On Friday (March 17), Amazon released its latest crop of pilots: Five new shows that run the gamut from animated comedy to hard sci-fi. We’ve watched them all, and we’re wondering how they’ll each resonate with the Amazon Prime audience.
Thankfully, that’s where Amazon’s voting platform comes into play: Each user is given the opportunity to submit their own reviews after watching each pilot. Once the process is complete, the shows with the most positive feedback usually end up moving forward to series.
Which episodes deserve the green light? Here are our thoughts on each episode presented in Amazon’s latest pilot season.
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Richard Madden, Anil Kapoor, Vikram Danesh, Michael Shaw, Antje Traue, Mark Addy, Haley Joel Osment
“Oasis” feels like a winning combination for Amazon. Sure, Richard Madden’s presence adds some genre clout — the power of “Game of Thrones” is sure to follow him everywhere. But aside from his acting prowess, the show presents a pretty solid cast with an even more intriguing plot: In the near future, Earth is in bad shape and the mission to colonize remote planets is firmly under way. The cost to head to one of these outer-space settlements isn’t cheap — $100 million, to be exact — but the lure of a better future looms brightly over the dystopic reality facing the planet.
Oasis is the name of one of these settlements and as Peter (Richard Madden) is invited to join the colony, a surreal mystery begins to unfold: Horrifying hallucinations are causing members of the Oasis team to either disappear or die.
Along the lines of “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Expanse,” the world-building in “Oasis” is as grandiose as it is intriguing. Add that to the character dynamic and “Sunshine”-esque unsolved mystery of the planet they’re inhabiting, and we’re left with the immediate need to know more. If that’s not the sign of a series worth expanding on, we don’t know what is!
‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’
Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Zegen, Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Marin Hinkle
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s submission to Amazon brings along some “Gilmore Girls” flair. Feeling firmly rooted in the world that Neil Simon built, this quick-witted story explores the life of Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a 1950’s New York housewife who decides to give stand-up comedy a shot.
Brosnahan is a delight as Midge, her struggles adding a delightful layer of humor. And while this is a complete work of fiction, the inclusion of comedy icon Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) adds a nice sense of realism. Combine the cast’s talent with Palladino’s signature storytelling track record and Amazon probably has a hit on its hands with “Mrs. Maisel.”
‘The Legend of Master Legend’
John Hawkes, Dawnn Lewis, Shea Whigham, Anjelika Washington
“The Legend of Master Legend” is a weird one to be sure. Given that the series is inspired by a real-life superhero, it’s hard to pass up: John Hawkes plays Frank — aka Master Legend — a simple dude who loves the law and Iron Maiden. The story presented here follows Frank’s struggle to maintain a relationship with his estranged daughter while doing his best to live out his vigilante life day in and day out.
“The Legend of Master Legend” feels a lot like “Eastbound and Down” in tone, but the subject matter makes it difficult to picture the full arc of the story: Just how far can a down-and-out vigilante story go?
Adam Rose, Joel David Moore, Will Sasso, Brett Gelman
This 1983-set stoner comedy follows three friends — Felix (Adam Rose), Phil (Joel David Moore) and Gesh (Will Sasso) — as they attempt to run a marijuana farm. While it’s a great ensemble, the pilot gives us far less character chemistry than comedy.
Adapted from the T.C. Boyle novel of the same name, the pilot is chock-full of convenient jokes and unnecessary exposition that leaves the audience to do most of the work. While we love the talent involved (Brett Gelman is THE BEST), Amazon may need to rework the story if they decide to move forward on the project.
‘The New VIPs’
Matt Braunger, Ben Schwartz, Missi Pyle, Jonathan Adams
Despite the success of “Archer” and even “Rick and Morty,” adding mature content to an animated series isn’t always a guaranteed bet that the end product will be must-see TV. In this comedy, a group of disgruntled employees accidentally murder their boss. Instead of reporting it, in classic “Nine to Five” style they decide to take over the company and run it themselves.
The whole “lunatics running the asylum”/”heavy is the head” concept is fascinating, but frankly the immature humor outweighs the subject matter in the pilot, landing with a frustrating thud. Taking a note from “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” “The Life & Times of Tim” — and more recently, of course “Bob’s Burgers” — might help balance this one out. We really want this crew to succeed.