The pilot of the new Amazon Studios comedy series Betas showed a lot of promise. Though it was only in the middle of our rankings last spring, the first episode had an energy and pace that promised strong things from the show, which follows a young crew attempting to launch a new social media app. But based on the next two episodes currently up on Amazon Prime, it’s unclear yet whether the show can keep up that quality over the long run.
It’s not an uncommon tale in television – a pilot filled with vibrant characters and a cleverly designed plot struggles when the show’s becomes a series. In the first episode of Betas, charming ideas man Trey and high-strung programmer Nash end up wooing a major Silicon Valley investor with a fancy if illegal demo of their clever matchmaking app. In the meantime, Trey hits it off with his new boss’s associate, while fellow team members Hobbes and Mitchell get involved with cute market researcher Mikki and drug dealer/designer Dane. With fast-moving tech talk and a string of clever “aha” moments, it forces the already too-easy comparison to The Social Network. (It is, after all, about two college dropouts trying to launch a social network.) But overall, it works.
In the next two episodes, however, the series falters. The second sees Trey attempting to arrange some good press for their app, a process that blows up in his face and forces him to rebrand. In the third (and easily the weakest) episode, Nash’s traditional Indian parents decide they won’t invest more in their app unless Nash agrees to a matchmaking set-up. Both episodes suffer from a lack of direction – while the pilot had a clear goal, the next two feel like a string of live events, loosely tied to this still-vague people-meeting app. The dialogue too often veers into cutesy and too-clever, and the female characters exist mostly to be perfect.
As leads, Joe Dinicol’s Trey and Karan Soni’s Nash are likeable and endearing, but their characters run the risk of becoming stereotypes – the opposites-attract best friends trying to make their dreams come true. Meanwhile, Jon Daly and Charlie Saxton as Hobbes and Mitchell are funny but aimless, while Maya Erskine as Mikki is great with the limited amount she’s given. Like the underdogs of their show, Betas creators Evan Endicott and Josh Stoddard have all the pieces for a successful endeavor. If they can focus on moving their idea forward a little quicker, they might just have a strong, clever, demo-friendly hit on their hands.