Reviewed! Amazon’s New ‘Primetime Pilots’ Show Some Promise

/ Feb 11, 2014


In honor of Amazon’s second round of original pilots, the VideoInk team banded together (again!) to review half of shows — the “Primetime Pilots,” or the ones that your kids shouldn’t be watching. Then again, we’re not saying you should be watching all of these, either.

In other words. Hey, Amazon, better! But we’ve still got some work to do.



“Transparent” pulls off something remarkable in just half an hour: It might be one of the most Los Angeles-ish shows I’ve ever seen, capturing a specific tone and mood right from the beginning. It’s rare to see a pilot episode that knows exactly what kind of show it is, and while it might not be for everyone, fans of contemporary mumblecore dramas should be pleased.

Writer/director Jill Soloway’s family dramedy dives right into introducing Ali (Gaby Hoffman), Josh (Jay Duplass), and Sarah (Amy Landecker), the adult children of divorced parents; their problems aren’t the heaviest around, but they’re treated accordingly.

Performances across the board are solid, with Hoffman a compelling lead and Jeffrey Tambor, as their distant father with a secret, gives a surprisingly brave performance, very different from his previous work.

It’s a sensual half-hour of television that has a great deal of promise: The stakes could be a little higher, but the final moments pack a massive punch. — Liz Shannon Miller

”The After”


It’s been 20 years since “X-Files” creator Chris Carter proved that aliens and compelling drama weren’t mutually exclusive concepts, but his new series, “The After,” fails to find that same sort of spark.

Set in Los Angeles, the pilot brings together a random group of strangers including a cop, a convicted murderer, a drunk Irishman, and a clown (seriously), who band together to survive a city gone mad.

There’s something to be said for the originality of the premise, but what, exactly, has brought about what appears to be the end of the world? There’s no real explanation, just clunky exposition and a few large-scale crowd scenes that clearly cost the majority of the show’s budget. 

While the cast does include some familiar faces, including Aldis Hodge (“Leverage”), Adrian Pasdar (“Heroes”), and Sharon Lawrence (“NYPD Blue”), “The After” is badly hurt by lead actress Louise Monot, who lacks the charisma and talent necessary to drive the show.

The pilot does contain a few intriguing moments that hint at greater creepiness to come — including a final visual that’s genuinely unsettling — and it’s in those moments that “The After”‘s promise stands out most clearly. But are they enough to justify further episodes? Maybe not. — Liz Shannon Miller

“Mozart in the Jungle”


“Mozart in the Jungle,” based on the book of the same name, wants to shock you with the antics of its characters, classical musicians who indulge freely in sex and drugs while struggling to make the rent. But while their excesses aren’t that shocking, the show does offer an unconventional look at life in the orchestra pit.

The cast, both unknown and known, is full of standouts: While the series counts as its big stars Malcolm McDowell, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Bernadette Peters, aspiring oboeist Hailey (Lola Kirke) serves as the show’s ostensible protagonist, and Saffron Burrows’s sexually-charged cellist is a scene-stealer.

But for the most part, “Mozart” struggles to find a consistent tone: There are a couple of inspired moments of comedy — such as the musical adaptation of Oedipus Rex, set to the music of Styx, not to mention Bernal’s flamboyant take on a rock-star orchestra conductor.

However, they feel out of place in what’s otherwise a pretty sincere ensemble piece that’s on par with series like HBO’s “Girls,” but with oboe jokes. If it can even out those inconsistencies, it has a chance to be something unique. — Liz Shannon Miller



Titus Welliver is the star of “Bosch,” a crime drama based on Michael Connelly’s detective stories, and you never forget it in an uneven, but visually gorgeous and ultimately intriguing first episode.

Difficult as it is to pull off a good pilot, the team behind “Bosch” do a solid job in setting the stakes. Harry Bosch murdered a man who he believed to be a serial killer. Two years later, he is on trial. A cop’s cop, the only thing Bosch can do to get his mind off the trial is to immerse himself in a new case, the death of a 13-year-old boy. While the obvious stakes are apparent from the get-go, it’s in that final moment you realize how personal this is for Bosch.

Set in Los Angeles, “Bosch” goes for a modern-noir look, and pulls it off remarkably well. There is some delicious cinematography at work in this first hour, with shadows, rain, and everything else you’d want from a crime drama most definitely inspired by Elmore Leonard.

What could improve is the supporting cast. Jamie Hector is strong as Bosch’s partner, but many of the supporting players come off as actors trying to act, and not as the human beings they’re supposed to be. That can change with more time to flesh out their characters, which, based on these first 46 minutes, “Bosch” certainly deserves. — Sahil Patel

“The Rebels” — Sponsored by Fiat


If the filmmakers behind the “American Pie” direct-to-DVD movies made a TV show about the new unseasoned owner of a rag-tag football team, you’d get “The Rebels.” If Spike TV decided to combine “Little Big League” with “Major League” and make it about professional football, you’d get “The Rebels.”

Better yet, if Ice Cube and Michael Strahan decided to executive produce a new TV show about an NFL-style football team, you’d get “The Rebels.”

Which is what this show is — awesome if you’re a jock or a bro, or have that kind of sense of humor.

Directed by TV and film vet Jay Chandrasekhar (“Arrested Development,” “Super Troopers”), and starring Natalie Zea (“The Shield”) and Josh Peck (“Drake & Josh”), the pilot of “The Rebels” isn’t terrible. It’s just obviously going to be a hit with a very particular crowd, and not really do much for anyone else. If you’re into coked up monkeys going on a shooting spree, then this is the show for you.

If you’re not, then, well maybe at best “The Rebels” can be a guilty pleasure. — Sahil Patel

Now that you’ve seen our reviews, check them out and tell us what you think!

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