Reviewed! Amazon Originals Get the Grades!
In honor of the recent launch of Amazon Originals first pilot season, the VideoInk team banded together to give the new pilots our most expertly critical analysis by category, despite many technical glitches with the Amazon player. (hint, hint, Amazon team. Work it out!)
Betas: The comedy works, but the app for ‘Betas’ needs an upgrade
Hoping to find the humor in coding and VC pitching, the comedy Betas focuses on four young men working to create a mobile app called BRB, a geolocation-based social service. (That means it uses an algorithm based on personal interests and GPS coordinates to match people up together — like Grindr for people who don’t care too much about personal privacy and want to talk before doing it.)
The pilot tracks Trey (Joe Dinicol), Nash (Karan Soni), Hobbes (Jonathan C. Daly) and Mitchell (Charlie Saxton) attempting to create a demo and pitch to an eccentric VC — that is, when they’re not having mental breakdowns, lusting after cute girls or trying to trick a guy with weird facial hair into texting a dick pic. Another name for Betas might be National Lampoon’s The Social Network — the pilot depicts Silicon Valley serfs and elite alike as crude, sex-obsessed fiends out for the big payday, limiting its target audience to young men who like sex jokes and discussions about Series A funding. Read more…
-Liz Shannon Miller
Browsers Has Cult Following Potential but Doesn’t Immediately Deliver
In the glory days of Old Hollywood, there was the Mailroom. In the glory days of online media, there’s Arianna Huffington Julianna (played by Bebe Neuwirth) and the interns who live (and cry) in her wake in Amazon Original’s mockumentary-style musical comedy, Browsers. Los Angeles can have the agent’s assistants and death-star wannabe’s but New York has news site Huffington Post The Gush and four very unsure-of-themselves post-undergrads setting out into the real job world with a coveted intern position. This show certainly has promise and while the musical elements felt awkward because of weak lyrical legs, it also boasts a few hearty laughs as the dialogue is relatable and hilarious. Read more…
‘Zombieland’ slays the undead, but not the ghost of what came before
The pilot of Zombieland enters the scene with one huge advantage and one huge disadvantage, both of which are the same thing: the 2009 film that serves as a prequel to the series. Thanks to the movie, Zombieland, is spared the need for massive amounts of exposition (though an amusing cold open does introduce one of the primary characters in pre-zombie times), and instead jumps right into the adventures of Tallahassee (Kirk Ward), Columbus (Tyler Ross), Wichita (Maiara Walsh) and Little Rock (Izabela Vidovic), who have decided to try and find other survivors, and maybe make a home for themselves. That means there’s plenty of time for zombie-slaying, relationship drama and Tallahassee’s crude rants and asides…Read more…
-Liz Shannon Miller
Amazon Originals kids programming is a winning mashup of educational, creative and entertaining. Stimulating, on occasion challenging, yet fun. What is most interesting about the four programs slated for review by thousands of parents and their kids is the diverse blend of culture, academics, creativity, language and social etiquette lessons that’s not only accessible for a five year old but useful. Personal favorites and IMHO the strongest contenders for flowing from pilot to greenlight are Sara Solves It (for the slightly older kiddos) and Positively Ozitively (for teaching social queues and etiquette).
Sara Solves It Adds Up
Sara Solves It felt like a throwback to old school Nickleodeon programming, to the days of Rugrats, only with a more sophisticated and educated edge. The tech-savvy brother sister duo filming “selfie” videos feels very generationally appropriate. And while Sara Solves It is a cartoon, you really feel like the titular character and her younger sibling Sam are YouTube stars in the making. This quirky animated gem puts kids minds to the test and makes learning math fun, seemingly easy, and impressive. Impeccable writing, relatable and educational narrative shouldn’t come as a surprise when it comes from the hand of Emmy Award winner Carol Greenwald (Curious George, Arthur) and multiple Emmy Award nominee Angela Santomero (Super Why!, Blue’s Clues). Read more…
This Planet Can Do Without Creative Galaxy
Creative Galaxy is just that — a world of exploration, imagination and creativity built for kids who are learning “the arts,” both figuratively and literally. Literally in the sense that the episode instructs children on “pointillism” and how to create pictures from dots; figuratively in that the teacher on ‘Planet Museum’ actually references Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by name and Van Gogh images drape the animated backdrop. Throughout the storyline the mere presence of art improves everyone’s lives. A library that is of no interest to children because of its bare walls is suddenly transformed into the town hangout as soon as the “loveable alien” character, Arty, brings art. However, where there’s attention to detail on educating kids to appreciate arts, crafts, music and dance, there’s a complete loss for basic vocabulary. Read more…
Tumbleleaf Simply ‘Magical’
Fantastic Mr. Fox meets Charlie Brown is what came to mind when watching Tumbleleaf. The visual appeal of stop-motion animation and the realness of the neurotic Charlie Brown-esque main character, Fig, adds to the charm of this show. In line with the educational takeaway of the other shows on Amazon Originals’ kids’ programming slate, Fig’s challenges are aimed at preschoolers to help teach logic and analytical thinking. Cause and effect is a primary theme of the episode as Fig tries to learn how to make a kite fly higher in the sky by way of deductive reasoning — first he realizes he needs a longer string, and then learns a stronger gust of wind is also clutch. Audience approval rating for Tumbleleaf is incredibly high with nearly 70 five-star ratings and reviews calling the show “magical — no other way to put it…” Other viewers were “impressed with the world created for TumbleLeaf, character design and voice talent…” Bets all in for Tumbleleaf!
Positively OZitively Adorable
Visually Positively Ozitively is quite generationally on point with its “social gaming” aesthetic. Not only do you feel like you’re watching a narrated “Farmville” but the captioning that accompanies the dialogue is reminiscent of a video game viewing experience. The storyline, which follows Dot, Dorothy’s daughter, to Oz everyday as she visits with the children of the other beloved Wizard of Oz characters, taps into the fantasy-loving and whimsical minds of today’s tots. Aside from the on-point narrative and top-notch animation, what sets Positively Ozitively apart is the educational takeaway. The lessons to be learned from Dot are also social — social queues, social etiquette and social awareness. Read more…