In two previous posts, I discussed the
And now come the comedies, which number eight. One is a cartoon, one is puppet-animated. One is a musical. Basic- to premium-cable in tone, all come with warnings as to adult content. (The musical comes with the additional warning that it is a musical.) None, at least as seen here, is destined for a broadcast network, though a couple would take only minor tweaks to conform to FCC rules and regulations and industry standards and practices. (Amazon will stream whatever series it decides to produce but may also shop its wares to the Old Media.) Most swing for a younger demographic (some, to be sure, being made by that younger demographic). None attempt to remake the form.
On a technical level, they're polished enough to go anywhere; Amazon's "open-door" submission policy notwithstanding, they are not homemade works of guerrilla television but the refined handiwork of industry pros. And in terms of content, the least of them are not as bad as things you can see right now on actual TV. I realize that that is a low bar, and Amazon does not bat eight for eight, but all in all, it's an impressive first outing. Your average TV network or production company, offering as many pilots, might do no better.
More or less in descending order of how much I like them:
The witty "Alpha House," from Garry Trudeau, is a domestic/workplace comedy, focusing on a variety pack of Republican senators sharing close quarters in
The acute irony of "The Onion," in print and video, has felt more necessary than ever lately — a bitter tonic to times that feel ever more out of joint. Created by Will Graham and Dan Mirk of the online/Comedy Central
Kristen Schall ("The Daily Show,"
Bebe Neuwirth is the designated older person in "Browsers," a musical sitcom from
"Betas" is a Silicon Valley comedy about four associates with an algorithm. (It's a dating app with a GPS component, but basically it's a McGuffin). The storytelling and characters (charming idea man Joe Dinicol, nervous genius Karan Soni, disheveled older dude Jonathan C. Daly, goofy protégé
"Those Who Can't" comes from the Denver-based comedy trio the Grawlix, who write and star. They cast themselves here as three high school teachers of unclear talent, at war with their students, and much else. It has its moments. Spanish teacher Adam Cayton-Holland is funny trying to impress school librarian Nikki Glaser by checking out books with a feminist theme, and in his insistence that his students, who grew up with New World Spanish, speak it with a Castilian lisp. But there is a sourness to much of it. Much of the pilot, which sees them plotting revenge on a student (your standard issue bully-jock) by planting drugs in his locker, is untethered even to remote likelihood. In one scene, history teacher Benjamin Roy takes his son along on a
The stop-motion animated slacker-stoner interstellar space adventure "Dark Minions" resembles "SupaNatural" in the way it turns space opera into ordinary aggravating life. Its premise — two knuckleheads working for an evil intergalactic corporate empire, a job that fits neither their abilities nor inclinations — might have served for any number of human comedy teams; here, it's writers John Ross Bowie and
Finally, there is Zombieland, adapted by writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick from their well-received 2009 film (first imagined, in fact, as a TV series). As an accidental family roaming a nation almost wholly populated by flesh-eaters, Kirk Ward, Tyler Ross,