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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Browsers

Article original published as Amazon Originals Browsers Review on TheTVKing.

The last Amazon pilot on my review list is Browsers. Set in the offices of what appears to be a sort of Huffington Post-style website called Gush, Browsers finds four young interns joining the staff, full of spirit and passion and song. Yep, it's a musical.

Browsers may be compared to Glee or Smash, the other two musicals on the air, but it shouldn't be. The songs, all originals from what I could tell, do not at all compare to the level of quality on those other shows. The singers are talented enough, but the melodies feel like the lesser numbers from a Broadway show, and the staging is a bit cheesy.

However, I do think cheesy is what Browsers is going for. The emotions displayed by the various players are relatively surface, designed to tug a heart string, but not provide any real insight. The premise itself is played in a hokey way, with the head of the company having much direct interaction with the lowly interns. The office design is cartoonish, and there are fantasy sequences, including one character talking to an angel version of herself.

The cast, mostly unknown, are entertaining enough, even if they seem purposely and carefully crafted to offer us a diverse spread. There's Kate (Brigette Davidovici, Bathroomies), the fresh-faced crusader, Josh (Dustin Ingram, Unfabulous), the music-loving tool, Prudence (Constance Wu, Eastsiders), the drug-taking Asian computer genius, and Gabriel (Marque Richardson, True Blood), the liberal who can't keep his mouth shut to save himself. Unfortunately, they all come across sort of similar and bland, despite the efforts made to make them distinct.

These four are beholden to Julianna Mancuso-Bruni (Bebe Neuwirth, Cheers), the Ariana-type, sporting a very strange accent. She runs the company with an iron fist, creating an air that she's "not to f***with," as she literally sings, sans censoring beeps. Yet, she shows her heart when Kate pleads with her to reverse the decision to fire Gabriel, which she does. She tries to be tricky, but is just as predictable as the other characters.

Though I get the reference the creators are trying to invoke by giving Neuwirth that thick accent, I don't care for it. I think it overshadows what she is trying to do, and Neuwirth is a very talented, accomplished actress. Why not play more to her strengths, especially on a show with so much singing, as she has done well on Broadway, instead of making her such a caricature?

The link between Julianna and the interns is one of Julianna's many assistants, Justin (Chris Wood). It's odd how that, in an office full of people, and being told that Julianna has six assistants, only Justin, Julianna, and the four newbies get any development. But I guess that's a conceit many shows make.

I enjoy Browsers because I do like a good musical, and this is nothing if not standard musical fare, but it's not particularly layered or original. I wish there was a little something more here to sink my teeth into. I enjoyed a couple of bits, such as Amy Winslow (Andrea Bendewald, Suddenly Susan), a clear play on Ann Coulter. Should the series be picked up, I would encourage more social and political commentary. The characters just aren't that interesting by themselves, at least not as they are presented in the "Pilot."

I do wonder if some of the flat elements are on purpose. These young people embody a generation that flits from here to there, rarely keeping attention on one thing for long. This manner is present in the tone of the show. In fact, given the lack of depth, viewers may be inclined just to 'browse' Browsers, making the title quite appropriate.

The Browsers "Pilot" is available now on Amazon.com.

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