Amazon Pilots Inside Story: David Javerbaum ("The Daily Show") on "Browsers," Bebe Neuwirth, Music and More
When the characters in Browsers feel something, they don’t just say it. You don’t just see it. They sing it. They even dance it. And they do it with such wit – almost like an 11-time Emmy award-winning writer for The Daily Show is putting words in their mouth.
And one is: David Javerbaum. He’s actually got a dozen Emmys, having picked up one for the song “Broadway: It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore,” which so memorably opened the 65th Tony Awards. And he’s also an author (The Last Testament: A Memoir By God; What to Expect When You’re Expected: A Fetus’ Guide to the First Three Trimesters).
Browsers, one of 14 Amazon original pilots now playing for free at Amazon Instant Video and LOVEFiLM, is about four interns at Gush, a content-aggregating website (a la The Huffington Post or The Daily Beast) founded and run by the charismatic but mysterious Julianna Mancuso-Bruni (Bebe Neuwirth). “The show pokes fun at modern workplaces, the media, and more specifically Gush — starting with its penchant for deriving most of its content by cutting and pasting material from other websites,” Javerbaum said.
We asked Javerbaum about the setting of Browsers, the terrific cast, and the challenges of mixing comedy and music.
Why this world, why these characters?
I’ve long considered The Huffington Post the quintessential cultural artifact of our time in terms of what it covers, how it covers it, and why it remains popular. It literally provides a window into the state of the world, and so I thought setting a show there — and making the entirety of its universe fair game for our show — would provide an enormous amount of material.
As for the characters, as soon as I began formulating ideas for musical television shows, I knew I wanted the leads to be young people in their 20s, because that’s the age where you have the most energy, passion, uncertainty, and all that other good interesting quirky singable stuff.
How does having music in the show adds to the experience/story?
The songs serve a different purpose here than they do in shows like Smash and Glee, not only because they are original, but because they are not “actually” happening. Rather, the songs are internal, taking place inside the character’s heads, meaning they are bound only by the laws of imagination and not by reality.
Tell me about your awesome cast, and what they brought to the show.
Bebe Neuwirth (Julianna): The consummate professional. Hilarious on take one, still hilarious on take five.
Brigitte Davidovici (Kate): A beautiful person inside and out. Instantly winning from the moment you see her. Also an excellent baby-sitter.
Dustin Ingram (Josh): Gets more comedy out of one word than most people get out of a book. (Even the Bible, which is pretty funny.)
Constance Wu (Prudence): Beautiful. Intense scene presence. Funny and smart. Extremely fun to be around.
Marque Richardson (Gabe): Brings an inherent likability to a serious, sometimes humorless character. And man, can he tap dance. (For a later episode…)
Chris Wood (Justin): The interns’ supervisor. Half-man, half-douche, all-awesome.
Writing songs is hard enough – how much does it increase the degree of difficulty to also make them funny?
Actually, writing funny songs — at least songs I think are funny — is not that difficult once you come up with a single solid comedic premise for each one. The songs are for the most part much shorter than songs in either pop music or musical theater — two minutes tops, with the one-time exception of the opening song in the pilot episode — and, like a Monty Python sketch, we’re free to stop them at any time as soon as they no longer feel funny. But the good thing about writing songs in this format is that the burden of comedy is shared by not only the song and the performer, but by the visuals and the directing, and that is where a director of Don Scardino’s skill comes in and makes a song that was good on paper look amazing on screen.
How has the Amazon experience been so far?
I would not want Browsers to be anywhere else on TV — not network, basic cable or premium cable. The amount of freedom and trust I’ve been given, the commitment of money and resources, the directness of the communication with the powers-that-be and the quality of their notes, the possibilities entailed in a show about a website being aired on one — I couldn’t ask for anything more.