Amazon’s fifth round of pilots is finally over and we all survived, but as usual all of the new shows on display did not. The e-commerce giant turned media platform picked up three new shows and renewed one of its existing programs. Unlike other network and digital platforms which tinker with potential new shows behind closed doors, Amazon Studios famously puts the process on full display. Viewers are encouraged to weigh in on which new pilots deserve a chance at life and which are headed for an early grave. For TV enthusiasts there’s an element of blood sport involved as Amazon pits creators and talent against each other in a ruthless battle to win our affection. So which shows get a full season and which are headed to the scrap pile?
The Man In The High Castle – Adapted from a Phillip K. Dick Novel of the same name, The Man In The High Castle was an early favorite with critics and attracted the bulk of the buzz during this round of pilots. It’s an hour long drama set in an alternate timeline where the Nazis won World War II. It’s the most ambitious show in this round of pilots and clearly the most expensive. Fans seemed to agree with critics, making this the most watched pilot in this round, but it hardly matters. Barring an allergic reaction from viewers, Amazon was always going to make this show, it’s the prestige drama they’ve been dreaming of. The last time Amazon pushed a pilot this hard it was Transparent, which went to series despite being both the least watched and lowest rated pilot in its cycle. Two Golden Globes later I think it’s safe to trust Amazon’s judgment.
Mad Dogs – An American adaptation of a British show, Mad Dogs is a dark comedy that follows four middle aged men who become entangled in a criminal conspiracy after a friend is murdered. The show stars Michael Imperioli, Steve Zahn, Billy Zane, and Romany Malco. Amazon’s comedy side has tended to err on the side of multicam sitcoms, but given that it’s biggest success has been Jill Soloway’s subtle and darkly funny Transparent this seems like a smart bet.
The New Yorker Presents – Billed as a documentary series, The New Yorker Presents brings the New Yorker magazine to life with in-depth documentary style reporting intercut with sketches based on the magazine’s famous humor essays and cartoons. This show scored well with viewers and also brings something to the table that Amazon hasn’t tried before. The show will be supported by New Yorker publisher Conde Nast, which has also been making big forays into online video with its own platform The Scene, which recently hosted original programming like Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart’s reality series #HeyUSA.
Other Winners: Amazon also picked up two kid-centric shows. Just Add Magic and The Stinky & Dirty Show will join Amazon’s growing roster of original programming for kids and families. Amazon studios also gave a nod to its existing original series Mozart In The Jungle, granting the dramedy about sexy symphony musicians a second season.
There can’t be winners without losers, so let’s take a quick moment to remember the fallen. Civil War era drama Point of Honor, dark comedy Cocked, and sitcoms Down Dog and Salem Rogers all find themselves on the cutting room floor. I’d like to take a moment to specifically pour one out for Salem Rogers. Sitcom pilots are always tough, but a half hour comedy featuring Leslie Bibb, Rachel Dratch, and Jane Kaczmarek is the definition of potential. Give it another chance, Amazon! I promise to buy more books, blenders, and baking supplies!