LB Sees All of Amazon Prime’s Original Pilots

…And I don’t have a lot to say except that they’re even worse than I was afraid they’d be.

argh1

Silly me, I expected Amazon’s production slate to be of nominally professional quality. You know, up there with the standard of the industry. So that if I had any problems with what I saw they would be based on creative choices.

But, sadly, the only standard most of these shows met was that of the cheesiest Chinese kids’ animated production.

Hell, and that’s the live action part of the lineup. The animation was…well, it was pure crap is what it was.

Granted, most of the live action shows – and all of the animated shows – aren’t finished. Even though the samples on Amazon’s Instant Video website are billed as “pilots,” which by definition should mean they are complete episodes, they are in fact only pieces.

For the animated shows, it’s a matter of thirty seconds of full animation here, two minutes of sketches/storyboards/animatics there. Black and white footage intermingled with color, and so on.

I understand the desire to save money, but to tell your test audience – the five umpteen zillion members of Amazon Prime – that it’s going to see a pilot and then not present one completed episode of any of the animated shows? Disgraceful.

For the live action shows it’s a first half that seems to be working its butt off and a second half that’s just a complete collapse. And working your butt off isn’t the same as doing a competent job. Because if your production is competent, viewers won’t have any sensation of people working hard to entertainment. Instead, they’ll simply get a kind of “Oh, look, I’m watching a show” feeling and let themselves go with it for better or worse.

It’s clear that everything Amazon is showing us is a rush job. And, in the television biz there’s nothing more self defeating. Dammit, the first thing you learn in showrunner school is to never, ever show anyone who doesn’t have you by the balls anything other than a final cut – because if anything’s missing or off either creatively or technically it’s going to completely throw the viewer out of the zone.

Why? Because no one’s going to get it. No one ever gets it. Not even the network executives who are invariably the ones who have that strong, firm grip on your crotch via contracts that say they have the final say on what the final version of everything on their network will be.

There’s a hokey old saying that new writers invariably are assaulted by: “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” But that saying is true. No one can read the writer’s mind well enough to put in story and characterization points that aren’t in the script. Because how the hell is the reader supposed to know what those points should be? (That’s why they hire writers…to come up with that stuff.)

Similarly, there’s no way an audience can know the creators’ – writers, producers, directors, actors – intentions for how any given moment of a show is supposed to play. The audience can only know what it sees on the screen actually playing out. that’s what’s in the audience’s collective face. That’s what’s real.

Whew. Having gotten that out of the way, here are my mini-reviews of Amazon’s 14 sad excuses for “pilots.” (Yeah, I know I’ve already given it away. I’m fine if you want to click away now…as long as you swear you won’t waste one minute of your precious lives by watching this shit. I really did sit there with both my Kindle and my 56″ plasma screen on so you wouldn’t have to.)

KIDS’ SHOWS

AnneBotsANNEBOTS

Utter drivel. A bad ’70s commercial for action figures that don’t exist, thank God.

CreativeGalaxyCREATIVE GALAXY

Embarrassingly earnest. ’80s style educational TV. No living member of the human race could ever sit and watch this. Probably not many dead ones either.

OZPOSITIVELY OZITIVELY

Pure amateur hour. The kind of thing middle-aged schoolteachers with no creativity kept trying to sell to local PBS stations in the ’90s.

SaraSolvesItSARA SOLVES IT

Similar to POSITIVELY OZITIVELY except that it looks like someone trying to imitate the ’90s Klasky-Czupo Nickelodeon look.

teenyTinyDogsTEENY TINY DOGS

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t even finish watching the opening titles. Blame the theme song. I kept thinking – this is a parody, it’s got to be a parody…but it wasn’t clever enough for a parody, so…

TumbleafTUMBLE LEAF

Would’ve been great looking in the mid’ 50s. But I sure don’t remember the mid ’50s exactly being a high point of visual creativity.

COMEDY SHOWS

AlphaHouseALPHA HOUSE

Garry Trudeau! John Goodman! And it still sucks. No rhythm. No humor. No insight. Looks & sounds like the kind of first cut that gets everyone on a show fired.

BetasBETAS

Proof positive that coding, programming, and just about everything to do with the show’s setting, Silicon Valley, are even duller than a CPA’s most unimaginative fantasies.

BrowsersBROWSERS

This one must be a parody. Why else would anyone create a musical comedy using rejected ’50s way-off-broadway style show tunes?

DarkMinionsDARK MINIONS

The most professional looking show in the bunch but nothing THE VENTURE BROTHERS, ARCHER, and Brit classic RED DWARF haven’t already done just about perfectly.

OnionONION NEWS EMPIRE

Sketch comedy? Not set in Portland? Why bother? Almost as good looking as DARK MINIONS. But, sadly, even more derivative.

SupaNaturalSUPANATURAL

I defy anyone who’s watched this to find the words to say what it’s about. Feels like SCOOBYDOO. But in black face. Whatever your definition of insulting, this abomination fits it.

ThoseWhoCantTHOSE WHO CAN’T

The closest any of these shows comes to being hip. Perfect for Comedy Central – if everything Comedy Central did was tone deaf and unfunny.

ZombielandZOMBIELAND

Admission: I came very close to liking this. A lot. then I remembered the 1027 zombie web series that are funnier.

DRAMA SHOWS

Sorry kids. Ain’t none. (Talk about your feeling of relief…)

EDITED TO ADD: Just in case we’ve totally lost you and you have no idea what LB is talking about, the explanation of Amazon’s foray into the world of streaming web video/TV is here. Can’t afford to lose anybody, you know?

About LB

Larry Brody has been profiled in such national magazines and websites as Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Starlog, People, Electronic Media, IndieSlate, TechTV, io9, and of course TV Guide. A legendary figure in the television writing and production world, with a career going back to the late ’60s, Brody has written and produced literally thousands of hours of network and syndicated television. Brody has also been active in the TV animation world, writing, creating, consulting, and/or supervising the cult favorite STAR TREK animated TV series, the SILVER SURFER, SPAWN, SUPERMAN, SPIDERMAN, and SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED animated series, and was showrunner of the French animated series, DIABOLIK, as well as part of the team that developed and wrote the live-action/cgi animation sci-fi series Ace Lightning for the BBC. Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys.

2 thoughts on “LB Sees All of Amazon Prime’s Original Pilots

  1. ChilltownTV says:

    I watched one, after your original post, and clicked stop after about 10 seconds. Just awful. Why am I not surprised the rest would be just as bad…

  2. LB says:

    These shows bring the concept of professionalism to a whole new level – and I don’t mean up.

    I finally took the Amazon survey about the shows I watched. If you click through it – only 2 pages per show – the wording of the questions gives you an insight into what they seem to be looking for. Looks like it’s all about marketing – buzzwords & audience recognition. Entertainment value doesn’t seem to rate very highly on the list.

    Shoulda known.

    LYMI,

    LB

Comments are closed.