Amazon Pilots Inside Story: John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman (Dark Minions)

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John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman are part of one of the most famous nerd ensembles in entertainment history – the cast of the hit series Big Bang Theory (Bowie plays Sheldon’s rival Kripke, and Sussman is comic shop owner Stuart). But they’re not faking their love of sci-fi and superheroes. It’s who they are, and their influences run deeply through Dark Minions, the show they’ve created for Amazon.

“Make no mistake – we are on Big Bang Theory because we are authentic nerds,” John said. “High functioning nerds – more Leonards than Sheldons – but nerds nonetheless. Kevin worked at a comic book shop IRL. I watched all the Star Wars DVDs one New Year’s Eve AS AN ADULT.”

Dark Minions is one of 14 Amazon original pilots now playing for free at Amazon Instant Video and LOVEFiLM. Viewer response will help determine which of these children’s shows and comedies return with full seasons.

We asked John and Kevin about their show, their inspirations, and what the Big Bang Theory characters might think of Dark Minions.

How do you describe Dark Minions? 

Kevin: It’s about two regular guys, Mel and Andy, who get jobs onboard an evil space station. Maybe in a better time they’d take a principled stand against working there, but Mel’s got alimony and Andy doesn’t have a college degree, so they’re willing to lower their standards just a tad. It’s a workplace comedy that deals with the bullshit of corporate bureaucracy, inter-office politics, and the deluge of paperwork involved in enslaving various alien species.

What made you want to tell this story with these characters, in this world? 

Kevin: We’re fans of the genre. We set out to do a straight up sci-fi thriller, actually, but neither of us could refrain from giving the villains silly names.

Are any of the characters based on real people?

John: Mel and Andy are loosely based on Kevin and I. Before we knew each other, we both worked for huge, rather nefarious companies in the late ‘90s and though a lot of the work that was going on was unsavory – mass firings, circumventing environmental regulations – Kevin and I needed the jobs. It was not unlike working for an evil space station.

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Amazon Studios Comedies and Kids’ Pilots: Leading the Way in Views, and Reviews

Amazon pilotsFollowing their Friday debut, the new Amazon Originals TV pilots from Amazon Studios were the most watched TV shows across Amazon Instant Video over the weekend, making up 8 out of 10 of the most streamed episodes across the video service. Already thousands of customer reviews have been submitted with 80% at ratings of 4 and 5 stars.

"For the past year the Amazon Studios team has collaborated with some of the best actors and writers in Hollywood to produce top-quality shows. Now we’ve handed the remote to our customers to hear what they think," said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios. "In just a few days the pilots have received thousands of helpful and sometimes hilarious reviews. Keep the feedback coming—and help us decide which pilots will be turned into full series."

Here’s a sampling of feedback from customers since the pilots’ launch:

  • Alpha House: “I was extremely surprised at how much I liked this show. It’s intelligently written. What most surprised me was the production quality. Could pass as a show on HBO.”
  • Betas: “Loved it. Laughed. Cringed. Laughed more. Can’t wait to see the development in future episodes. Where are they—they ready yet? ;)”
  • Browsers: “Bebe Neuwirth could read the phone book and I’d be there. Fortunately, she does a lot more than that! Endearing cast, funny situations. Something I would come back and watch week after week.”
  • Dark Minions: “There is definitely nothing like this out there right now. It’s witty, well written, and is just a fantastic concept in general. The stop motion animation is sharp and well done, and it would be great to get some more of that on the air. All in all, an awesome show.”
  • Onion News Empire: “Our only complaint was that not enough time was allowed to laugh in between laughs. :) We loved the absurdist comedy!”
  • Supanatural:”I loved this pilot! I laughed out loud many times. I loved the ending. I want to see what happens next. I loved all the characters. Please make more episodes!”
  • Those Who Can’t: “I love these guys as teachers! I would watch this over and over again. Quirky, funny, adult humor. Are there more episodes?”
  • Zombieland: “I really enjoyed the movie and this reminds me of a fresh take on the film. Same but different. Like the English version of The Office vs. the American version. Loved them both. This was funny, campy, a little gory and well-paced with tons of action. The opening is fantastic. Actors were great and thought they had solid chemistry.”
  • Annebots: “What a great show! Preschoolers have a lot of educational TV options out there but there’s less and less educational stuff for older kids. This really should be on TV. It was also great seeing non-stereotypical characters too.”
  • Creative Galaxy: “My 5-year-old loved this and wants more. He especially liked ‘when they created the library and used paint.’ Please make more!”
  • Positively Ozitively: “This show is amazing. My daughter loved it and I did too. She is asking to watch more!! She also enjoyed seeing how it looks before it’s animated.”
  • Sara Solves It: “Loved this…has everything a great preschool show should have…compelling characters, social emotional learning, a curriculum seamlessly weaved into it, cute songs, and an easy-to-follow but relatable story.”
  • Teeny Tiny Dogs: “As a former preschool teacher, I think little ones will be entertained by this program, especially if the ever charming Henson puppets are used in the final production. The lessons are sweet and gentle, humor on their level, and concepts appropriate and relatable. Four stars until I get the opportunity to see the final product—then I bet it moves to a five.”
  • Tumbleaf: “Magical—no other way to put it—I haven’t seen a kids show with such a distinct look and feel in many, many, many years. The viewer is literally transported to this whimsical world where imagination rules. The look is beautiful and the stop motion is charming. This is the type of show that a parent would want to sit with their preschooler to watch. Reminds me of Mr. Fox, and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”

"Just like in Zombieland, where there are no rules, Amazon is throwing out the rules of conventional television and bringing the power to the viewer,” said Rhett Reese, co-creator of the comedy Zombieland, along with Paul Wernick. Wernick adds, “It’s really exciting to be doing something different that has the potential to change the way this industry works.”

Comprehensive cast and crew information for each of the Amazon Originals pilots, including bios and filmographies, is available on Amazon’s IMDb.

Amazon Studios has an open door for creators, and continues to invite writers to submit their proposals for comedy and children’s programming.

About Zombieland:

Four survivors are killin’ zombies and searching for a place to call home. Based on the movie of the same name.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CE18P0K About Betas:

In Silicon Valley, the right algorithm can make you a king. And these four friends think they’ve finally cracked the code.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CDBX1PA
About Alpha House:

They work in the Senate. They live in the house – Alpha House. Created by Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury, Tanner ‘88).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CDBTQCW
About Onion News Empire: 

The journalists at the Onion News Network will do anything to stay at the top of their game. 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CDBUCOI Browsers:

Fresh-faced interns face the music – and sing along with it – as they launch their careers, and their grown-up lives in Manhattan. 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CBNPIB0 About Supanatural:

Two outspoken divas are humanity's last line of defense against the supernatural… when they're not working at the mall.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CBNPHDO
About Those Who Can't:

They’re a bunch of juvenile misfits – possibly the most immature guys at their high school. And they’re teachers.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CBNPCZ2
About Dark Minions:

Rules, reports, idiot coworkers, a Galactic Overlord … You know, just another day at the office. In space.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CDBQ9B8

Amazon Studios pilots have arrived, starring John Goodman (Argo), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), Bebe Neuwirth (Frasier) – and viewers, who will help decide which shows return with more episodes. TV fans are invited to watch comedies and children’s shows for free, and offer opinions about them, at amazonoriginals.com.