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Indian American Brinda Adhikari is the Showrunner to Solve ‘The Problem With Jon Stewart’

Indian American Brinda Adhikari is the Showrunner to Solve ‘The Problem With Jon Stewart’

  • A CBS Evening News veteran, she is the creative and management head of Stewart’s new Apple TV series.

Comedian Jon Stewart returned to television last month with his highly-anticipated Apple TV + current affairs series “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” where he tackles a single issue every episode. Working closely with Stewart is the showrunner and executive producer Brinda Adhikari, a “CBS Evening News” veteran. As the showrunner, Adhikari has overall creative authority and management responsibility for the entire series. The show, which first aired on Sept. 30, will have new episodes every other week. 

Adhikari told The Hollywood Reporter that she had no intention of leaving the world of news until she heard that Stewart was planning a new show. “It all happened very much by chance,” she said. Although a “huge fan” of the comedian, Adhikari, who was also exploring “some next steps” for her, never thought of looking beyond the news. “I never thought of anything other than traditional news because, quite honestly, news is very much its own universe and you don’t think there’s anything else outside of it,” she told the entertainment portal. “You just keep going and talking to the same people about the same opportunities.” 

File photo of Brinda Adhikari with her CBS Evening News colleagues (Twitter).

However, when she found out that Stewart’s team was “looking at all different kinds of people with all different kinds of experience,” her name got thrown in the ring. “And then I talked to Jon a couple of times, and we had some really, really good discussions and we laughed a lot, and before you know it, I’m the showrunner.”

Adhikari graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a Bachelor’s degree in politics and a minor in history. She was born in Kolkata, India, moved to the United States when she was 8 and grew up outside Washington, D.C.

“Working with this guy and with this team has been the joy of my professional life,” Adhikari tweeted on Sept. 30. “Thrilled to be on this journey with you guys!”

Talking about the series, she told The Hollywood Reporter that if a viewer “came away from this show not necessarily belly-laughing, I don’t think we’d view that as a failure. What we’re interested in is in putting together really good content that will spark conversations — and of course, there are going to be laughs.”

Adhikari is among a few South Asian Americans who work behind the camera in production. In an Apple podcast “South Asian Trailblazers,” she spoke about the lack of representation in production. After spending nearly two decades in the industry, she said in the podcast that she’s been seeing some changes, “more at the junior and middle levels.” She blames it to a certain extent on the community. 

“I don’t know if we necessarily encourage TV production in a big way,” she says, adding: “Of course it’s systemic and people of color have in general not had a lot of opportunities in many industries.” But at the same time, she admits that she personally doesn’t know a lot of Indian Americans who want to be showrunners, “certainly not because they don’t want to do it or can’t do it, but it’s because it’s not a story we tell as much in our community.” However, things are changing. “I think for sure it’s getting better and we have a couple of desks on our staff and it’s something I hope to see flourish.” 

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Adhikari always had “a passion for politics and history and government,” she says in the podcast. Her father was a journalist, and at home, they had “some pretty fantastic debates.” Also, the kind of people I grew up around were interested in the world, so I always grew up with that sort of motivation,” she says. “I was always into telling stories.”

Before this move, she worked as a senior broadcast producer of the “CBS Evening News,” which she joined in April 2015 as a senior producer. In that role, she led new approaches to storytelling, booked and produced high-profile interviews and managed strategies for integrating the broadcast into digital spaces, according to her CBS profile. Her other responsibilities included developing the broadcast’s coverage of major news events and breaking news stories. Additionally, she managed teams of producers and reporters on daily stories, as well as long-term feature projects on various topics.

Adhikari began her TV career with ABC News, where she worked for 12 years, in the investigative unit and at “World News Tonight.” She was in charge of the “Person of the Week” franchise and produced several in-depth investigative reports. She was the lead producer of an hour-long investigation on the overmedication of children in foster care, which won her a Front Page Award by the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She was also part of the team that won an Edward R. Murrow award for coverage of the Newtown school shooting.

Before ABC, she worked for UNICEF as a communications officer, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She developed communications strategies on the HIV/AIDS and famine crises that plagued parts of southern Africa at the time, traveling to 10 counties on behalf of UNICEF.

Adhikari graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a Bachelor’s degree in politics and a minor in history. She was born in Kolkata, India, moved to the United States when she was 8 and grew up outside Washington, D.C. She is proficient in Bengali and also speaks French, Italian and Hindi. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

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