The two men on the tennis court look exhausted, hitting the ball weakly over the net; one of them, the guy with the glorious mane of Andre Agassi hair, barely has enough energy to throw his racquet and yell obscenities at the judges. (His opponent, a young prodigy from the United Kingdom, merely slumps there with the same dimwitted expression on his face as he always does — think Andy Murray if he’d been dropped on his head as a baby.) For Aaron Williams, the former bad boy with the long flowing locks, this is his last chance for a comeback and a Wimbledon win. But as this legend nears the end of a week-long marathon of pain — what John McEnroe, Chris Evert and Serena Williams claim was the greatest grudge match the sport had ever seen — the only thing that awaits is tragedy. “Well, it would be tragic if he was a football player or a basketball player,” veteran sportscaster Jim Lampley says to the camera. “But he was a tennis player. Who cares?”
It’s tempting to think that some viewers might accidentally tune in to 7 Days in Hell and think they’ve stumbled on to a genuine HBO sports doc, only to realize that they’re watching a hilarious, raunchy goof. In fact, nothing would make co-executive producer, star and self-proclaimed tennis superfan Andy Samberg happier; he and his collaborators went through great pains to make this mockumentary look as much like the real thing as possible, all the better to shock with ridiculous scenes involving snorting coke off of Wimbledon court lines and bisexual streaker threeways. (Don’t even ask about the scrotum shorts.) The longer you watch Samberg’s well-coiffed superstar and his opponent (played by Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington) volley champion-athlete clichés back and forth with straight faces, the funnier this parody gets.
Calling in from Los Angeles where he’s overseeing postproduction on the Lonely Island movie, Samberg filled us in on the inspiration for his pet project, why this sports comedy is an extension of the digital shorts he created on SNL and what it’s like to have group sex in front of 200 unsuspecting audience members.
So this idea goes back to your childhood?
[Screenwriter] Murray Miller and I have been buddies since we were kids at summer camp…we were talking about doing something kind of like this back then. Then after the Inser-Mahut match at Wimbledon in 2010, which lasted three days, it was: “Hey, remember that idea we had?” The original thought was to write it as a movie, but then Murray got a deal at HBO — he’s a writer on Girls — and I said, “So what if we did this as a mock HBO Sports doc or a type of 30 for 30 thing?” I’m a huge fan of those things — this was actually inspired a lot by Fire and Ice, the doc on McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.