I hate to blow my own horn when I’m right. Who am I kidding? I’m all about that, and so today I have blow my own horn about Amazon Prime’s announcement that three new series --”The New Yorker Presents,” “Mad Dogs” and “The Man In The High Castle” -- will become full-blown series, after subscribers had a chance to preview pilots of those and others, for the last month or so.
Other stinkers presented to an unsuspecting public, will go away.
I have a slight point about my remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, prescience.
But first, here’s what I wrote about the four that didn’t make it:
“ ‘Salem Rogers, Model of the Year 1998," "Down Dog," "Cocked" and "Point of Honor" are a special kind of bad, more repulsive because pay-TV always comes self-loaded with groundbreaking potential (like "Transparent" really filled) but liable to be just cheesy, flimsy and kind of embarrassingly "shocking." And sex, drug and nude scene-wise, these things put the grate in gratuitous.”
So well said. About the three that will be turned into series, I have to admit, I wasn’t effusive, but I did put them in the Don’t Trash pile:
“Somewhat better is ‘Mad Dogs,’ based on the British series, and ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ based on the Phillip K. Dick novel that imagines the Japanese and Nazis won the war and have now divvied up the United States. Finally, there’s ‘The New Yorker Presents,’ which takes the idea of a magazine show just too literally, but gets points for doing something different, which is what I’m paying for, right?
Here’s the point:
Anybody with brain could have seen these seven projects and thought like I did. (Though, obviously they would not be able to articulate it quite so well. That's just plain talent.)
You can tell the losers lost by a lot, and weren’t really in the game, like one of those tiny-college football teams that gets fed to the big schools as a fill-up-the-schedule revenue builder.
For sure, Amazon Prime customers have little or nothing to do with which pilots are made into series, and it’s more than a little disingenuous for Amazon to suggest that feedback has some real role in what happens.
But it keeps saying so: “At the end of pilot season, that feedback helps determine the shows that become an Amazon Original Series,” its puffy press release says. “To date, customers have helped Amazon greenlight 13 series including the multi-Golden Globe-winning show ‘Transparent’ which will return for a second season later this year.”
Yes, we can!
Don’t I feel good being such a smarty-pants TV appraiser? You bet. Don’t some of Amazon’s other 50 million or so subscribers, who took time to give Amazon their opinions feel like they made a difference? Their voted counted! And doesn’t that make the other ones, who didn’t write, admire Amazon for the outreach, nonetheless? Of course.
A probably too-thoughtful essay on Vox.com holds out great hope for “Bosch,” another new Amazon series, from another “class,” though the reasoning takes an even more sour view of programmers than I often do. The cop series based on Michael Connelly's cop novels is clever, but familiar, and author Todd VanDerWerff says, that's the natural place for Amazon.
He argues that shows like Amazon’s ridiculously riveting “Transparent” are a little too hip--or just too Los Angeles-centered-- for the homes where Amazon is playing. That's because, he suggests, in the public perception, Netflix already owns the smart high road and Amazon Prime is just “a throw-in to a “loyalty plan for a basically separate business.” (You get free two-day delivery on many Amazon products.)
That’s interesting. That’s the kind of stuff they used to say about Showtime, which often seemed to be a throw-in for new cable subscribers.
I’m not buying. But I do think it would be interesting for Amazon to announce it’s passing up on the next obvious great pilot, so that it might humbly reverse itself as “the public speaks.”
Lots of times, engagement is just a trick.