Amazon has just launched its third pilot season, with five new shows that viewers can vote on to determine which ones get picked up, and which get thrown in the internet landfill (we just call that “the internet”). The last time they did this, the shows were surprisingly impressive. There was one turd, one major standout, and a couple of really good shows. So how was Amazon going to proceed after that success? Would they aim high and take it all to the next level, becoming a serious competitor for Netflix? Or would they fall apart, proving to be a one-hit network?
Amazon has apparently chosen the latter. Despite high production values and well-known casts, their new season is comprised of five half-baked doughy blobs of nothingness. Trying to rank these shows is an exercise in ridiculousness, since if you were to rate the shows on a scale of one to five, they’d likely all be between a 2.8 and a 3.2.
But here they are, from worst to not-as-worst: the new Amazon pilots.
Hand of God
The Story: A morally questionable and generally dickish judge believes he’s getting messages from God through his comatose son, causing him to fancy himself quite the born-again vigilante.
The Good: This is one of the only shows with any sort of diversity, meaning it has one major character of color who is not a villain. Also, one black prostitute who shows up for one scene, naked (while he keeps his clothes on during sex, obviously), for the sole purpose of giving Ron Perlman’s character a chance to reject her, showing us how he’s growing. Ugh, I was supposed to be talking about the good stuff, wasn’t I? Fine. Ron Perlman. Also, Bubbles from The Wire. End of list.
The Bad: Oh geez, where to start? I mean, misogyny up the wahoo. There are three female characters of note, two of whom have only one source of power: sexiness. (I guess Dana Delaney also has the power of melodrama.) The third is a victim of rape, so by the logic of this show she is no longer a sexual character, and therefore she has no power. Sometimes she screams at people, but that’s about the limit of her agency.
Also, after about half an hour, good luck caring if Ron Perlman is actually getting visions or if he’s crazy. He’s just an abusive dick and not worth giving a crap about.
On top of all this, the show is just boring. Like, aggressively boring. The kind of boring where you want to take the Hand of God and punch yourself unconscious with it. And clocking in at over an hour, that’s inexcusable.
The Story: A bunch of (mostly) white girls sneak out to do sexy things with some older non-white boys, because apparently they’ve never seen a horror movie or TV procedural. As punishment for sexiness, one of them ends up with a mysterious seizurey ailment that turns into an epidemic. Dr. Mena Suvari is called in investigate, and wouldn’t you know it, there are mysterious connections to her past.
The Good: This is the only show that is Bechdel-friendly. And Mena Suvari’s sexy troubled doctor is a character I could take more of. Just not in this show.
The Bad: Heavy handed enough to crush you under the weight of its metaphors. We get it, it’s about empathy. But (and POTENTIAL SPOILER here, if you give even a fraction of a crap) as the focus shifts to cell phones and laptops, The Internet as villain is about as interesting as The Wind as villain in that M Night Shyamalan movie. Which is to say, not even a little.
The Story: A group of entertainingly insufferable American ex-pats living in Paris get together to whine about things.
The Good and The Bad (They’re basically interchangeable for this one): A lot of these shows felt less like an episode of an ongoing show and more like the first 20 minutes of a movie. This one is a particularly low-stakes movie. So it’s a lot of character development, but no real hook. The only note I wrote for myself while watching this was “boring, but probably has potential.” That pretty much sums it up. If you’re okay watching Adam Brody and Chloë Sevigny and some other very pretty people basically do and talk about nothing in Paris for a while, then you’ll be fine with this show.
The Story: Set in a Chicago suburb, a group of friends sleep with their own spouses, sleep with other people’s spouses, talk sh*t about each other, and generally exist attractively. The show could be called Rich White People Problems (Plus Jay Chandrasekhar)
The Good: All the good of this show is the cast, which is very very good: Sarah Chalke, Jay Chandrasekhar, Selma Blair, Travis Schuldt (Scrubs), and Rob F*cking Delaney.
The Bad: This one definitely felt the most like the opening of a low-stakes, slow-burning movie. By the end of this episode, nothing of note has really happened. So, while the cast may be charming and very very pretty, it’s hard to want to come back for more.
The Story: Set in 1985, a high schooler takes a summer job at a New Jersey country club. It’s pretty much The Goldbergs with boobs and f-bombs.
The Good: This is the most sitcomish of all the shows. And while “formulaic” is not usually meant as praise, there is something to be said for following the form. They do the whole set-up of characters and conflict quickly, getting it out of the way so they can get to the comedy. Which is actually not entirely unfunny. So there’s that. Craig Roberts (otherwise known as That Kid From Submarine) is perfect, as always.
The Bad: Again, women are not the target audience for most of this entire collection. This show is basically recreating an 80s teen comedy. And it doesn’t even try to veer away from the misogyny so prevalent in that genre. It’s sex trophies, side ponytails and boobs galore. Actually, I guess you can file that under “the good” or “the bad” as you see fit.
All the pilots are available on Amazon for free and encourage feedback if you feel compelled to ask them what the hell they were thinking.
Vivian Kane is hoping Transparent gets picked up for a second season instead of any of these getting a first.