Not as much fanfare, it seems, for Amazon’s new series – compared to the excitement that typically surrounds those released by Netflix. Unless I’m just not paying attention. But, you may not have heard that, today, Amazon Studios announced its first pilot season of 2015 is now available on Amazon Instant Video in the US, UK and Germany.
In total, 7 new drama, comedy and docu-series pilots are premiering, as well as 4 animated kids pilots. Amongst them, you’ll find casts that include a few actors of African descent you might know, and want to see perform on this series, like Romany Malco co-starring in what is described as a dark comedy drama titled “Mad Dogs;” Lucien Laviscount and Adrienne Warren in a Civil War-set drama “Point of Honor;” and Toks Olagundoye in a half-hour comedy titled “Salem Rogers.”
Details on each pilot (plot, full cast, creator, etc) mentioned above, and not mentioned, follow below.
Of most interest to me on this list, which has no black actors in it that I can tell, is the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award-winning 1962 novel “Man in the High Castle,” which tells the story of an alternative history in which the Allied Powers lost World War II to the Axis Powers. PKD is one of my favorite authors, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker, who are producing the project, bring this novel to life on screen. I’ll likely be checking out the pilot today – as well as most of the others.
Audiences, once again, are now invited to watch and provide feedback on the shows they want to see turned into full series. All pilots are available via the Amazon Instant Video app on Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and certain smart TVs.
“We look forward to seeing our customers’ response to the year’s first pilot season,” said Roy Price, Vice President, Amazon Studios. “We’re thrilled about these projects and the great talent and passion behind them.”
Via press release, Amazon’s comedy and drama pilots include:
Created by Samuel Baum (Lie to Me) and Sam Shaw (Manhattan–TV series), Cocked stars Sam Trammell (True Blood) as Richard Paxson, a family man and corporate lap dog who left his family in rural Colorado twenty years before and vowed never to go back. After some unfortunate circumstances, he is forced to leave the big city and return home to help his family’s gun business–one of the oldest in the country. But no good deed goes unpunished. Older brother Grady Paxson, played by Jason Lee (My Name is Earl), who’s a bachelor, playboy and gun aficionado, isn’t so happy to have him back, and Richard’s liberal wife and two opinionated teenage children are horrified by the world they have been thrown into. Hilarity, epic fights and emotional breakdowns ensue. Cocked also stars Tony award-winning Brian Dennehy (Death of a Salesman) as Wade Paxson and Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad) as Hannah Paxson, and Dreama Walker (The Good Wife) as Tabby Paxson. The hour-long dark comedy pilot was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Skull Island), and Erwin Stoff (Unbroken) and Baum are Executive Producers.
Blessed with good looks, a winning smile, hippie parents, and a Southern California upbringing, life has been relatively easy thus far for Logan Wood (played by Josh Casaubon, I Just Want My Pants Back). In his late 30’s, having coasted through romances with countless women and various random jobs, he now teaches yoga to the trophy wives, hot moms and aspiring celebrities of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. But when Logan and his current girlfriend, a successful and attractive older woman named Amanda (played by Paget Brewster, Criminal Minds) who happens to be the owner of the yoga studio, break up, life starts to get more complicated. Down Dog also stars Lyndsy Fonseca (How I Met Your Mother), Will Greenberg (Halt and Catch Fire), Andrea Savage (The Life and Times of Tim), Amir Talai (American Dad), Kris Kristofferson (Lone Star), and Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black). The pilot was written by Robin Schiff (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion), produced by Bob Cooper (RFK) and Michael Fuchs (Death in the Modern Age), and directed by Bradley Silberling (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events).
Mad Dogs is an hour-long dark comedy drama created by Cris Cole (The Good Times Are Killing Me), and Executive Produced by Cole, Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Marney Hochman (Last Resort), Andy Harries (Strikeback), Suzanne Mackie (Kinky Boots), and Charles McDougall (The Good Wife). Based on the hit UK series, Mad Dogs follows the reunion of a group of underachieving forty-something friends–a mixture of single, married and recently divorced, all seemingly at crossroads in their lives. Celebrating the early retirement of an old friend at his gorgeous Belizean villa, grudges begin to emerge and secrets explode as their trip becomes a labyrinthine nightmare of lies, deception and murder. Mad Dogs is a twisted tale of friendship put to the ultimate test. As the chain of events unfolds, cracks within the group widen before the friends realize the only people they can trust are each other, the last people they should be relying on! The pilot stars Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) as Cobi, Billy Zane (Titanic) as Milo, Romany Malco (Weeds) as Gus, Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) as Lex and Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line) as Joel. Mad Dogs was directed by McDougall and is being co-produced with Sony Pictures Television.
The Man in the High Castle
Based on Philip K. Dick’s Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternative history, The Man in the High Castle considers the question of what would have happened if the Allied Powers had lost World War II. Almost 20 years after that loss, the United States and much of the world has now been split between Japan and Germany, the major hegemonic states. But the tension between these two powers is mounting, and this stress is playing out in the western U.S. Through a collection of characters in various states of posing (spies, sellers of falsified goods, others with secret identities), The Man in the High Castle provides an intriguing tale about life and history as it relates to authentic and manufactured reality. The hour-long dramatic pilot stars Alexa Davalos (Mob City) as Juliana Crain, Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars) as Joe Blake, Rupert Evans (The Village) as Frank Frink, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat Legacy) as Tagomi, Joel De La Fuente (Hemlock Grove) as Inspector Kido, Rufus Sewell (Eleventh Hour) as John Smith and DJ Qualls (Z Nation) as Ed McCarthy. The pilot was directed by David Semel (Madam Secretary, Heroes) and written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files), both serving as Executive Producers. Also executive producing are Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and David W. Zucker (The Good Wife), with co-executive producer Jordan Sheehan of Scott Free Productions (The Good Wife, The Andromeda Strain), and Executive Producers Stewart Mackinnon and Christian Baute of Headline Pictures (The Invisible Woman). In addition, Isa Dick Hackett will executive produce and Kalen Egan will co-executive produce on behalf of Electric Shepherd (The Adjustment Bureau). Christopher Tricarico (May in the Summer) is also Executive Producer.
The New Yorker Presents
America’s most award-winning magazine comes to life in this half-hour docuseries pilot. The New Yorker Presents is a completely unique viewing experience that features Tony-Award winner Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) and actor Brett Gelman (Go On) in a short film based on a story by Simon Rich (Saturday Night Live) and directed by Emmy Award-winning director Troy Miller (Arrested Development); a poem by Matthew Dickman and narrated by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman); a documentary by Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) about biologist Tyrone Hayes based on a Rachel Aviv article; and an interview with famous performance artist, Marina Abramovic, conducted by The New Yorker writer Ariel Levy. Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) is Executive Producer, joined by Dave Snyder (Death Row Stories) and Dawn Ostroff (The Fashion Fund). The pilot is co-produced by Condé Nast Entertainment and Jigsaw Productions.
Point of Honor
At the start of the Civil War, a Virginia family, led by their West Point bred son, John Rhodes (played by Nathan Parsons, True Blood), makes the controversial decision to defend the South while freeing all of their slaves. At battle against his northern brethren and his best friend and brother-in-law Robert Sumner (played by Christopher O’Shea, Baby Daddy), John leaves his three strong-willed sisters at home to run the plantation that is now without a free labor source. The choice to protect the life they have always known and defend the moral high ground will pit the family against one another and test their strength, courage and love. An hour-long drama shot entirely on-location in historic Virginia, Point of Honor also stars Annabelle Stephenson (Revenge) as Kate Rhodes, Riley Voelkel (The Newsroom) as Lorelei Rhodes, Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Old School) as Estella Rhodes, Patrick Heusinger (Revolution) as Colonel Palmer Kane, Luke Benward (Ravenswood) as Garland Rhodes, Adrienne Warren (Black Box) as Abby, Lucien Laviscount (Waterloo Road) as Elijah, and James Harvey Ward (Low Winter Sun) as Cutler. The pilot was directed by Randall Wallace (Braveheart), written by Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Wallace, and Executive Produced by Cuse, Wallace and Barry Jossen (Sex and the City). Point of Honor is a co-production with ABC Signature Studios.
A half-hour comedy, Leslie Bibb (About a Boy) plays Salem Rogers, an overly confident, blunt, hard-partying former supermodel who is forced to face her past and re-enter the real world after ten years in a posh rehab center. Intent on recreating her glamorous lifestyle and modeling success, she tracks down Agatha (played by Rachel Dratch, Saturday Night Live), her former assistant who has since built a career as an author of self-help books to help her win back the spotlight. Salem Rogers also stars Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), Brad Morris (Playing House), Harry Hamlin (Mad Men), Toks Olagundoye (The Neighbors), and Scott Adsit (30 Rock). The pilot was written by newcomer Lindsey Stoddart, Executive Produced by Will Graham (The Onion News Network) and directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls). Salem Rogers was submitted to Amazon as part of the studio’s open screenplay submission process.
Amazon’s original kids pilots include:
Buddy: Tech Detective (for preschool-aged children)
Based on an original idea by Chris Dicker (What’s Your News?) and created by Jon Burton (The Lego Movie), Dicker and Jocelyn Stevenson (Fraggle Rock), and developed for television by Jennifer Hamburg (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Henry Hugglemonster), Buddy: Tech Detective is an exciting preschool whodunit that follows super-sleuth Buddy, his inventor best friend Trudy, the funny furry ferret Ferdo and you, the smarty-pants viewer! Using a myriad of interactive technologies, Buddy and his team gather evidence, follow cues and crack the case. The project is a TT Animation/The Foundation (a part of Zodiak Kids) production, and is animated by Jellyfish Animation Limited.
Sara Solves It (for preschool-aged children)
This animated musical comes from the talented minds of Carol Greenwald (Arthur, Martha Speaks, Curious George), and Angela C. Santomero (Super Why, Blue’s Clues, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Creative Galaxy, Wishenpoof!) with animation production handled by DHX (Martha Speaks, Kid vs. Kat, Inspector Gadget). Produced by WGBH and Out of the Blue Enterprises with Greenwald, Santomero and Samantha Freeman executive producing, Sara Solves It follows 9-year-old whiz kid Sara and her younger brother Sam as they work together in order to solve mysteries in their apartment building, at school and beyond using creative problem solving! Each mystery is an interactive problem, steeped in musical goodness. In this first episode, viewers will use math and music in a creative way as they help Sara and Sam solve the cheesiest pizza mystery!
The Stinky & Dirty Show (for preschool-aged children)
The Stinky & Dirty Show, based on the “I Stink!” book series by Kate & Jim McMullan, is written by Guy Toubes (The Adventures of Chuck & Friends, Littlest Pet Shop, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi) and animated by Brown Bag Films, Ltd (Peter Rabbit, Octonauts, Doc McStuffins). The Stinky & Dirty Show follows the adventures and mishaps faced by best friends and unlikely heroes, Stinky the garbage truck and Dirty, the backhoe loader. Whether it’s rescuing their pal Mighty the tugboat, or moving a giant boulder blocking the highway in their town of Go City, Stinky & Dirty are a dynamic duo of resourcefulness who make plenty of mistakes along the way. For them, hilariously failing turns out to be the most fun path to success.
Niko and the Sword of Light (for children ages 6-11)
Niko and the Sword of Light is based on the motion graphic comic by Imaginism Studios, Inc., the studio behind character and concept designs for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Men in Black 3, and Studio NX (The Carrot and Rabbit Show, Tree Fu Tom). Written by Rob Hoegee (Generator Rex, League of Super Evil, Storm Hawks, Teen Titans) and animated by Titmouse (Motorcity, Metalocalpyse, Turbo FAST, Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja), Niko and the Sword of Light follows ten-year-old Niko who is the last of his kind in a strange, fantastical world. He must embark on an epic quest to defeat the darkness and bring the light back to his land. Armed with his magic sword, brave Niko journeys to the Cursed Volcano, making new friends and powerful foes along the way, all while uncovering secrets about his mysterious past. Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) and Jim Cummings (Shrek) lend their vocal talent.
Table 58 (for children ages 6-11)
Written by May Chan (Phineas & Ferb, Bucket & Skinner’s Epic Adventures), Table 58 is a single-camera live-action pilot directed by Gil Junger (10 Things I Hate About You, Greek). In Table 58, they’re not a part of the popular crowd, and they’re not a part of the geek crowd. The only thing they’re a part of is Table 58: the odd table in the lunchroom, made up of kids from all different cliques who have been ousted from the table where they seemingly belong. When new kid Logan moves to town, he rallies the group of six mismatched middle schoolers to form a tenuous partnership in order to help each other get back to their rightful place in the cafeteria. The project stars Grace Kaufman (Bad Teacher), Johnnie Ladd (Melissa & Joey), Jacob Melton (The Middle), Nathaniel Potvin (Girl Meets World), Juliana Rigolioso (The Smurfs), and Zack Shires (Wilfred).
Just Add Magic (for children ages 6-11)
Based on Cindy Callaghan’s young adult book of the same name and adapted by Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco (Sullivan & Son, Fairly Odd Parents), Just Add Magic is a single-camera live-action pilot directed by Joe Nussbaum (George Lucas in Love, Awkward). The story centers on Kelly Quinn and her two BFF’s, Darbie and Hannah, who stumble upon her grandmother’s mysterious cookbook in the attic and discover it has some interesting recipes. The Shut’em Up Shortcake actually silences Kelly’s pesky little brother and when the Healing Hazelnut Tart quickly heals Darbie’s ankle, the girls discover they have the power of magic. The project stars Olivia Sanabia (Extant), Abby Donnelly (Suburgatory), Aubrey Miller (Austin & Ally), and Judah Bellamy (Home).