On January 15, Amazon will unveil new pilots from producers like Ridley Scott, Frank Spotnitz and Shawn Ryan, but today we get our first taste of the next round of shows via summaries. Here’s a rundown of the seven comedies and dramas, along with our gut reaction. At the very least, hopefully they fare better than “The After.”
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “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 Paxton, 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.”
GUT REACTION: Some great talent in front of the camera — Trammell always felt vaguely wasted on “True Blood,” Walker was great on “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23” and Fraser is a British powerhouse with tons of untapped potential — but ultimately it’s a premise that lends itself to what could be a lot of redneck jokes. Hopefully the writing rises above.
“The New Yorker Presents”
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “America’s most award-winning magazine comes to life in this half hour docu-series 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 Abramović, 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.”
GUT REACTION: It’s the sort of concept that will live or die by its individual segments, and thus may not work as a long-form program online. But Garfield does have a lovely voice and Cumming is always a pleasure. So the first episode, at least, promises to be entertaining.
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “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.”
GUT REACTION: Leslie Bibb has never really gotten a proper showcase for her solid comedy chops (our memory of the long-ago series “Popular” is quite fond), but she has done a lot of steady work over the years. While “Salem Rogers” isn’t the most catchy of titles, Dratch, Kaczmarek and Adsit are definitely hilarious, this might be more than a token greenlight to prove that Amazon is actually reading the submissions it gets from “newcomers.”
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “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 (‘Are You There, Chelsea?’), 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’).”
GUT REACTION: Here’s a theory on how this was pitched: “It’s like ‘Shampoo’ but in a yoga studio!” “What’s ‘Shampoo’?” “A movie where young hot Warren Beatty had sex with a lot of women.” “Oh, cool, sounds good.” It could go either way, though — Silberling’s film credits include stuff like “Casper” and “City of Angels,” but also stand-out TV pilots for the shows “Reign” and “Jane the Virgin.”
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “‘Mad Dogs’ is an hour-long dark comedy created by Cris Cole (The Bill), and Executive Produced by Cole, Shawn Ryan (‘The Shield’) and Marney Hochman (‘Last Resort’), Andy Harries (‘DCI Banks’), Suzanne Mackie (‘All in Good Time’), and Charles McDougall (‘The Mindy Project’). Based on the hit UK series, ‘Mad Dogs’ follows the twisted reunion of a group of underachieving forty-something friends — a mixture of single, married and recently divorced — who are all at different crossroads in their lives. Celebrating the early retirement of an old friend at his gorgeous Belize 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 an inconceivable chain of events unfolds, cracks within the group widen before the friends realize that the only people they can trust are each other, the last people they want to be relying on. The pilot stars Steve Zahn (‘Dallas Buyers Club’) as Cobi, Billy Zane (‘Twin Peaks’) as Milo, Romany Malco (‘Weeds’) as Gus, Michael Imperioli (‘The Sopranos’) as Lex and Ben Chaplin as Joel. ‘Mad Dogs’ is directed by McDougall and is being co-produced with Sony Pictures Television.”
GUT REACTION: If you’re looking for five guys to trap in a Belize villa in order to put friendship to the ultimate test, the cast listed above isn’t a bad call. (Hey, Amazon: Chaplin was super-charming in “The Truth About Cats and Dogs”! Why not mention that?) As I suspect the show will largely live or die by the chemistry between its leads, that’s the most important thing about this US adaptation.
“Point of Honor”
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “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.”
GUT REACTION: Did you like “Braveheart,” but felt it had too much Scotland in it? Actually, a serious question: Did you like “Braveheart,” but wish it had stronger female roles? “Point of Honor” doesn’t have any major stars in front of the camera, but there’s plenty of potential lurking in the unknown.
“The Man in the High Castle”
AMAZON’S SUMMARY: “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.”
GUT REACTION: This comes from Ridley Scott’s production company, and frankly seems to be the most exciting of this crop of pilots. There are some interesting faces in the cast as well, and Spotnitz was always a steady hand during his time on “The X-Files.” Definitely consider me intrigued.
Which of these shows are you most excited about? Vote in the poll below!