From Zach Braff and Matt Tarses–the team that brought you Scrubs–comes a new ABC single-camera comedy Alex, Inc. Inspired by the podcast StartUp, it stars Braff in the role of radio journalist Alex Schuman, who quit his job to start his own company and podcast his way through the experience.
“This is inspired by a very true story of a man named Alex Blumberg who left This American Life, because he had this idea that no one had quite yet mastered how to monetize a podcast,” Braff explained during a TCA panel Monday.
When Blumberg realized he had no idea about business, he decided to document that experience. “He said, I’ve an idea, my very first podcast will be this meta story, I’ll tell the story of a guy with a family who has no idea how to start a business, trying to start a business,” Braff said. “He’s so fumbling and bad at it that you can’t believe it’s ever going to work, but that’s what pulls you into the story.”
With the true story as a template, Tarses said they set out adding new characters and drama, such as best friend Eddie Ramirez (Michael Imperioli) and Dierdre (Hillary Anne Matthews), who idolizes Alex. They also fleshed out the children’s characters. “StartUp the podcast is not so much about the family,” Tarses said. “I was really drawn to the family element so we went a little more in that direction.”
Tarses also defended the often-unpopular use of voice-over. “I’m a fan of voice-over,” he said. “I think there are people that aren’t, but especially in a half-hour show, it’s a really valuable tool. I also think its very organic to this show, because he’s making a podcast so he should be speaking into a mic from time to time.”
The show also stars Tiya Sircar as Alex’s wife Rooni, who brings laughs as a breadwinner mom pitching in with unfamiliar domestic tasks.”Rooni has been the one historically that’s a public defender,” Sircar said. “She’s really good at her job, so she spends a lot of time going out and doing that. Then all of a sudden when he’s taking on this new venture, things start to shift and Rooni has to learn, or relearn how to do this parenting thing, which is the source of some comedy. I like that this character is not just a mom and a wife, although those are admirable jobs in themselves, but I like that she’s also a badass public defender.”
For Imperioli in the best friend role, taking the job seemed like a natural move. “Zach told me they were writing a Michael Imperioli part, so we sent a cease and desist letter, “ he joked. “I was happy when I got this script because I thought this pilot was really smart and really funny.”