Pilot season is upon us, and when it comes to Amazon, they’re once again letting their viewers choose which pilots get to go forward to full series. Previous pilot seasons for Amazon have seen them creating shows like comedy Alpha House, recently renewed for a second season. This is the shortest pilot season Amazon have yet put on, with just five shows up for grabs: two dramas, and three comedies. But what exactly does each show have to offer?
Stars: Ron Perlman, Dana Delany
Perlman stars as “morally corrupt” judge Pernell Harris. After the rape of his daughter-in-law and his son’s subsequent attempted suicide, he has a religious revelation and suffers a kind of nervous breakdown, starting off the episode naked in a fountain, speaking in tongues. Hand of God features some standards of the urban thriller – corrupt mayors, dodgy building projects, con men – along with the uncertainty over whether or not Harris actually is hearing from God. The pilot ends on a cliffhanger, which bodes well for having a strong season-long plot arc, but at the moment most of the appeal of Hand of God rests firmly on the shoulders of Ron Perlman, who’s sleazy and intimidating as the possibly insane judge.
Stars: Craig Roberts, Paul Resier, Jennifer Grey, Gage Golightly
Set in a 1980s country club, Red Oaks is a coming-of-age comedy about college student David who’s spending his holidays working as a tennis coach. It starts out promisingly enough, with his father having a heart attack and revealing that David’s mother is either a lesbian or bisexual (it makes a nice change to have bisexuality acknowledged in modern media – right, Orange is the New Black?). But then it becomes something that you’ve seen before. Dad is pressuring son to follow him into the family business. All the men are average-looking with absolutely stunning girlfriends. Sleazy character has a moustache. The stoner fancies a beautiful woman, but she’s in love with a jerk. At a party, the girls get their tits out. Red Oaks is fairly inoffensive, but if you’ve seen a post-1990 movie set in the 1980s, you’ve seen this show before.
Stars: Adam Brody, Chloe Sevigny
In Paris, a group of American expats are trying to find love. First off, The Cosmopolitans looks really nice, thanks to the Parisian setting and an interesting font choice for the subtitles (sometimes it’s the little things that make the most difference). But it’s a marmite show. Either you’ll love it for the almost dreamlike lethargy, or detest the characters who seem to have nothing to do but complain about their love lives in beautiful surroundings.
Stars: Jay Chandrasekhar, Sarah Chalke, Selma Blair
Written, directed by and starring comedian Jay Chandrasekhar, Really is a comedy series focussing on the pitfalls of marriage that a group of friends face as they try to hold onto their youth. It’s surprising just how many sitcoms use the “man just can’t get a blowjob” routine, and here it is again. In 30 minutes, Really covers the difficulties of having sex with children in the house, vacuous dinner parties, infidelity and substance abuse. But although one character’s drinking seems to be a problem, and there’s a slight disapproval of smoking, no-one seems to mention the fact that everyone spends the episode with glasses of wine in their hands, or a spliff. And the women don't get much to do beyond vaguely nagging, with one strange scene post-dinner party sees everyone segregated down gender lines for the men to have fun smoking, and the women to be absent.
Stars: Mena Suvari, Ella Rae Peck
It's difficult to describe the plot of Hysteria, as there's a lot going on. There's a prisoner on death row. A doctor having to go back to her hometown, where her best friend died aged 12, at the hands of her brother, who's the prisoner on death row. And she's had to go back because of girls suffering uncontrollable spasms for no physiological reason, which were initially triggered by sexual assault at an abandoned warehouse, which was all part of a revenge plot on the part of a jilted lover... And then there's a video which is "infecting" other people. Supposedly based on mass hysteria events (and a little bit on The Crucible), Hysteria has some really interesting ideas but suffers from characters who are just really bland. Take the main character, Logan Harlen, who spends a lot of time gazing at a significant tree and being an awful doctor (rather than remain in the room talking to her patient, she wanders off to look at herself in a mirror and thus misses the girl having another attack). Solve some of the character issues, and Hysteria could be good.
Have you seen the shows and voted yet? Check them out here.
And let us know what you thought in the comments below.