “I think I was expecting worse” says Paul. So did people in the comments. Carl opened up a crack in space-time to collect severed baby hands, and people were not surprised.
Episode 6 set up the solution: Paul would leave. What does Costello do if Abbott leaves? How does Costello as a character even make sense anymore?
Episodes 7-12 would depict the decline. Without Paul, Carl has to make a Paul. He tries putting a Paul mask on an animal. He tries talking to himself with the mask. Eventually he hallucinates that the mask really IS Paul.
Carl continues doing what he’s supposed to do – killing people and destroying things. But the art to his work is gone. Carl does things so that Paul will react to them – without Paul he falls apart, and so does the series. It’s less funny now. The end music gets more distorted. “You must finish your work” says the mask. The mask is Carl’s delusion. Carl no longer has meaning in the world he exists in. The work that must be finished is himself.
This is all still comedy. You might not find it funny and I’m sure a lot of people won’t. But imagine talking with a friend and they mention Llamas with Hats. They haven’t seen any of the episodes beyond the fourth. Now explain to them what happens in the series after that. “Oh yeah, Paul leaves Carl and then Carl spends every episode after that getting more and more depressed before throwing himself off a bridge.”
“Hey did you see the last season of Friends? Remember when the sun went out and they spent every episode in hopeless despair before freezing to death?”
The final episode.
Carl’s work is almost done.