Colin Tickler and his sister, Summer Tickler-Hoogerhyde, are what you might call damaged people. Played by David Hunt and Eve Gordon, they are the struggling siblings at the quirky heart of “Versailles,” an Internet comedy series premiering Monday at mydamnchannel.com.
Who did all the damage? Suspect No. 1 is their deceased mother, television star and B movie actress Evelyn Anders. And who plays the chain-smoking, whiskey-swilling Evelyn? Behind that cigarette and under all that teased hair is Bay Village native Patricia Heaton, star of ABC’s “The Middle.”
“She’s a complete blast to play,” Heaton said during a phone interview. “The hardest part is the two hours I spend getting my hair teased that high to play Evelyn.”
“Versailles” is a partnership between the website and FourBoys Films, the production company started in 2001 by Heaton and her husband, Hunt. They have four sons, hence the name.
Created and directed by Hunt and writing partner Rodney Vaccaro, the eight-part web series charts Colin and Susan’s attempt to become local celebrities as hosts of “You’re In Sports,” a public-access talk show. Broadcast from the basement of a small-town Ohio library, their program is financed by Summer’s devoted husband, Hoyt Hoogerhyde (Shaker Heights native Fred Willard).
While desperately trying to live out this modest fantasy, Colin and Summer also are trying to escape the legacy of their late mother (seen only in clips and outtakes from a 1979 documentary).
“It started with one comedy character and it just grew and grew,” said Hunt, a British-born actor, director and writer. “Rodney and I kept developing this world, and it became an ongoing experiment.”
They got their title when Hunt realized there was a western Ohio town named Versailles pronounced ver-SALES.
“I saw it on a map, and it just tickled me that there was this small Ohio town sharing the name of a famous French palace,” Hunt said.
Eve Gordon and David Hunt play the damaged children of B-movie actress Evelyn Anders, played by Patricia Heaton.
Still, it’s not the spirit of France but the long shadow of Evelyn that hangs over “Versailles” and the lives of Colin and Summer.
“But as David developed this with Rodney, Evelyn was talked about but not seen,” said Heaton, a two-time Emmy winner for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “Then they thought it would be funny if they discovered this old footage of her, so we were tossing names around. Who can we get to do it? It really was going down to the wire.”
They finally realized they could get Heaton to do it. And they got William H. Macy to appear as an actor recounting his early experiences as Evelyn’s student.
“Rodney can write some truly creepy, dark stuff, but it still has a lot of heart,” Heaton said. “You’ve got to love the whole Wild West feeling of the Web right now. It’s sort of like guerilla filmmaking, and we’re just having fun, trying things that, really, mainstream media wouldn’t let you do. I think that’s why you’re seeing so many people who have high-profile careers experimenting with webshows. You get to be creative and have fun.”
Hunt agrees: “The two key words are creative freedom. At least for now, there’s no bureaucracy overseeing what you’re trying to do. It gives you the freedom to discover. It must be a lot like the early days of television, before people knew what the rules were.”
Having fun is the easy part. The challenge is to get noticed in the noisy Internet world.
“How do you rise above this sea of content out there?” Hunt said. “I think you give yourself a better chance by pursuing the same level of quality and talent you would for a movie, television series or play. You do that and then you hope somebody will find it and watch.”