The Irrational showrunner Arika Mittman talks developing the series from a non-fiction book

The Irrational Season 1 comes to an end tonight. The series is based on a non-fictional books, and Arika Mittman talks about developing that while bringing characters for everyone to relate to.
THE IRRATIONAL -- "Dead Woman Walking" Episode 102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jessie L. Martin as Alec, Travina Springer as Kylie -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)
THE IRRATIONAL -- "Dead Woman Walking" Episode 102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jessie L. Martin as Alec, Travina Springer as Kylie -- (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC) /

The Irrational is based on a non-fiction book. It’s based on Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. If you haven’t read it, it’s more than worth it.

Of course, adapting a non-fiction book is very different to adapting a fictional story. Arika Lisanne Mittman talks about the development of the series, including whether the story comes first or the irrational behavior is the basis for the episode.

We also discussed bringing characters for everyone, the use of smell to unlock memories, and more.

Arika Lisanne Mittman talks developing the book

Precinct TV: It’s unusual for a TV show to be based on a non-fiction book. How did choosing this book come about?

Arika Lisanne Mittman: My fellow executive producers on this project, Mark Goffman and Sam Baum, were interested in doing this project based on and inspired by Dan Ariely and his work. Mark is friends with Dan and has known him for many years, and it was Mark who brought it to my attention and asked if I knew anything about Dan Ariely.

At the time, I hadn’t. So, Mark said I had to watch his TED Talk and take a look at his book. And, of course, the minute I started going down that rabbit hole you can’t come out of it. It was such an interesting world. When I ready the book, I just felt like there’s something there if we could take the traditional idea of soving cases but frame it from the point of view of a professor of behavioral economics, from a psychological point of view.

PTV: Which comes first: the behavior or the episode storyline?

ALM: This depends on our episodes.What I really enjoy about The Irrational s that every episode is a little different. We try not to have too much of a formular. We try not to do the same thing each week. We don’t limit ourselves to always having to start in one place.

Som e of the peisodes come from an interesting behavioral economic theory that we want to play with. Ohers come from just a psychologically interesting story we’ve heard. And sometimes, they comes from what we call the irrational questions, such as why would someone confess to a crime he didn’t commit?

PTV: I’ve always said the sense of smell is one of the strongest to unlock memories, and you used that for Alec early on. Why did you decide to use that theory of unlocking memories?

ALM: We have this character who is searching for his past, and he is going to try to go about that in a different way than somebody who is more of a traditional detective. He knows that scent can bring back memories, and so he’s going to try everything.

Dan is a consultant on the show, and we can often ask him things like what’s a good way to unlock memories that might be elusive to us.

The Irrational has characters for all who are always learning

PTV: Alec is also always learning. I love NCIS and House and other shows where the main character knows his thing, is a certain way, but he’s not going to change. Yet, I also love seeing main characters willing to change. Alec does that. Was that a conscious decision?

ALM: Yes, we always say about Alec that he is a constant observer of human nature, but he doesn’t separate himself as being better than people because he has this information. He’s able to identify things more quickly because he has thie knowledge.

He’s always talking about what “humans” do. He always says “we” and not “people.” He doesn’t separate himself from it. He is just as subject to all the flaws of human nature as anybody else.

PTV: There are so many characters for people to relate to. I personally relate a lot to Marisa with the divorce storyline and finding love again, but then there’s Kylie and others. Did you consciously create these characters so there’s someone for everyone?

ALM: I think we wanted each character to have their own strengths and weaknesses and their own specialities and superpowers. Just by doing that, hopefully, there’s going to be something for everyone.

A lot of people relate to Kylie because she’s the polar opposite of Alec in so many ways. Alec is always one step ahead of everything and well organized. Kylie just throws caution to the wind as she does what she feels like. And Marisa, as you said.Then we have who we often call the kids, Phoebe and Rizwan, to balance it out as well.

PTV: What were the conversations like getting the extra episodes. Why only one and not an extra two or three?

ALM: That was the inner workings at NBC. They actually gave us three more scripts to write because they were confident in the show, but it was a matter of scheduling with the strike and how many slots were open. So, two of those scripts are becoming The Irrational Season 2 episodes and one became a Season 1 episodes.

PTV: Finally, can you tease anything about what’s to come as we see the church bombing storyline wrap?

ALM: I think that the viewers will be satisfied with the answers they get at the end of the season.

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The Irrational Season 1 finale airs tonight, Monday, Feb. 19, at 10/9c on NBC. Stream the series on Peacock.