Amazon Original Series Pilot Roundup

About a month  month ago Amazon.com released pilot episodes for fourteen shows they were considering making as part of their Amazon Originals programming on Amazon Prime. We covered the Zombieland pilot right after it launched but I decided that with the month winding down that it might be time to give the other shows a shot. This is the last weekend to watch and review these series. So you should check them out.

You’ll find my brief thoughts about each show below. Then, if you feel like watching them, you can share your feedback with Amazon just like I did.

Alpha House:
For whatever reason out of all the pilots this one seems to be getting the most support from people. I didn’t think it was that bad – and the fact that it’s headlined by John Goodman and features Bill Murray getting arrested as a dirty congressman in the first two minutes – is pretty funny. But really it’s just a liberal rag on a bunch of fictional Republicans living together in a house in Washington, DC. The show has a pretty decent cast and a lot of potential but the jokes sometimes fall flat and even though I’m totally liberal I feel a bit uncomfortable with some of the stuff. Some of the stuff is actually pretty funny – like the candy didsh full of American flag pins – and the relationship between the congressmen had a lot of potential. It’s worth a look but I don’t know if Amazon should develop it further. Unfortunately because of the cast and John Goodman I could see them choosing this series over others.

Betas:
Full of all kinds of nerdy stereotypes, Betas follows a group of dysfunctional and/or crude friends trying to create the next big app. It follows one ‘normal’ guy whose trying to wrangle his “Aspy” (their term, not mine) best friend into forcing a meeting with a high level investor for this meet up app of theirs. They work in an office with a bunch of other stereotypical nerds who spend all day playing video games, eating cheetos, and playing with Nerf guns. Meanwhile their other friends are generally douchey assholes who watch porn and what not. This title actually had a great little relationship between the main character and his dysfunctional friend but the rest of the characters were forgettable and offensive. That said, it wasn’t that bad. It was kind of cute. And I’d like to see how it develops. This is one of my recommended series – but only because I could see it becoming actually good. I don’t think it will be optioned for a series, though.

Browsers:
I would pass on this one. It’s the story of a bunch of interns at an online news group that operates a lot like Gawker and its subsidiaries. It’s literally about people searching for videos and stuff online. They even sing a song about it. Because for whatever reason this is a musical. And the music is kind of terrible. The characters are unrelateable though the shows premise itself – not the music – could actually be interesting if it were actually done well. I’d pass on this one.

Dark Minions:
All right, this series is actually kind of funny. But it’s also forgettable  Two guys who are hard on their luck decide to join up with the evil galactic empire’s military as temp workers. They don’t really care about the politics and wind up sort of caught between a rock and a hard place when they get sent down to do some recon on a hidden rebel base. While the finished product is meant to be in full stop-motion animation this pilot is not completely finished in that regard. Some of it is animated simply, some of it is still in storyboard, some of it is in stop-motion. My roommate and I both went back and forth on what we thought about this series. We liked it but we’re not sure we’d watch it regularly if it were completed.

Onion News Network:
So the Onion News Network has it’s moments. Both the site and the show. Unfortunately the show just doesn’t seem quite as awesome as the website itself. The show follows a newcomer to the game – Sam West from Indiana who looks like a young Neil Patrick Harris – who tries to integrate into the crazy that is ONN. We get to meet a number of other crazy characters including a fame obsessed anchor played by Jeffrey Tambor (George Bluth Sr. from Arrested Development), socially concious Cameron Grey, and Jillian – a young woman who wants to be an anchor but can’t because her facial symmetry is off by 3%. The kooky characters make show worth watching and the big name behind the show makes it likely that Amazon higher ups will consider keeping the show.

Supanatural:
Honestly, I didn’t even finish this one. It has some funny jokes here and there and it certainly would appeal to the late night Comedy Central crowd. Or to the fans of Ugly Americans. Two divas run around trying to stop the forces of evil and the supernatural all while worrying about their weaves and seeking vengeance on the bitches who work in the mall with them.  It just seemed dumb to me. But I’m also not a fan of a lot of stuff on Comedy Central or of Ugly Americans so it isn’t geared at me anyway.

Those Who Can’t:
This is one of the shows that I think has a lot of potential. Set in a suburban high school, the show follows a group of inept and childish teachers who are constantly at odds with their students and administrators. I think there is a lot that can be done with a basic plot like this and I think there are a lot of fun scenarios and stories waiting to be explored. The pilot episode featured the group of friends trying to pin a narcotics bus on this asshole kid who had been harassing them. The problem was that they needed to find drugs. From a Saturday detention with references to the Breakfast Club to a surprising series of urine test results in gym class, there are a lot of random moments to be sure. But the humor is easy to pick up on, easy to relate to, and of all the shows it seems like one of those concepts that can keep going and keep delivering the laughs – at least for a few seasons – without offending too many people. It’s not too bad at all..

Zombieland:
If you want to know my opinion about this series you can check it out here.

Along with the eight comedy pilots Amazon also released four childrens pilots. I didn’t watch any of them because, honestly, they didn’t seem that great. But I don’t have kids so who knows. Maybe kids love them. The fact that Amazon wrote these pilots down as ‘comedy pilots’ also hints at a possible future release of a series of other shows in other genres. Whether or not they would ‘crowdfund’ the support for those series in the same manner as those listed above would remain to be seen.

Honestly, most of these pilots seem okay but they aren’t the sort of caliber of show you’ll find in, say, Netflix’s House of Cards. Nor do they have the sort of production value of Hemlock Grove. So Amazon is fighting an uphill battle here.

My guesses for shows that are going to get picked up: Zombieland, Alpha House, Onion News Network, and Those Who Can’t. I’d like to see more of Betas but I would have preferred the setting to be a game company instead of just a random app start up. Dark Minions would be nice to see more of but preferably not in stop motion because the animation was better when it was just more of a regular, cartoon-y style. Browsers and Supanatural, though, can be tossed out and should be ASAP.

Have you watched any of these pilots? What did you think?

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