Snap Judgement: Amazon’s new pilots

amazon-prime-logoAmazon has been trying (so, so hard)  to break into the original programming world for a while now.  2 years ago they posted all of their pilots for people to vote on, with the most votes getting series orders.  It… kinda worked.  Last year they just ordered series, still posting all of their pilots just in case, and achieved moderate buzz with Transparent and season 2 of Alpha House. Now, with the idea of original streaming content hitting mainstream, not to mention the truck load of Emmy nominations Netflix keeps getting, Amazon has released the briefs on their new pilot slate.  With 4 hour-long scripted dramas,  2 half hour scripted comedies and a half hour… um.. docuanthology? They are really trying to get people to keep those just-price-hiked Prime subscriptions.

Cocked is an hour long starring True Blood‘s Sam Trammel which sounds like CBS’ (soon-to-be cancelled) The McCarthys but with guns. While streaming does free them of the constraints of broadcast, I fail to see how this gun-toting family series can be a “dark comedy.” Expect copious “cock” jokes.

Down Dog is a half hour comedy about a “hunky” yoga instructor who’s life fall apart in presumably hilarious ways.  Paget Brewster starring is a plus but I am given pause at the Kris Kristofferson.

Mad Dogs sounds like The Hangover the series but the people involved (executive producer Shawn Ryan of The Shield among them) give it some cachet.  Another hourlong dark comedy this time starring Steve Zahn, Billy Zane(!), and Michael Imperoli as high school friends who reunite in Belize (for some reason.) As it’s based on a successful European show it’s a proven concept but Amazon will have to break through that Americans-redoing-U.K.-shows-badly wall.

The Man in the High Castle is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, the series takes on the standard Sci-fi plot of “what if the Nazis won WWII?” Being written by a former X-Files writer may lure some in but that show ended a million years ago in TV terms and aired in a VERY different world. And looking at his IMDb suggests a writer who has struggled to move beyond his past success.

Now to the weird one. The New Yorker Presents is described as a series that “brings New Yorker articles to life.” Amazon is saying the half hour series falls into the increasingly-buzzword-sounding “docuseries” category but I find it difficult to imagine anyone wanting to watch this. Especially for $99/year for Amazon Prime. I applaud that Amazon is trying to diversify but this feels like an aberration in their slate.

Lost‘s Carlton Cuse is back with Civil War drama Point of Honor. Again, well worn path in narrative drama, this time a Confederate soldier who wants to both free his family’s slaves and fight for the Confederacy. That set of goals may seem at odds with each other but I expect that is part of where the drama will come from.

Finally, Salem Rogers is the comedic story of a supermodel just out of 10-years of rehab. The strong cast (Leslie Bibb, Jane Kaczmarek, Scott Adsit, Harry Hamlin and Toks Olagundoye) does little to dissuade me from the thought that this will be a one-joke-that’s-not-even-that-funny sitcom. But, Olagundoye was the only good part about ABC’s detestable The Neighbors which had the same problem so maybe she can work her magic again (That show saw a second season so maybe she used up all of her power.)

Amazon’s 2015 pilot slate is set to premiere on Amazon Prime next year, usually in the summer for pilots and then September for anything greenlit to series.

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