April 23, 2013, 8:30 AM —
Amazon wants to start creating original content for Amazon Video On Demand. Netflix and Hulu have already tried this and Netflix, at least, seems to be enjoying some success. Amazon decided to 'crowdsource' their decision as to what shows they should make, so they've released pilots for foourteen shows.
The company sent out a press release talking about how successful the shows were over the weekend. The pilots held 8 spots on the list of 10 most streamed Amazon VOD episodes, and it just so happened that I spent a couple hours Saturday afternoon checking a few of them out, so I figured I'd share my thoughts.
All told, there were six kid's show pilots and eight comedy pilots. I watched three of the comedies and dipped into a fourth. Now I'm no TV critic so take my thoughts with a grain of salt, but all these pilots are free so at least if I steer you wrong I won't be costing you money.
The first one I watched was Zombieland, based on the movie. In fact, based on the same characters from the movie, only with different actors, which I think was setting up the show to fail. And fail it did. Kirk Ward, Tyler Ross and Maiara Walsh step into the roles once played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, respectively. Those are big shoes to fill. The premise is weird (the group is trying to find other survivors with the help of the world's last OnStar operator) and there's way too much emphasis on Columbus's rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse. I just didn't think much of it.
Next up was Dark Minions. If it goes into production it will be an animated series done via stop motion animation. In order to cut costs, the pilot has a lot of 'storyboard' sequences, and while understandable, that was somewhat off-putting to me. The show is about a couple of slackers who're working aboard the intergalactic warship of an evil overlord. I didn't watch much of it because it just wasn't my kind of thing. I suspect if you like The Office (which I don't, believe it or not) and Red Dwarf (which I do) then you might want to give this one a shot. I might give it another try when I'm in the right mood for this kind of humor.
Alpha House is about four senators living together in conditions reminiscent of a frat house (it's no coincidence that the show's name might remind you of Animal House). It stars John Goodman, and Bill Murray has a cameo in the pilot. It's written by Garry Trudeau, of Doonesbury fame, which should give you a good idea of whether or not you'll like it. It's a comedy that pokes a lot of fun at the 'good old boy' school of politics, and it felt very fresh and timely (Stephen Colbert also makes an appearance). I thought it was really funny but whether or you will or not might depend on how comfortable you are laughing at our political system.
The last pilot I watched was Betas and it was my favorite. It's about a group of 4 guys looking for VC money to fund their start-up. They've got an idea for a social app that they think will be the next big thing. The characters are pretty much geek stereotypes but that's part of the fun. You have the 'idea guy' trying to drive everyone to fame. You have the perfectionist, super-nerdy programmer who never wants to release his code. You've got the jaded older programmer who'd kind of rather watch porn than work, and you've got the awkward younger guy getting dubious relationship advice from the jaded older guy. I think any geek could get some enjoyment out Betas and it's the one pilot I really hope gets turned into a series.
The four other comedy pilots that I didn't watch are: Broswers which is a musical about a news website; Onion News Empire which is a scripted series about working behind the scenes at The Onion; Supanatural is an animated series about a couple of divas protecting the world from a supernatural threat; and finally Those Who Can't which is about three teachers who are more juvenile than the students they teach.
I'd love to hear from anyone who's had a chance to watch any of these. Let us know what you think. Also note there's a survey on the Amazon Originals page that you can use to give Amazon feedback. It's up to us, the viewers, to let Amazon know which if these series to greenlight. so feedback is important!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.