Ranking the New Amazon Pilot Season
Last week Amazon launched it’s second round of pilots. The idea is that we, the viewers, give feedback and decide which of the pilots get a full season. Because you’re all very busy and important people, I took the hit here and sifted through the crap so you don’t have to. And it turned out there was a lot less crap than I was expecting! So here they are, in order of least worth your time to most, the new Amazon pilots.
The Story: When the owner of a pro football team dies, his ex-cheerleader widow has to figure out how to run the team.
The Bad: Just because a show is about a woman dealing with misogyny, that does not give the show carte blanche to be as misogynistic as it likes. That does not make it a feminist-friendly show. When the only female (or “bitch” as they’re known in this show) of note besides the one lead is the groupie having coke snorted off her leg, I’m gonna have to pass.
The Good: There’s a monkey? Also Marc Evan Jackson. And Billy Dee Williams.
The Story: Eight strangers are brought together by (spooky voice here) mysterious forces, and must rely on each other to survive a strange disaster.
The Bad: This show is not bad. It’s just kinda blah. The stock characters and bland writing leave a lot to be desired.
The Good: This is a Chris Carter (The X-Files) show, so the best thing about it is what I hold out hopes for it to someday be.
The Story: Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch (no relation — unless this show is going to get super weird later on) is a detective investigating a murder while standing trial for ANOTHER murder. Suspense! Drama! He’s a cop that plays by his own rules and is battling — you guessed it — demons of his own.
The Bad: Like The After, Bosch isn’t bad, but it leaves some things to be desired. It feels like it’s right on the line between great cop show and yet another cop show.
The Good: Titus Welliver. Plus, Bosch’s boss is played by Lance Reddick, so you can spend the whole time pretending this is a spinoff to The Wire.
Mozart in the Jungle
The Story: It’s like if Animal House were set at Juilliard. The official slugline is “Sex, drugs — and classical music” and it is all those things. This takes place behind the scenes of the New York symphony scene, and if that sounds super boring to you, I have three words: drunken woodwind throwdowns.
The Bad: There’s some major whimsyquirk going on here, and I’m interested to see what direction they’d take the show for a whole season (or series). But the pilot seems a bit scattered, so it’s hard to tell where exactly we’d be heading with this one.
The Good: Did you hear me say drunken woodwind throwdowns? Really though, there are some amazing minds behind this one. The creators are Jason Schwartzman, Roman Copolla and Alex Timbers, who directed the incredible Broadway play Peter and the Starcatcher. And the cast includes Gael García Bernal, Malcolm McDowell, and Bernadette Peters.
The Story: Jeffrey Tambor plays a father of three who is just starting the transgender process. The three siblings are all dealing their own issues as well. Ali (Gaby Hoffman), lives off unemployment and checks from her father now that her Price Is Right money has run out. Josh (Jay Duplass) is a music producer who almost exclusively dates the barely-legal (because that’s what healthy grown-ups do). Sarah (Amy Landecker) is clearly bored with her perfectly stable life and exploring her lesbian leanings.
The Bad: These are, for the most part, potentially very unlikable characters. I don’t think it’s such an issue because they’re all on the brink of major upheaval, but I understand that their social and financial status, combined with a total lack of self awareness, will be off-putting to many. Also, I think that Jeffrey Tambor, at least in the pilot, plays this role with total compassion and honesty, but this is part of a larger discussion. Many will take issue with the fact that Tambor, a cis male, is playing this transgender role. As the series progresses and he gets further along in the transgender process, it will be interesting to see how this works.
The Good: Um, did you see that cast? Also, the show’s creator is Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under), so the 12 people who saw Afternoon Delight should be excited to see some of the same themes explored, especially in Amy Landecker’s plotline.
All in all, while Netflix seems like it’s trying to be the next HBO (in terms of content quality and gravitas), Amazon (with the exception of Transparent) seems like the next Fox. Not that that’s terrible. Bosch and Mozart in the Jungle feel like they’d be great after-work shows, not bad but not good enough to take any effort to watch. You know, for when I really truly finally give up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
A final note on this whole American Idol style of voting. At first I was skeptical, because it seemed like the sort of process that would leave us with a bunch of Two and a Half Mens and Big Bang Theorys. But this interview Jill Soloway gave to Indiewire turned me right around. On the process, she said,
And now here it is, and everybody’s seeing it — women are seeing it, feminists are seeing it, gay people are seeing it, trans people are seeing it. Normally if somebody’s writing a pilot, I’m having to hope that straight white golf course male at the top of the chain will allow me to get it to my people. But, oh, my people were watching it yesterday. It honestly feels slightly revolutionary.
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