Amazon are making a move into television production, with plans to distribute the series via Lovefilm in the UK. They offered up half a dozen kids shows and eight comedies and commissions for series will be based on audience ratings and feedback (I think you can watch the pilots even without a Lovefilm subscription). I took a poke through their offerings a month or so ago, but between upfronts and laziness didn’t get round to posting my thoughts until now. While I wasn’t really blown away by any of them and there was a resounding aura of cheapness to many of the productions, I did at least find the concepts more original than the endless offerings of family and friend based sitcoms that American networks normally offer up. Two series have been picked up so far, while two have been rejected. Deadline seem to be keeping track.
Alpha House – What a great concept, four senators sharing a house in Washington while they’re away from their constituencies. I’ve said before with the whole expenses scandal over second homes there was potential for a show (maybe even a fly on the wall reality show) with politicians living in halls of residences. There’s a great cast too, when I started hearing about Amazon original developments I never thought I’d see John Goodman in one. Unlike most of the other offerings, this one really actually feels like a professional production which could just as easily be on network television. Bits of it aren’t to my taste (the sleazy young senator, the tiresome gay jokes), but I laughed enough at other bits of it that I’d actually consider watching this.
With the names and the quality behind this, it’s not a big surprise that Amazon have picked this series up for next year.
Betas – Given the success of The Big Bang Theory I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t been a deluge of geek based sitcoms. Unfortunately Betas is not a great advertisement for the genre. The central concept is solid and a couple of the characters are interesting, but those factors are completely overwhelmed by dialogue and characters that leave me wanting to crawl away from my own eyeballs. I didn’t laugh a single time and it made me sad.
Amazon disagree with me, Betas has been picked up to series.
Browsers – I physically flinched away from the screen as the episode started and revealed itself to be a musical. Not a great start, but I’ve watched and loved Glee and Smash (although note the past tense), maybe it can pull it off. Ten minutes later I gave up. It’s not the music that’s the biggest problem (although it’s not great) it’s that overwhelming irritation of the characters. Maybe if I’d watched it before Betas I wouldn’t have hit my threshold and would have made it through, but I very much doubt it.
Public opinion and Amazon agreed with me and have passed on the series.
Dark Minions – Another fun concept that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched Star Wars and wondered what the stormtroopers in the background are saying, but I gave up on this one after less than five minutes. The pilot isn’t helped out by only being part finished (it will be stop motion in the end, but large chunks are just storybooked at the moment), but that doesn’t cover for the fact the dialogue isn’t funny, the delivery is awkward and the story all just rather tedious.
Onion News Empire – another professional looking offering, and with the name of The Onion attached and stars such as Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) and William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption) it’s another one that could easily be pitched on major channels. Unfortunately the pilot just felt really tired, all the jokes are obvious, all the satire is cheap and it’s just painful and dull.
Supanatural – the title and description pretty much cover it. “Oh hell no! Two outspoken divas are humanity’s last line of defence against the supernatural.” Another one that made it less than 5 minutes before its mind blowingly annoying dialogue and unappealing animation drove me away. Oh hell no indeed.
Those Who Can’t – Hey, look teachers are just as screwed up, rude and stupid as everyone else who populate sitcoms. I guess it’s like The Office set in a school, but I didn’t watch The Office because I just find this kind of comedy depressing and this one was the same. My internet connection was flaking out during this one and when I realised that instead of being frustrated I was actually grateful every time the buffering symbol appeared, I gave up.
Zombieland – I loved the film, found it quirky, original and a very nice piece of comedy horror. That’s good news and bad news for the television version though, because while the writing does a pretty good job replicating the tone of the film, the cast and production just felt like cheap knock-offs. The decision to use the same characters left me unable to see anything other than Not-Jesse Eisenberg and Not-Woody Harrellson. The actors were doing a fair enough job, it’s not their fault, it just felt too much like an impression. Still I did laugh and it’s certainly different, so if I’d suggest giving it a try and hoping that you’ don’t have the same problem as I did.
Amazon have passed on picking the series up. The creator has been quite public grumbling that he didn’t understand why Zombieland fans hated it.