Looking at Amazon’s Three New Comedy Pilots
Amazon released their new slate of pilots for free online last week, including three new comedies Mozart in the Jungle, The Rebels, and Transparent. Like last year, Amazon will greenlight the pilots that get the most views and positive feedback, so we checked out the selection to get a closer look at the site’s new comedy candidates and try to guess which shows have the best chance of getting picked up to series.
Mozart in the Jungle
When Amazon’s comedy pilots were announced last week, Mozart in the Jungle came with the most details and seemed the most promising. Inspired by oboist Blair Tindall’s memoir and co-created by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Broadway director Alex Timbers, Mozart centers on a changing-of-the-guard at the New York Symphony when the outgoing conductor (Malcolm McDowell) butts heads with the young, sexy, passionately unorthodox new wunderkind Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal), while also following a young up-and-coming oboist talent Hailey (Lola Kirke). The decadence of the after-hour symphony party crowd and power play between young and old are amusing, but Mozart in the Jungle seems confused over whether it’s a comedy or a scathing roman à clef. When Bernal’s character is first introduced in the episode, there’s a brief promise of unexpected Tim and Eric-like weirdness that doesn’t carry through the rest of the pilot. That said, for a show centered on two male leads, Mozart has some kickass women, with Saffron Burrows as the strong and seasoned cellist Cynthia (and Hailey’s newfound mentor) and Bernadette Peters in a smaller role as the Symphony’s chairwoman of the board.
I don’t watch football and when I tried to be a cheerleader in sixth grade I failed, but I still watched The Rebels pilot with an open mind. The setup — ex-cheerleader’s husband dies, ex-cheerleader inherits husband’s pro football team, ex-cheerleader knows nothing about football — seemed a little stale from the start, and the “I just want my daughter back” introduction to waning quarterback Rick Massella (Hayes MacArthur, who was a regular on NBC’s Go On) seemed funny only unintentionally. The pilot further bogs down trying to get across a load of expository details but picks up when Rebels heir Julie (Natalie Zea) hires young Danny (Josh Peck from Disney’s Drake & Josh) as the team’s unlikely new GM. Even though both Danny and Julie are going through their own fish-out-of-water stories in the big bro world of wild football players, The Rebels remains a football-centric show that, to the sports-apathetic, just isn’t funny enough. (Also, Julie doesn’t seem even the least bit phased by her husband’s recent death, which is either an oversight or a hint of facts we don’t yet know.) If this goes to series I can see it playing in frat houses everywhere, if for nothing else than the line “Who wanna snort some cocaine off my dickhead?” Also, there’s a monkey involved.
From United States of Tara and Afternoon Delight writer Jill Soloway, Transparent stars Jeffrey Tambor as “the patriarch with a big secret,” and if you haven’t checked out the pilot yet, do yourself a favor and don’t spoil the big reveal beforehand. Transparent‘s setup might seem a bit stuffy at first — wealthy Los Angeles family, an emotionally stunted Hannah Horvath-like Millennial daughter, sibling fights over property inheritance, a tinkling minor key piano score, brooding bluish shots of depressed rich people — but the pilot surprises at every turn and takes a refreshing look at sex, gender, identity, and secrets through a dark and often moody lens. Supporting cast Amy Landecker, Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Judith Light, Gillian Vigman, and Rob Huebel create a perfectly hectic world for Tambor as father figure Mort and his unraveling hidden truth that’s alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. If Transparent doesn’t go to series, this pilot will be a big cliffhanger tease.