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Amazon launches new pilots

| Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WEB_Banner_AmazonEmily Hoffmann
While “House of Cards” fans settled down and dug into the show’s second season this Valentine’s Day and “Orange is the New Black” enthusiasts impatiently await a batch of new episodes, it’s become clear that online-only shows have moved into the consciousness of American television watchers in a big way. In about seven years, Netflix went from a DVD rental company with streaming options to the go-to online streaming service for shows and movies to an award-winning provider of original content.

Netflix isn’t the only online streaming service, however, now putting out original content. Online giant Amazon began streaming pilots to original shows last year. Rather than taking rival Netflix’s approach of producing and releasing entire seasons at once, Amazon takes a crowdsourcing approach instead. The website “premieres” a group of pilots and waits for viewer responses to determine which shows to continue producing, combining, in some ways, Netflix’s high quality, no-holds-barred production style with the more traditional network television approach.

Now, the company is back with 10 new pilots available for free streaming, even without an account. This year’s pilots include five children’s shows, three comedies and two dramas, new genre for Amazon. Though the website’s first attempt at garnering viewership last year did not prove as successful as Netflix’s “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black,” this year’s batch shows plenty of promise.

The two hour-long dramas bring two familiar names back to the television (or more likely, computer) screens. “The After” is a sci-fi drama made by “X-Files” creator Chris Carter. Taking place during post-disaster chaos in a hotel in Los Angeles, the ensemble cast experiences mysteries and coincidences. Think “Lost,” but in Los Angeles. If you’re looking for even more “Lost,” Amazon’s second drama pilot stars Titus Welliver of “Lost” fame as a detective in “Bosch,” based on author Michael Connelly’s series of the same name.

Comedies include “The Rebels,” about a woman whose football coach husband unexpectedly dies, leaving her to manage the fictional professional football team, and “Mozart in the Jungle,” an unexpected look at the world of classical music written by Jason Schwartzmann, Roman Coppola and musical theater writer/director Alex Timbers. “The Rebels” sounds like every bad sports-comedy show on cable right now, and isn’t particularly interesting. However, “Mozart in the Jungle” could prove to be a success with a fresh theme and behind-the-scenes look at the wild world of classical music, basically taking American Pie’s “one time, at band camp” punch line and moving it into adulthood.

The standout of the group of five pilots for adults, however, is undoubtedly “Transparent,” with an all-star cast including Jeffery Tambor, Jay Duplass, Gabby Hoffman and Amy Landecker. Centered around an LA family of three adult siblings and their divorced parents, the pilot is funny, sad, progressive and sure to pick up a substantial viewership. With an important, albeit slightly predictable, twist at the end of the episode, “Transparent” proves that Amazon is stepping up its game both in production quality and content.

Though some pilots clearly stand out more than others, the best part of Amazon’s “premieres” is that they’re available on-demand and for free. Though Amazon’s streaming style prevents the infamous “binge” that Netflix permits, with five unique pilots available, you can have a dynamic binge of your own, and just maybe you’ll find a new favorite show to cheer for between “House of Cards” binges.

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About Allie Tollaksen

Scene Editor. Senior studying Psychology and dabbling in everything else.

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