“Betas” is Amazon Studios' second series premiere, coming a week after “Alpha House” and part of the new wave of original programming coming from online services like Hulu Plus and Netflix. It's about a tech start-up in the Silicon Valley and their new social networking app: a mix between Facebook and Grindr.
Joe Dinicol (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) plays the ambitious leader; Karan Soni (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) is the brains behind the operation; Ed Begley Jr. (“St. Elsewhere”) is the money; Jon Daly (“Kroll Show”) plays the seasoned — and filthy — coding veteran; Charlie Saxton (“Hung”) is his naïve young protege; and Maya Erskine is the sardonic voice of reason that grounds them. We sat down with the cast to find out what sets this show apart in an increasingly crowded media landscape.
It's no “Big Bang Theory”
That's the easy comparison, since both shows are about nerds. “What's really cool about this,” says Soni, “is that 'Big Bang Theory' is the biggest example of nerd stuff, but it's on CBS, which is the most mainstream network that exists. With a show like this, you can say swear words and do storylines and have nudity and show that side of the nerd world.”
Daly chimes in, “I'm naked through most of this.”
Get a sneak peek at Amazon's "Betas" right here:
Of course, the point isn't just that it's more vulgar than a network show; it's to have a fuller, less cartoonish vision of nerd culture. The cast spent some time walking around San Francisco's tech haunts and Dinicol recalls, “On the street, a group of people with buddies will usually gravitate [together] and there will be basically a representation of one or all of the ['Betas'] characters.”
“Identical doppelgangers!” marvels Soni, “It's so freaky!”
Amazon allows artists more freedom
For Begley, the difference between an ordinary TV studio and Amazon is clear: “Less interference for me.” There's no micromanaging, he says. “They hire the best people: the best cast, best writers, executive producers, and let them do their thing.”
Studio execs Joe Lewis, Kristin Zolner and Sarah Babineau are really involved — “Joe Lewis has worked in the tech world, and has been invaluable,” says Dinicoli — but “in terms of the content of the show, they let us and the writers do what they want to do. I've only worked very briefly in that kind of format,” and he appreciates the freedom.
But on a production level, according to Saxton, “There's no difference; it's the same as working on a major motion picture or a network television show.”
The show is about the start-up's attempts to get a mobile social network off the ground — kind of a souped-up dating app. But that's not the fictional app the cast wishes existed in the real world. “I have one, actually, that's on our show called 'Bro-rangements',” says Soni excitedly. “It's gifts for your male friends.” Dinicoli elaborates, “It's like flower arrangements made out of dude stuff: ties, duct tape, there are tools there...”
“A bouquet of Hanes socks. Genius.” says Soni. Erskine laughs, “From bro to bro!”
It's not like anything else out there
“It's really hard to pin it on another show. I really think it's its own thing,” says Dinicoli when asked what other shows it resembles. “It's got its own tone and humor and edge to it. It balances insanely funny and out-there stuff with a rooted storyline and it has a lot of heart.”
Begley thinks otherwise, though. “'The Golden Girls',” he states emphatically. “'Murder, She Wrote'!” jumps in Daly. “We're just trying to make the next 'Murder, She Wrote'.” The cast begins piling on, and suddenly “Betas” has been renamed “Murder, She Coded.”
“It's a generational thing, I suppose,” sighs Begley as the interview dissolves into giggles.
The first three episodes of "Betas" are available now on Amazon, and a new episode will premiere every Friday.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Joe Dinicol
- Ed Begley Jr.