Photo Credits: Amazon
Thursday, August 26, Amazon released its newest set of pilots from Amazon Studios and left them in the hands of us, the viewers. Amazon Prime customers are encouraged to be a part of the process: “watch, rate, and review”. In turn, they take your feedback and use it to determine which shows will be given the green light.
Amazon Instant Video competes with the ever-popular Netflix in the realm of internet streaming. This year’s $99 subscription fee for Prime promises to give us free two-day shipping and a couple of great shows: shows that will compete with some of the most acclaimed internet streaming from Netflix (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Hemlock Grove). Hopefully, with these new shows, Amazon is ramping up to take this year’s internet streaming season on with full force. Netflix corners the market at a consistent 30% whereas Amazon makes up under 2% of the market. With those numbers they better come up with something innovative.
Back in March 2014, six shows made the cut. Of those, the dark comedy Transparent, reminiscent of Wes Anderson style films, such as The Royal Tenenbaums but dealing with a much more serious subject. Transparent stars Jeffrey Tambor and will be debuting on September 26, with all ten episodes available on Amazon Prime Instant Video. Alpha House starring John Goodman is back for Season 2. Hopefully we will soon have more info on the other five shows, The After, Bosch, Mozart in the Jungle and two children’s shows: Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, created by a first-time writer out of Amazon Studios grassroots development program, and Wishenpoof.
The comedy pilots offer three diverse experiences: Darkly comedic, The Cosmopolitans serves as a window to the lives of five expats in Paris. Really is for those of us being forced to grow up whether we want to or not and Red Oaks is the most contemporary, poking fun at life back in the 80s.
The Cosmopolitans is written, directed and produced by Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco). This dramatic comedy tracks a group of young American expats in contemporary Paris. The Rom-Com pilot stars Chloë Sevigny (Big Love / American Psycho) Adam Brody (The O.C.), Carrie MacLemore, Dree Hemingway, Freddy Åsblom, Jordan Rountree, and Adriano Giannini. The pilot was filmed on location in Paris and was stunning to watch for this alone. Of the three comedies, The Cosmopolitans proves to be the most sophisticated and rich.
Really is written, directed by, and stars one of my favorite members of Broken Lizard, Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) and exec producer Jamie Tarses (Happy Endings). With the laid back comedy stylings of Jay and the serious smiles of Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke they and three other couples introduce us to their lives. Some are trying a bit too hard to stay in touch with their dwindling youth while others may be taking it too seriously. Including Chandrasekhar and Chalke, Selma Blair, Travis Schuldt, Hayes MacArthur, Collette Wolfe, Luka Jones, Lindsay Sloane, and Rob Delaney. “Really” comes from Main Street Films’ Craig Chang and Harrison Kordestani. Of the three comedies Really is for the thirty to forty-something crowd.
Red Oaks is the third comedy in the mix and the most consumable across the masses. Produced by Steven Soderbergh (Behind the Candelabra, Traffic) and directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Eastbound and Down). Craig Roberts (Submarine and 22 Jump Street) stars as an assistant tennis pro at the Red Oaks Country Club in 1985 suburban New Jersey. It also stars Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) Gage Golightly, and Ennis Esmer. Written by Gregory Jacobs (The Knick) and Joe Gangemi (Eliza Graves), who executive produced with Soderbergh and Green. If it happened in the 80s I am confident this comedy will explore it. The truest comedy of the bunch it would be great to see this one make it.
Hand of God and Hysteria give us drama from two different perspectives. Hysteria is the most unique with the introduction of the hysterical “infection” of social media whereas Hand of God promises to have a lot commentary on today’s legal arena.
Hand of God; a psychological drama starring Ron Perlman as Judge Harris (Sons of Anarchy) and Dana Delany (“Body of Proof”) as his wife. Judge Harris is morally-corrupt and his family has been visited by tragedy over the past year: His daughter was raped seven months prior and after a heartbreaking attempt on his life, Harris’ son is lying in the hospital on life support. This dark psychological story has the judge believing God is compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice and acting on a promise to his brain dead son to find his sister’s rapist. This could be the ringer in the bunch with Perlman and Delany at the helm. Hand of God is the TV debut of filmmaker Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, World War Z).
Hysteria is a straight thriller written and created by Shaun Cassidy, the former pop star whose TV production credits include Invasion. It centers on a girls’ competitive dance team in Austin, Texas, stricken by a strange, psycho-physiological illness that spreads through social media. Mena Suvari (American Beauty and the American Pie movie trilogy) shows us her serious side starring as a neurologist who returns to her hometown to investigate the cause. Hysteria is directed by Otto Bathurst (U.K. miniseries Peaky Blinders), alongside Cassidy, Adam Schroeder, Sharon Hall, Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson and Bryan Zuriff is executive producing. Amazon Studios collaborated with Universal Television and Alcon Television Group on the production.
Compared to the six shows from earlier this year this batch is not as strong across the board. The pilots are supposed to grab us and have us voting yes, yes yes! My favorite, Sean Cassidy’s Hysteria, though promising to be an interesting investigative drama ended up falling short with a weak hook while Hand of God, with a not-so-unique story is the more powerful of the two dramas. Red Oaks offers a more straight forward comedy with the quirkiness only the 80s can promise. Overall, The Cosmopolitans is the richest of the five with its offering of a touch of drama drizzled with a darker, comedic take on life abroad.