The Apple TV+ series "is an eerie, prestige-y update to what my basic cultural literacy understands to be a well-established dark office satire formula—that is, framing modern office work as a kind of imprisonment within a windowless, dehumanizing box in which blatantly meaningless tasks are performed for the merciless satisfaction of a blonde, power-hungry corporate ice queen," says Alexis Gunderson. "But it also owes something to one of its more ambitious (and equally bleak) forebears: ABC’s cult-favorite 'horrible corporate' sitcom, Better Off Ted," which aired for two seasons from 2009 to 2010. Gunderson adds: '"Created by Victor Fresco and starring Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi, Andrea Anders, Jonathan Slavin, Malcolm Barrett, and Isabella Acres, Better Off Ted focused on the same question Severance has made so central to its identity ('who are we when we’re at work, and does that person even count as a person?') but ran it through the quirky single camera sitcom lens. Full of bright colors, an irritatingly catchy jingle-adjacent soundtrack, and the kind of hammy performances you find more often in theatrical productions than on network comedies, Better Off Ted made the existential horror of losing yourself inside a soulless corporate behemoth, well, fun."
Severance is eerie, unsettling and weirdly comforting all at once: "Severance works methodically and deliberately, but always from the heart," says David Canfield. We follow a small batch of employees in the macro-data refinement (MDR) division of megacorporation Lumon Industries. They sit at their desks all day, mindlessly dump numbers into computer folders, and talk about nothing but work. The twist, as it were, is how literally this familiar office-space concept is realized: These employees have undergone a surgical procedure called 'severance,' in which personal memories are quite literally severed from the office. The moment they step into that Lumon elevator, they have no idea who they are outside of it. And come five o’clock, the reverse is equally, chillingly true. The show’s otherworldly, Kaufmanesque aesthetic, from Jeremy Hindle’s corporately brutal production design to Theodore Shapiro’s eerie score, belies a great humanity. From the moment Helly (Britt Lower), the 'new girl' to severance, is confronted with her new reality—existence, really—the program is interrogated within and without Lumon’s halls, its participants coming to patchy but palpable life. The show’s unsettling genius rests in the constant reminders that these people are being tortured—and that they’re damn good company. The rest of us can surely relate."
Patricia Arquette on how filming Severance could drive her "insane": "The layers that went into this world, I can't even really explain to you," she says. "You'd open a cupboard (on the set) and it would be Lumon, Lumon, Lumon. The women, we'd all have to wear certain undergarments, like girdles and pantyhose, old-fashioned things that were part of the corporate structure. It was all these tiny little layers, which were really interesting and strange to live in. And we would get lost on the set all the time. They were always changing doorway openings, adding walls, and taking walls out. We'd be in there like a rat in a maze, like, 'I'm on set, I can't find you guys!' It was also super weird to work on it because it was during COVID, and we kept getting locked down. It was like (filming in) the Lumon suppressed world, and then going home, and being all alone in a suppressed world. And it was just never-ending. It kind of drove me insane."
How Adam Scott developed his “innie” and “outie” versions of his character: "For outie Mark, it was important to have certain facts straight as far as his relationship with his wife and his relationship with his sister and Ricken," he says. "Did the death of my wife change that dynamic? There’s a certain fragility between those three people. On the page, I felt like there was unfinished business there. As far as innie Mark goes, what you see is what you get. Other than the Petey of it all, the backstory’s pretty limited. He’s been doing this exact thing for a couple years."