Last weekend Amazon.com posted eight comedy pilot shows ("Amazon Originals"), all created for adult audiences. Amazon asks viewers to rate the pilots. According to the company's website, "You help decide which shows become series," which implies that Amazon will give weight to viewer responses when choosing which pilots to develop into regular programs.
I'm participating in this project. I'm an Amazon Prime member, so I have an interest in seeing good programming for my money. I've watched them all. Sometimes I had to force myself to finish the watching the programs. My opinions are my own and are representative of onlymy own demographic (limping, crazy old men with bad teeth). Here's how I rate the pilots from the worst to the best:
Dark Minions deserves two thumbs down. In a word, it's underbaked. The show follows two temp workers in a spaceship of an evil galactic empire. It's Office Space in outer space. When developed, the show will be animated, but only parts of the pilot are animated. The rest of the video makes do with camera shots of storyboards. Humor and situations are predictable. On the plus side, the voice actors are very good.
Betas is a definite two thumbs down for dumb. The pilot follows four young entrepreneurs who have an new app and are seeking success in Silicon Valley. I watched the trailer and knew I would hate it. I watched it anyway, and I hated it. Featuring slow action and awkward characters, this pilot is boring. Stay away.
Zombieland, another two-thumbs-down show, is based on the movie of the same name. The special effects are good, and the actors work hard; but the show isn't funny. The pilot doesn't bring anything new to the zombie genre. It's a dead man walking.
Onion News Empire gets a cautious one thumb up. This series, if made, will attempt to bring the humor of the Onion to the format of a half hour show. The pilot follows a young newscaster on the first day on the job at a Onion News Network. Good actors make the deadpan humor of this show work, but the overarching story that wraps it up into a show is weaker thanany of the parts.
Browsers also gets a cautious one thumb up. It's the singing version of Onion News Empire. The pilot follows four interns on their first day at a Huffington Post-like news website. At times the cast members break out into song. The pilot is entertaining and sometimes amusing, but it's not very funny or original.
Alpha House gets two thumbs up, but only for John Goodman's performance. Gary Trudeau of Doonesberry fame wrote this political satire pilot in which four Republican senators share a house in Washington, D.C. Trudeau has worked the situation of guys sharing a house for decades. What's new here?
Supanatural startled me by earning two thumbs up. This pilot is an animated black-themed show about two women who have supernatural adventures in a shopping mall. It's Ghostbusters in the mall. It's far-fetched and ridiculous. I didn't think I'd like it, but this pilot made me laugh.
Those Who Can't certainly can make me laugh. I give it two thumbs up. I put watching this one off until last because I thought this comedy about high school teachers would be awful. Instead, it's awfully funny. It's the best comedy show about high school teachers since Welcome Back, Kotter, and that show was on a long time ago. Admittedly the premises of the show are not new, but at least it's funny.
The problem with these shows is obvious. As one wag quipped on Twitter, "Amazon originals aren't."
You can watch these pilots on Amazon's website or on the LOVEFiLM channel on YouTube.