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The creators of Amazon’s ‘Forever’ talk about keeping the show’s premise a secret




  • Amazon’s “Forever” premiered in early September, but the
    creators, stars, and TV critics were sworn to secrecy about the
    show’s plot. 
  • Business Insider spoke with series creators Alan Yang and
    Matthew Hubbard about keeping the show’s details secret, and what
    it was like pitching a show that has so much mystery surrounding
  • Yang and Hubbard also talked about what it’s like making the
    transition from network comedies to streaming (they love how
    short the seasons are), and what it’s like to write for TV when
    there is so much of it. 

Amazon’s comedy “Forever,” which premiered September 14, was
presented to the public in a mysterious way.

Its trailer was more of a quirky montage of a relationship and
didn’t explain the show’s plot at all. But even shrouded in
mystery, the show has a huge draw. It stars Fred Armisen and Maya
Rudolph and Catherine Keener. It’s created by two great comedy
writers: Alan Yang ( “Master of None”) and Matthew Hubbard (“30

In early September, I spoke to Yang and Hubbard about the show.
But at the time, Amazon didn’t want the show’s mysterious plot
leaked in reviews or profiles. So we waited a few weeks to let
people get through the series.

WARNING: Heavy spoilers ahead for Amazon’s

At the end of the first episode of “Forever,” Fred Armisen’s
character, Oscar, dies. In episode two, Maya Rudolph’s character,
June, adjusts to life without her husband. By episode three,
June’s made big changes in her life, including getting a new job
in Hawaii. But at the end of the episode, she dies. June comes to
and sees a very thrilled Oscar in a mysterious and very
mid-century modern neighborhood in the afterlife, where she
realizes she’ll spend forever with him.

But spending forever together isn’t as great as Oscar and June
imagine. The married couple’s afterlives are still a bit dull,
and they begin to learn things about each other that they didn’t
even know while they were alive. For example, June finds out
that, throughout their entire relationship, Oscar changed the way
she loaded the utensils in the dishwasher.

I talked to Yang and Hubbard about keeping the premise a secret,
how they pitched a show where the male lead dies in episode one,
and how they distinguish their show from “The Good Place,” that
other afterlife comedy that people are obsessed with right now.

Carrie Wittmer: I read your lovely note that
Amazon sent  journalists. You guys said that this show holds
a really special place in your heart, could you talk about that?

Matthew Hubbard:
When we put this show together, the first
idea we had was ‘What if Fred and Maya were ghosts that don’t
haunt people?’ That was really it … Then we were like that’s
not enough, and then we started to talk about what would it be
like if they were married, and what would happen if you were in a
relationship, and it was literally never going to end … 
and what would that mean. 

It was just an idea that we talked about a
lot, and when we got the writers in, everybody was talking about
their relationships. 

Alan Yang: And I
think a lot of the best stuff comes from personal experience,
right? We put elements of ourselves in the show. It’s set in the
town I grew up in Riverside, and a lot of the marriage stuff is
based on stuff from Matt’s life. For instance, that argument
about the utensils in the dishwasher.

Wittmer: I’ve had that argument with my

Yang: Are you
utensils up or utensils down?

Wittmer: Up.

Yang: Oh, yeah.
Matt’s of the, “who cares camp.” So his wife was on him.

Wittmer: But my boyfriend changes it.

Yang: Oh

Hubbard: He does
change it?

Wittmer: Yep. Found out in a very similar way
that June does on the show. Except I don’t think we’re dead.

Hubbard: What
was cool and maybe special to us, we had this crazy swing, where
you’re in a supernatural world, you’re in the afterlife, but we
also kept trying to ground it in reality, and that’s hard and
challenging but, you know, fun, and it was cool for us.

Wittmer: You’ve
both been writing for television for a while now. What’s it like
now that there are so many shows?

Yang: Too

Hubbard: Too

Yang: I was just
saying in the last meeting that there is the Sean Penn show, a
Jim Carey show, and a Kevin Costner show. I hadn’t heard of any
of them until two days ago.

Hubbard: I just
heard about “Yellowstone” [the Kevin Costner show], I thought you
were kidding with me.

Wittmer: I haven’t even watched “Yellowstone.” I
don’t have time to watch the Jim Carey show, I probably won’t
have time to watch the Sean Penn show.

Hubbard: Well,
thank you for watching this one!

Wittmer: I love all the shows both of you have
done in the past. Do you feel some kind of pressure to have
something truly unique and special in this time where there is
just so much?

Ultimately, the idea is something you want to be passionate about
and something you want to spend a big chunk of your time working
on. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have something hokey or a
premise that people can talk about, right?

Hubbard: And the
biggest thing was the premise of the show was a logical extension
of the emotional story we wanted to tell.

Yang: It’s a
relationship show. It’s a show about marriage, and longterm
relationships. We want to do stuff that challenges us and is
ambitious and original and unique, and to me, why do anything,
regardless of how many shows are on TV, why do anything unless
it’s something that hasn’t been done before? And I think taking
that risk is worth it — you may fall on your face but, you know,
why make new trends.

Wittmer: Were
there any issues pitching this high concept?

Hubbard: We did
this a little unusually. Because the show was so unique and so
specific, we walked in and said “This is a show about a
marriage,” and then we just told the story of the first three
episodes. We just went literally beat by beat. A lot of execs at
that point were like, “WHAT!?”

Wittmer: Both
main characters die!

Yang: Exactly!
Exactly. So that was really fun, and Maya and Fred came to all
the pitches and so it was really fun.

Hubbard: It was
kind of like proof of concept.

Yang: And we
sold the show, so it worked!

Wittmer: Was there something specific about
Amazon that made you decide to go with it?

Yang: It’s the
kind of thing where it was the right place for it. And they came
really hard and were willing to commit because we said, pretty
much straight up, “If we’re not going straight to series, I don’t
know if we’ll make the show.” Because a pilot makes no

Wittmer: Yeah, because most people are probably
gonna be like, “Well, I came to watch a Fred Armisen show but now
he’s dead.”

Yang: Exactly.
It didn’t really make sense to just shoot one. So Amazon was
very, very aggressive and interested in the show immediately.
They provided us with tremendous resources and they’ve been
really supportive the whole way, so it’s been a great

Wittmer: Has it been difficult for you to be so
secretive about the plot?

Yang: Yes! I
don’t know what to say in any interview.

Hubbard: It is
hard especially when you get into marketing. It’s like… you
want people to know about the show, but you also don’t. But
everyone at Amazon just leaned into the mystery. That’s what we
worked for really hard on that trailer, to just show that it was
about a marriage, but there was some weird stuff out of context

Wittmer: My
favorite show on TV right now is “The Good Place,” and these have
very similar premises but they’re so different.

Hubbard: Could
not be more different.

Yang: They could
not be more different. The tone and the themes are so

Wittmer: Did you
have any push back with people saying something like, “Oh,
there’s already another afterlife comedy?”

Yang: Not
really. I mean, I know those guys, I love those guys, I directed
those guys, and I’ve worked on that show a little, and I’ve
obviously worked with Mike [Schur] a ton [Yang worked on ‘Parks
and Recreation’]. So we knew early on there’s maybe a tiny
overlap in the Venn diagram of the premise.

Wittmer: Very
tiny. Afterlife comedy is my new favorite genre, I think.

Yang: Maya
did a guest spot on “The Good Place.” And she was like, “Hey,
does this step on this show?” And we said no, because they could
not be more diametrically opposed. We felt good about

Hubbard: Yeah,
we weren’t worried about that. We actually had some writers from
“The Good Place,” just because we’d worked with them

Wittmer: Yeah, I
noticed some familiar names like Joe Mande in the credits.

Yang: Some of
the writers worked on “Parks and Rec” and “Master of None” with
me. And they could tell us if there was any overlap, and we just
didn’t do it.

Hubbard: The
amazing thing is what they’re trying to contend with on “The Good
Place,” the questions they’re trying to answer on that show, it
helped us know we were dealing with a slightly different

Wittmer: We
talked about how much TV there is earlier. But what shows do you
actually watch?

Hubbard: Oh man,
I’m pretty swamped with stuff. I love “Atlanta,” obviously, that
show is great. And I just finished watching “The Assassination of
Gianni Versace” from a while ago. And that guy, who plays Andrew
Cunanan, Darren Criss, is amazing.

Wittmer: That’s a great one. One
of my favorites of the year so far. [Note: we spoke before
“Versace” won multiple Emmys]

Yang: Have you
ever watched “The Great British Baking Show?”

Wittmer: Oh my
God, yes!

Yang: I think
that’s my favorite.

Wittmer: I went
to the beach Labor Day weekend, but all these new episodes came
out, so.

Yang: Yeah, I

Wittmer: So I
mostly did that.

Yang: Yeah, I
love that show. F—ing love it.

Wittmer: I watch
a show like that but then I complain. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I
have too much TV to watch and it’s literally my job!”

Hubbard: The
life of the TV Critic… it’s crazy. I can’t imagine what it’s
like. Remember when there would be like six comedy shows and a
few dramas?

Wittmer: Both of you
have worked on network comedies. What are some of the differences
working for streaming that you guys like?

Hubbard: Only
having eight episodes.

Wittmer: The
twenty-two episode a year tradition is kind of going away. It’s
too much.

 My big thing is not having commercials is huge. Any network
show you can do, it’s going to be 21 minutes and 35 seconds. It
is very hard to tell a story at the level of complexity that the
audience demands now in 21 minutes. This new streaming world
gives you some freedom that I think is really cool.

Yang: Yeah,
freedom of time, freedom of space, all that stuff.

“Forever” is now available to
stream over at Amazon with a Prime subscription.

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