Pilot season rolls around every year, but for the first time TV fans can participate. Like Netflix, Amazon is getting in on the original programming game, so they’ve had 8 comedy pilots made and are now letting viewers weigh in on the options.
All eight episodes are available to stream for free on Amazon.com, so I spent the weekend watching each and every one of them. (Okay, it wasn’t that hard, most of the episodes are only about 20mins.) Here’s my take.
First Impressions Of Amazon’s Original Comedies
About: Follows four Republicans Senators who live together in one house.
Thoughts: Really impressive cast: Bill Murray, John Goodman, Mark Consuelos…and as a pilot it worked well to introduced the characters and set-up future plots.
Bottom Line: It’s not my cup of tea, I’m uneasy about political comedies. I feel like its probably a bit more honest about our government then I’d like it to be, but with that being said I still think it was one of the stronger comedies and could see why others would want to watch Alpha House.
About: Four friends living in Silicon Valley created an algorithm and the beginnings of a mobile app that they hope will make them a lot of money.
Thoughts: The cast may not be loaded with well named stars like Alpha House, but for a TV nerd like myself I did recognize several faces. I also really enjoyed the A-plot and was impressed that there was a bit of a twist in the B-storyline, which began as an overused and un-original geeky guy goes after girl storyline.
Bottom Line: This was my favorite pilot so obviously I’d watch it again. I’d like to see the characters develop, there was some interesting relationships/dynamics brewing in the Betas pilot.
About: Browsers follows four unpaid interns at a big-named gossip website. And oh yeah, its a musical.
Thoughts: Despite watching it in standard def, my audio seemed like it never quite synched up, which was particularly annoying during the musical numbers. I also felt like I might have enjoyed it more if I had an unpaid internship experience to draw from.
Bottom Line: In my opinion it would be better if it weren’t a musical. One of the songs was called “When I Tweet”, no thanks, not funny at all.
About: Two average guys work for an evil intergalactic corporation.
Thoughts: If it were made into a series, Dark Minions would be done in claymation, but only small portions of the pilot were actually animated, which made it hard to watch. Unmoving sketches don’t exactly hold the attention.
Bottom Line: Feels like its not fair to judge an incomplete work but seeing as I’m not really into animated series, I don’t think I would want to watch more. If you’re a fan of Adult Swim or Animation Domination then you might feel differently.
About: You know The Onion, which satirizes newspapers? Well the Onion News Network satirizes The Newsroom.
Thoughts: Like Betas, this show was chalked full of actors I’ve seen elsewhere on TV. I found the pilot to be amusing, but I like The Onion so it’s not too much of a stretch.
Bottom Line: I think this show might actually work better as a series of shorts rather than as a real series. I just wanted to see the fake news stories, I didn’t really care about the characters all that much, although a 20 min. time constraint will do that to you.
About: Two ‘divas’ defend the world against supernatural forces.
Thoughts: Between its description and being animated, this was the comedy I was least looking forward to watching. And although it was honest about it’s hater-humor, I’m not a fan of cruel comedy.
Bottom Line: It was better then I thought it would be, but not good enough for me to care about watching anymore. Although Supanatural does get bonus points for making references to Stargates and Hellmouths.
About: Three high school teachers who never really grew up.
Thoughts: Like Supanatural, Those Who Can’t was more cruel then funny. I thought I’d like it because I tend to watch a lot of high school based TV shows and movies but I wasn’t enamored.
Bottom Line: Not interested, despite the fact that its told from the teachers’ perspectives, the pilot didn’t feel any more original then any other high-school based series.
About: A sequel to the 2009 movie of the same name.
Thoughts: Out of all 8 comedy pilots this one seems like it would be the most expensive to make, although I don’t know what kind of budget Amazon is working with so that might not matter.
Bottom Line: Despite having to reconcile the recasting, the enjoyable essence and humor from the movie are still there. Although I did feel like the character of Tallahassee was a bit off. Overall, I did enjoy the Zombieland pilot, and would gladly watch more.
Amazon also had six kid’s pilots created, they’re also free to watch right now. Out of all 14 pilots, at least two will get the greenlight. So go check them out and take the survey when you’re done.
If you’ve already watched a few, or all of them, which comedy would you like see as a series?
Did you know that people write books about TV? Crazy right? Well I’m enough of a TV nerd to have actually read a few.
Here’s one of my favorites, you know for when your TV shows go on hiatus or the power goes out or something.
Nickelodeon Nation: The History, Politics, and Economics of America’s Only TV Channel For Kids – Edited by Heather Hendershot
I don’t know about you but I grew up on Nickelodeon. Disney was alright, I mean I remember how excited I would be when we got to watch the free preview of the Toon Disney channel, but for me Nickelodeon was where it was at for cartoons, live action TV, and everything in between. (Seriously, how do you categorize Wild & Crazy Kids, KaBlam!, or Weinerville?)
Given how much I loved the network’s many shows and resident Popsicle stick – Stick Stickly, I was pretty excited to get my hands on this book. Broken up into four sections – ‘Economics & Marketing’, ‘The Production Process’, ‘Programs and Politics’, and ‘Viewers’ – there’s a little something for everyone.
Nick Is For Kids – Nickelodeon Nation Is For Kids At Heart
Interested in marketing or the television industry in general? Several of the early chapters provide insight into Nickelodeon’s carefully crafted orange logo, programming decisions, and general show development.
Growing up it always seemed that Nickelodeon was made just for me, but of course that perception was the result of many, very deliberate, decisions regarding the branding message of the network. Contributing authors helpfully provide the context needed to understand how Nickelodeon’s core principles differed from other children’s television shows and programming blocks of the time.
In the ‘Production Process’ section, I especially enjoyed “Diversifying Representation in Children’s TV: Nickelodeon Model” by Ellen Seiter and Vicki Mayer. Portrayals of gender and ethnicity are the main focus in this chapter, but for me the main takeaway was that Nickelodeon figured out pretty early on that girls and boys alike were willing to watch TV shows with girls in lead roles. Which is what led to Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack and later more ‘dramatic’ shows like The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and Caitlin’s Way.
Strong female characters are probably one of the few unifying themes found throughout the many TV shows I watch, and Clarissa Darling and Alex Mack are partially to blame for that. Both characters were so cool yet completely relatable, that is if you exclude the little GC-161 accident.
From Nicktoons To Nick At Nite
If you’re thinking that’s really nice and all, but I only care about the shows, then hold your horses. The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, Spongebob SquarePants, and Blues Clues all get their own chapters too. As does Nick News, but let’s be real, did any kid really watch Linda Ellerbee on their own volition?
In a particularly engaging chapter, Linda Simensky, Nickelodeon’s former Director of the Animation department recounts the early days of Nicktoons, which includes Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy.
In addition, Nick At Nite and TV Land have their own chapter, because kids can’t have all the fun and there’s also an in-depth and insightful interview with Geraldine Laybourne, Nickelodeon’s Network President from 1989 to 1996.
As with any anthology book, some sections will be more captivating than others, but overall Nickelodeon Nation offers an interesting glimpse into the origins of a network that so many kids grew up on.
If you like reading and love Nickelodeon, then here’s a few other books that might be of interest:
Kids Rule!: Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship by Sarah Banet-Weiser
Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! by Jerry Beck
Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein (Available on 9/24/2013)
After my crazy Breaking Bad binge back in December I vowed to only marathon shows that were either over or had only aired 1-2 seasons. Thankfully that meant that Game of Thrones was fair game.
Twenty episodes seemed like nothing, and even better yet I really didn’t know anything about the series (I’m clearly not a spoiler-phobe, but it is nice to be surprised). And surprised I was. Game of Thrones isn’t typically a show I would be inclined to seek out on my own, but it’s rich world and intriguing characters quickly sucked me in.
And for me that is the biggest indicator of whether or not I’m in for the long haul. If I care about the characters then I’m willing to ride out stupid plot lines, if and when they appear: Friday Night Lights season two murder, Buffy’s stint at the Doublemeat Palace, Lorelai and Christopher getting married on Gilmore Girls, etc…
But anyone who has seen or read Game of Thrones already knows how badass the series is and its many characters, so there is really no need to dwell on that fact. What I want to talk about is the actual act of watching – marathoning versus week to week.
Next Time On Game of Thrones…
Usually 20 episodes would be a breeze, especially since I started to marathon the series in the beginning of March; however, real life got in the way and I ended up watching the entire second season over the holiday weekend. I finished with just about four hours to spare before the season 3 premier.
After so quickly consuming 11 episodes of Game of Thrones I had to admit I was bummed when the end credits rolled and a preview aired. I didn’t want to wait 7 days to see more. With so many characters and plot lines, its not possible for the series to serve everyone in every episode, and they shouldn’t try to, but now that I’m all caught up I can’t just hit play on the next episode to get my Game of Thrones fix.
Marathoning or binge watching is great, its like the equivalent of reading a really good book and not putting it down until you’ve turned the last page, but in a medium like television where the story is parsed out over time there is also a benefit to the slow and steady method.
After all, marathoning is a rather time consuming proposition, once a week is much more manageable. Plus, for someone like myself who enjoys talking TV and dissecting it, a quick binge session doesn’t really lend itself to discussion or reflection, unless you’ve got a partner in crime.
Appointment viewing might be an antiquated idea, but for TV shows with a lot of social media activity (The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, reality competitions) there aren’t many other options for the well connected viewer. If I don’t watch certain shows live I am almost certain to know about any major plot points before I actually have a chance to watch, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and other entertainment sites I frequent.
With the “second screen” fueling the social TV phenomenon and still taking the “water cooler” effect into account, a decent argument remains for live viewing despite the obvious perks of marathoning. I know I can’t just wait around for all of my favorite shows to become available on Netflix. I don’t want to miss out on the conversations at work or the chance to see the next chapter of a story I am invested in as soon as possible.
Which is why I look forward to watching the new season of Game of Thrones each Sunday night, and tweeting while I do so. But perhaps that’s just me, how do you prefer to watch TV? All at once or one at a time?
For vacation this year I happily left the cold weather behind for a few days and traveled south to Universal Studios and SeaWorld in Florida. And while I loved the roller coasters and warm weather – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was one of the main highlights. I read the books, saw the movies, and now I can say I’ve had Butterbeer, wandered through Hogwarts, and ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks restaurant in Hogsmeade.
I know, I know, how many times have you seen this kind of headline before? As a Veronica Mars fan since the UPN days, I’ve seen countless headlines, tweets, and interviews with Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas about the possibilities of a movie sequel to the beloved series but very little forward momentum – until now.
EW.com broke the good news this morning: the Veronica Mars movie can happen if we, the fans, help in the form of a KickStarter campain. While Kristen Bell teased the announcement last night, she quickly took to Twitter this morning to start the hype.
So why the new spark of hope? Well, apparently Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell recently met with some of the Warner Bros. bigwigs to pitch their new plan for getting the movie off the ground and were met with open minds.
“Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot” explains Rob Thomas on the Veronica Mars KickStarter campaign page.
Money Speaks Louder Than Marshmallows
So come on Veronica Mars fans, its time to put our money where our mouth is. The initial monetary goal for the project was $2 million dollars, but as of this post that number has already been surpassed! In fact, the Veronica Mars movie is the fastest Kickstarter Project to hit $1 million dollars, according to Mashable.
But of course, more money equals a cooler movie so let’s show Warner Bros., Kristen Bell, Rob Thomas and everyone else attached to this project that the fans do in fact want to see a Veronica Mars movie!
Want to donate, just click here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/559914737/the-veronica-mars-movie-project
In addition to helping fund the project, there are also a lot of really cool reward levels to choose from. Even a $10 donation will get you a copy of the shooting script upon the movie’s release along with behind the scenes stuff and updates. More goodies come with more money, but that choice is yours.
So what are you waiting for, if you want to revisit your favorite private eye and return to the town of Neptune then click on the link above or the handy widget to the right.
And if you haven’t already, check out this hilarious video Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, and Ryan Hansen made for the occasion.
Bryan Fuller’s newest TV creation, Hannibal, is set to premier on Thursday, April 4th 2013 at 10pm. And although the show is about a serial killer and appears to be dark and stylized – in a creepy fantastical way, I’ve got a feeling that the show has more to be scared about than the audience.
The Frightening TV Landscape On NBC & Beyond
NBC may have had a banner summer and fall season, courtesy of The Olympics, Sunday Night Football, Revolution, and The Voice, but ever since the new year the network has been in a ratings free fall (see: all Thursday night comedies, Smash, and Deception). NBC is clearly behind Hannibal in some capacity – I mean they did order it to series, but from my understanding, it’s only appearing on the schedule because they’ve basically run out of all other options (example: NBC is already airing re-runs of SNL on Saturdays right before new episodes).
In the fall, Rock Center with Brian Williams aired in the Thursday 10pm slot, but it was shuffled to Fridays in order to make room for the quickly cancelled Do No Harm, which is only memorable to TV nerds for having the lowest-rated in-season scripted premier ever. With Do No Harm disappearing off of the schedule after just 2 episodes, NBC has gone to their workhorse – repeats of Law and Order: SVU – to fill the gap.
Many mid-season shows on the other networks aren’t fairing much better. ABC’s new high concept series Zero Hour was just cancelled after 3 episodes. CBS’s Golden Boy premiered to modest ratings (keep in mind that CBS has much higher standards). The CW’s new show Cult was bumped to Fridays (airing repeats of other series on Tuesday night is apparently a better alternative) and even though season 2 of Touch has yet to air on FOX, I’d wager that it’s not going to see a third season.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s other problem: he isn’t the only serial killer / notoriously insane person on TV right now. Besides the standard murder-fare from CSI, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order, FOX has the new Kevin Bacon series The Following, which has not been the breakout hit everyone was hoping for, Bates Motel is coming soon to AMC, and from what I can tell The CW’s Cult is likewise going for the dark twisted tone. So the real question is, does America really want to see more murder and another iteration of Hannibal?
Bryan Fuller’s Grim World of Television
Of course with all of that said, I’m still really looking forward to Hannibal. If anyone can find a new take on an existing story, especially one involving death, it’s Bryan Fuller – creator of Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, and Pushing Daisies. He also wrote for Heroes and was behind the one-off Halloween special Mockingbird Lane (aka the failed Munsters reboot).
There’s no question that Fuller can create quality TV, but longevity has yet to be his strong suit. Dead Like Me, which aired a decade ago on Showtime still remains his longest-lasting series with just 29 episodes (2 seasons). Hopefully Hannibal will be different. And on the up-side, NBC is in such a state of disarray that their definition of success is a bit more liberal than most.
So get in the cannibalistic spirit with the newest Hannibal preview:
According to Wikipedia, ‘shipping’, which is derived from the word ‘relationship’, “is the belief that two characters, fictional or non-fictional, are (or will be, or should be) in a romantic relationship”.*
Other definitions I found online say about the same thing. A few made mention that shipping could be platonic, but typically its romantic in nature, and that’s what I don’t get. Why can’t fans be content with friendships?