The John Goodman-led comedy Alpha House is reportedly to be among the first original series produced by online retailer Amazon.
Now that news is starting to trickle out about which pilot episodes online retailer Amazon is picking up as its first original series, I have just two questions.
Is the general public really the best judge of which pilots will make the best series? And is a pilot process really transparent when the company conducting it offers little public information about the process?
At first, the setup sounded like a perfect reflection of our on-demand TV age: Amazon placed 14 pilot episodes online last month, featuring eight comedies and six kids shows. Users of the retailer’s Amazon Prime service could watch each pilot and weigh in on how they felt, writing reviews and giving out 1 to 5-star evaluations like any Amazon product.
Judging the pilots was really no challenge. Only one, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau’s Alpha House, starring John Goodman as the lead dog among four GOP Senators sharing a house in the nation’s capital, seemed good enough to land on any cable channel’s schedule (with its cursing, including a cameo by Bill Murray consisting mostly of the f-word, network TV seems an unlikely fit.)
Others, including the second-most popular pilot – a comedy about app developers dubbed Betas – seemed promising. But you’d expect a cheeky comedy about cybersavvy millenials to resonate with people willing to rate untested videos online; does that really reflect whether a series is a good idea?
News about which series have been picked up or rejected has mostly come from the show’s creators; Rhett Reese, co-creator of a pilot based on the cult hit film Zombieland, made headlines last week tweeting that the series “will not be moving forward” and grousing about fans who "successfully hated it out of existence." Deadline Hollywood also reported the next most-criticized pilot, a musical set in a parody of the Huffington Post called Browsers, also wasn’t going forward.
But, since Amazon hasn’t said anything publicly about the results of the process, it’s tough to know if these shows got dropped because their pilots were terrible, fan reaction was negative, their production price tag was too high or some combination of the above.
Experienced critics will note that comedies are most likely to have crappy pilot episodes. The best humor comes from well-formed characters bouncing off each other, and that rarely emerged in a first episode. My roster of classic series which started badly includes Cheers, All in the Family and Seinfeld, all of which had a wobbly start but matured into TV’s best.
Amazon’s tight-lipped behavior is in keeping with the modern stance of rivals such as Netflix, which has avoided giving many viewership details on its buzzed-about first series House of Cards and declined to even give critics an advance look at its reboot of Arrested Development, bowing at 9 a.m. Sunday.
In a business where knowledge literally equals power and profit, the typical yardsticks of ratings and advertiser revenue are shielded from a prying media and public. But it also means we don’t know basic facts; like how many series Amazon might pick up, how long they might run, or how the service ultimately judges success or failure.
A few things are obvious after watching Amazon’s series. They aren’t spending the kind of money Netflix is to create super high-quality shows; these comedies are mostly built around casts of unknowns with a well-known character actor or two tossed in for good measure. They’re comedies, filling a niche a little less traveled by rivals such as YouTube, Netflix and Yahoo.
And too many of them seem to confuse pop culture-friendly premises and cursing for edgy content.
TV networks, for all their focus group testing and experience, have a supremely high failure rate. So giving consumers keys to part of the development process might not be bad.
But, as creators of groundbreaking shows such as The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy will tell you, success in their universe often boils down to a savvy TV executive following his or her gut to give the audience a series they didn't know they wanted until they saw it.
Can Amazon succeed by outsourcing its gut to users? And what will happen to the TV business if it does?
Ginger Gadsden, morning anchor at St. Petersburg CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, is leaving the station at the end of June.
Ginger Gadsden, morning and noon anchor at St. Petersburg CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, will be leaving the station when her contract expires on June 30.
But at this time of layoffs and cutbacks in media, Gadsden, who has tired of working the morning shift, has no other job lined up. And she’s still committed to leaving.
“You know that feeling you get when you’ve made up your mind and you’re at peace with it?” said Gadsden, who came to work at WTSP in 2006. “That’s what I’m feeling. For me, it’s not sad, it’s exciting.”
After seven years of waking up at 2 a.m., Gadsden explained, she decided it was time to leave the morning shift. But WTSP, which placed former Miami anchor Charles Billi alongside longtime anchors Heather Van Nest and Reginald Roundtree in the station’s evening newscasts, declined to move her to a later schedule.
“I don’t think your body is made to wake up at 2 a.m., no matter how long you do it,” she said. “But (WTSP) has solid anchors in the evening; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I understand. I’m just grateful I got a chance to work with such great people.”
Gadsden has been the most consistent element of WTSP’s morning show, which has changed co-anchors and format during her tenure while struggling in the ratings against rivals. She came to WTSP after a stint anchoring USA Today Live from Virginia.
WTSP news director Peter Roghaar said weekend morning anchor Allison Kropff would succeed Gadsden; the station is currently looking for someone to replace Kropff, who came to the station from WVLT-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2011.
“Ginger’s a wonderful person and we’re sad to see her go,” Roghaar said. “We offered her an opportunity to remain as the morning anchor and she chose differently."
Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the classic rock band The Doors, died in Germany today.
As the music world expresses sorrow over the death today of Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, I can’t help remembering a personal story about my brief time working with a member of one of the best classic rock bands in history.
The short version: I think I convinced Manzarek to write his best-selling 1998 autobiography, Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors.
Anchor Charlie Rose to host new prime time show for PBS on Friday nights.
When I first saw that Charlie Rose would be hosting yet another television interview show, my reaction was likely a bit different than many other media critics nationwide.
Because PBS suggested stations nationwide air the program at 8:30 p.m. Fridays, which just happens to be the timeslot of Tampa PBS affiliate WEDU-Ch. 3’s local politics show Florida This Week.
But fear not, local politics fans; a spokeswoman for WEDU says the station likely will not adjust FTW’s timeslot to air Charlie Rose Weekend, a half-hour show pieced together with new interviews and material from Rose’s 20-year archive of talks, due to begin in July.Full Story
Don Draper stumbles trough a drug-fueled weekend on Sunday's Mad Men episode, "The Crash."
Mad Men fans can be a fickle, exacting bunch.
Two weeks after swooning over an episode featuring a merger of the Sterling Cooper ad firm with a competitor, some Mad Maniacs online were already fed up with the series, courtesy of Sunday’s surreal, drug-fueled episode, “The Crash.” Full Story
Bill Hader, who played James Carville and many others on Saturday Night Live, appeared in his final episode Saturday.
No James Carville. No Barack Obama. No Joe Biden. No unctuous game show host leading a bizarro competition, like “What's My Name?” ($10 million to provide the name of your apartment building doorman.)
Still, Saturday Night Live’s presumed farewells to three of its most prominent players did manage to be touching in an odd way, offering backhanded goodbyes to guys who have been on the show since the Bush administration.Full Story
Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar star in new fall CBS series, The Crazy Ones.
We Are Men
Tony Shaloub, Kal Penn and Jerry O'Connell are among the guys in an apartment complex filled with divorcing or divorced guys.
The Crazy Ones
Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are a father/daughter team running an advertising firm in Chicago; Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley is one of the producers.
Lost alum Josh Holloway is a CIA agent who gets an chip implanted in his head allowing him to access the Internet and information networks. St. Petersburg native Rene Echevarria is among the executive producers.
Dylan McDermott is an FBI agent who takes a physician's family hostage to force her into killing the president. Toni Collette is the surgeon.
Arrested Development's Will Arnett is a divorced TV reporter whose split encourages parents Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale to divorce, too.
Anna Faris is a single mother just out of rehab with a supremely dysfunctional Allison Janney as her mother. Two and Half Men creator Chuck Lorre is executive producer.
Michael C. Hall plays serial killer Dexter Morgan in Showtime's Dexter, beginning its final season June 30.
Showtime has finally released an official trailer for the final season of its groundbreaking drama Dexter, due back at 9 p.m. June 30, much earlier than usual.
The premium cable channel has moved Dexter’s final season out of the crosshairs of fall, when all the broadcast networks and AMC’s popular The Walking Dead are all competing for viewers.
It’s an interesting move, because Dexter was one of the first cable shows to buck the trend of avoiding network TV in the fall, moving its start of new episodes to the end of September. Moving back to summer feels like a full circle turn, along with an acknowledgement of how the series’ popularity may have slipped.
In the clip, we see Michael C. Hall's serial killer Dexter Morgan watch as his police officer sister Deb unravels following the climax of last season, where she killed a fellow cop who had discovered her brother’s secret.
Will she finally turn him in and stop the madness? The trailer sure makes it look that way.
CBS offers a miniseries version of Stephen King's Under the Dome June 24.
Whenever it comes to television, I've grown used to Stephen King breaking my heart.
Time and again, he's brought adaptations of interesting and compelling novels to TV, only to wind up with stuff that is too uninspired (Steven Weber trying to outdo Nicholson in a remake of The Shining?) too boring (Pierce Brosnan moping through a limp redintion of Bag of Bones) or too dumb (The Langoliers. 'Nuff said.)
Still, I have high hopes for the latest attempt to turn King's quality pages into quality television, CBS' Under the Dome.
Not only does it have TV's greatest character actor, Breaking Bad's Dean Norris, playing the story's narcissist bad guy, the extended first look the network just released looks awesome. And by putting such a seemingly well-done miniseries on in summer -- it debuts June 24 -- CBS can send an important signal about trying to compete year-round. (colleague Josh Gillin reminds me that 1993's The Stand was pretty good, giving us Gary Sinise and Jamey Sheridan in amazing performances. ABC's Storm of the Century was okay, with Colm Feore in a typically compelling performance.)
So, I'm hoping Uncle Stevie does me right this time. Check out the trailer below and see what you think.
TV star Michael J. Fox leads roster of new shows coming to NBC this fall
There could not be a more precarious time for network TV outlets, especially NBC.
Competition from cable and online providers has never been fiercer. And broadcasters are still locked into a cycle of shoving their best shows on in a rush during the fall and going mostly dormant during summer that cable has used to its advantage.
So when NBC announced its new schedule Sunday, analysts were looking for clues that the former 800-pound gorilla of the network TV business would be ready to reinvent itself at a time when such innovation was needed most.
Instead, with a raft of new shows featuring Michael J. Fox, X-Files alum Gillian Anderson, former ‘80s heartthrob James Spader, ex-L.A.Law star Blair Underwood and Will & Grace alum Sean Hayes, NBC seems to be counting on old school TV stars to rescue a network which plunged from first to worst in a single season.Full Story
The best TV shows, the worst shows, TV news, media issues and debates ... it's all here at the Feed, a blog on TV, media and modern life by Tampa Bay Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans. Possibly the most critical guy at the Times, he has served as music, media and TV critic at various times over his career here.