Last month, I did a quick first-glance rating of the five pilots Amazon Studios had on tap this year. Three comedies and the studio’s first two dramas were all available for streaming, ranking, and commenting. The end result is a pickup for everything except the Natalie Zea–starring The Rebels, which ranked second-to-last on my scale. (That one’s been “put on hold,” per Deadline.) The football comedy did have plenty of name-brand firepower behind it, with Ice Cube and Michael Strahan as executive producers and a pilot from Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers, some episodes of Arrested Development and Community), and solid audience ratings, so it’s heartening to see that Amazon might be making decisions with more of an eye toward long-haul freshness than instant gratification.
The shows we will see full seasons of: The After, a postapocalyptic drama from The X-Files creator Chris Carter; Mozart in the Jungle, where sexy symphony-types played by Gael García Bernal and Malcolm McDowell interact in a world directed by Paul Weitz and written by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Tony-nominated writer-director Alex Timbers; Bosch, starring Lost’s Titus Welliver, The Wire’s Jamie “Marlo Stanfield” Hector, and Lance Reddick in an adaptation of Michael Connelly’s crime novels from Treme cocreator Eric Overmyer; and, perhaps most important, Transparent, a show that seemed so singular upon even one viewing that it preemptively felt like it would be a shame for it to not get a series order.
Transparent is written, directed, and executive produced by Jill Soloway, a writer and producer from Six Feet Under and United States of Tara. She was the winner of 2013’s Sundance Directing Award for her debut, the Kathryn Hahn–starring Afternoon Delight. She’s got Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor and Gaby Hoffmann in her cast, as well as Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, and Rob Huebel. The pilot was intensely refreshing, a specific point of view playing out on TV in a way only strong indie movies and precious few shows manage. It’s a thing you’ll want to see. I wrote my rankings on deadline and was only able (transparently so) to watch the first few minutes of each pilot. Had I seen the entire episode of Transparent, it would’ve blown Mozart in the Jungle away. (Although I still dig the latter.)
The pilot season seems to bode well for Amazon’s future overall. “Five pilots yielding four series represents a much higher batting average than Amazon’s first pilot season, when it tested eight comedy pilots, picking up two — Alpha House andBetas — to series,” Deadline writes. “Of them, Alpha House has been quietly renewed for a second season to begin film in July, while Betas will not be returning.”