TV on the Amazon – Part II

It’s part two of my review of the Amazon comedy pilots. Now, where were we…

Onion News Empire – The Onion is the king of news satire, especially when it comes to news satire on the web. (The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are definitely tied for a very close second.) So, it’s no real stretch for them to come up with a cable news sitcom, especially since they already have a short-form version. It took me a little while to get comfortable with a long-form Onion piece, but I got used to it and enjoyed it. The jokes came at an insanely rapid pace, and the cast (which includes Jeffrey Tambor and Cheyenne Jackson) was awesome. Like the web satires I’ve enjoyed before it (e.g. Burning Love), I have a feeling that, I wouldn’t watch Onion News Empire week-to-week; I would let the episodes pile up so I could binge in one sitting. (Of course, Amazon could release the episodes all at once, ensuring that I would definitely have an Onion News Empire marathon). Verdict: They have a Baby News Network. Who wouldn’t want to give this show at least a chance?

Supanatural – Because of its Ugly Americans-style animation, Supanatural did not seem like it would be my cup of tea. But then the jokes started rolling, and I was kind of hooked. Supanatural is bougie girls meet The Venture Brothers. And I love me some Venture Brothers. It was the right amount of weird, fantasy adventure and buddy comedy. It also had Kristen Schaal and took place in a mall (And who doesn’t love a mall setting: Mallrats! Fast Times! Dawn of the Dead!) It had a solid roster of quirky side characters that I can already tell I would enjoy seeing more of. Supanatural was a little crass and got slow in the middle, but I think that it could work through the kinks with time. Verdict: I’ll be checking it out if it gets a full order.

Those Who Can’t – This single-camera sitcom followed three immature high school teachers. The look-and-feel of the show reminded me of The League. But with The League, the antics usually happen online and/or outside of the workplace. So, it’s somewhat believable that they get away with the pranks they pull on each other. However, on Those Who Can’t, all of the ridiculous, illegal activities these teachers got up to happened, for the most part, on campus … and I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. These guys would have been fired or suspended within the first act in the real world. By the end of the episode they definitely would have been fired and possibly placed in jail. It’s well-acted, and there was a great gag with an old lady teacher, but I just couldn’t get past my disbelief. Verdict: Just watch Freaks and Geeks if you want high school antics. Already watched Freaks and Geeks? Watch it again.

Zombieland – Full disclosure: I love the movie Zombieland. It’s no Shaun of the Dead, of course, but it was good enough to make my DVD collection and merit semi-regular viewing. It had a fun way of story-telling, using narration, titles and quick cuts to move the story and bring on the jokes. It also had a fabulous cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin and, most importantly, Woody Harrelson. With that said, I knew it was going to be difficult for a sitcom version of Zombieland to impress me. And I was right. The opening scene was definitely hilarious, and the zombie kills were just as epic as the film’s. But the rest of it felt forced. They had the exact same characters, but with different actors, which I think was a huge mistake. It’s just not the same without the original cast. (Also, one of the early scenes involved Tallahassee setting off fireworks…which was idiotic, considering it would have attracted every zombie for miles…and THEN not a single zombie shows up. As a nerd, this bothered me.) I know that the film’s creators really wanted to make more Zombieland happen. I’m guessing, when a second film wasn’t working out (cause, let’s face it, Stone, Eisenberg and Harrelson are all doing really well right now), they decided a TV series was a viable alternative. I’m not sure I agree. Verdict: My love of zombie comedies is battling with my love of Woody Harrelson. If this gets optioned, I may give it a chance…but it’ll be a small one.

I love watching pilots, and I’m so glad that Amazon decided to preview their pilots this way; it was a treat, and a glimpse into what the TV world could become: an all-you-can-watch buffet. Thanks, Amazon!

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