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Remember when Amazon was the dot-com you visited to buy your much-anticipated Salsa Dancing in Three Easy Steps instruction book or the latest Hardy Boys novel? Now you can buy everything except small children from the internet's Wal-Mart, so it only makes sense that the company would also be an online television network. Wait, what? Yep, Amazon is making big strides in the original programming sector, nipping at Netflix's heels and trying to carve out a foxhole in the growing online-streaming video wars. 

And finally someone is giving viewers a say, because Amazon is bringing its development cycle to the people by posting pilots online and letting its users vote on which shows deserve to be greenlit which ones should end up in Jeff Bezos's computer-desktop trashcan.  The company posted its first round of pilots last spring, and they were, more or less, not that buzzworthy. But the good news is that the new crop is much better! In fact, some of them are even downright watchable. 

I've seen all five of Amazon's current pilots aimed at regular-sized audiences (there are also five kids' programs available to screen), and I've compiled my thoughts below. And in the spirit of Amazon's user feedback, I've also added two (probably fake) Amazon-style reviews for each one, because when you're shopping for an electric nosehair trimmer on the site, you don't just read one review, do you? NO YOU DO NOT. Any sensible person would peruse at least one very positive review and one very negative review to get a better idea of the product he or she is e-shopping for. Why should TV be any different? 


THE REBELS 

Currently rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by Amazon users


I like this show alot It's about a lady who gets a football team when her husband dies and there's a cool scene with  a monkey. It's HILAROUS and alot of the football players say and do funny things like one of the football players does a lot of drugs and then he doesn't even know he has coke all over his nose when he is lying about not doing drugs its funny!! XD  THe chick who gets the football is pretty. And that monkey! LOL! Would give this 10 stars if I could but Amazon's rating thing only lets us put in five, WHY amazon?



I have been perusing television with a critical eye going on 32 years now, so you know I'm very intelligent and a beacon for proper television criticism. Anywho, The Rebels, starring Natalie Zea (Justified, The Following) as a woman who inherits a professional football team after her husband passes away, was so terrible that I couldn't stomach any more of my charcuterie whilst viewing it! It wasn't nearly as good as The Wire, my favorite all-time show, and had nothing to say about society. It never even addressed the rampant concussion epidemic in professional sports, especially football (do watch League of Denial if you want to witness an amazing critique of the football system). Instead, The Rebels just wanted to be a mish-mash of locker-room humor and tawdry sight gags! No thank you, Amazon. NO THANK YOU!



Fumble! Amazon is clearly going for breadth with this broad comedy about a broad who takes ownership of a football team, because it would feel right at home on NBC, ABC, and most definitely USA. I'm assuming we're all interested in the online programming model because it's the perfect avenue for pushing the envelope of creative television, right? Unfortunately, The Rebels is only here to pay some bills and bring in a mass audience by running a prevent defense (football talk for "playing it safe"); it doesn't offer anything unique. That's actually the most interesting thing about Amazon's decision to pilot The Rebels: It's a clear attempt to go mainstream and ignore niche audiences. Will it work? Who knows. Currently it's sitting at 4.4/5 stars, so maybe it'll get a series order. But the show itself is not that great. It's overloaded with clichés and exposition that's delivered by the Fox NFL team. Natalie Zea is wonderful and really elevates her material, ensuring that an occasional joke lands, especially for the sports fans in the audience. But all too often, character decisions are shoehorned in for the sake of comedy. Why would any reasonable business person promote someone who previously fetched coffee for the general manager of a professional football team? FOR LAUGHS, THAT'S WHY! This is Major League as told from the somewhat interesting perspective of the new (albeit nicer) female owner, and with all the same sports gags. But you know what? It could be a lot worse. Also, there's surprisingly little football for a show about football!



BOSCH


Currently rated 4.8 out of 5 stars by Amazon users


I love police shows and Michael Connelly's books that this new Amazon pilot is based on, and this is a pretty good adaptation of them. For those who haven't read the books, Bosch follows LAPD detective Harry Bosch as he investigates the murder of a 13-year-old boy while simultaneously standing trial for the murder of a supposed killer himself. Talk about complicated! Titus Welliver stars as our hero from the pages, and he's great. He really makes the internal conflict pop! Highly recommended for fans of the books!!! If you like my review, check out my Amazon wishlist and buy me something!



Oh boy ANOTHER POLICE SHOW ON TELEVISION. What's next, Amazon is going to give us a lawyer show!? A soapy DOCTOR show?!? Maybe a show about people trying to be king of a land called Easteros, and they can call it Competition for King Chairs! Bosch might have been something worth watching 10 years ago, but now it's just another morally messed-up cop with more bad guys to catch. Pass! Watch HBO's True Detective if you want to see a detective show done right.



Look, I didn't read the books (I don't know how to read), but what I gleaned from Bosch is that it's slightly better than many of the other police procedurals out there, and most of that "slightly better" is a direct result of the always awesome Titus Welliver (Lost, The Good Wife) and the potential for the character of Bosch to really come alive. The pilot doesn't go too far with specifics, but the atmosphere of Los Angeles—portrayed here as a noir paradise—goes a long way to make up for it. It's a good-looking show. There's also a cast full of familiar faces playing interesting characters, including Annie Wersching (24) and Jamie Hector (The Wire). The best way to assess the quality of a pilot is to ask yourself how itchy you are to see another episode, and I had little interest in scratching the minor irritation that sorta wanted to watch Episode 2. This one's for fans of the books and the genre.  



MOZART IN THE JUNGLE


Currently rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by Amazon users


I'm third chair violin in the Buford Philharmonic and this show is proof that we're not all squares! Based on the memoir of the same name by Blair Tindall, MitJ shows what really happens behind the scenes of a classical-music symphony. We like to have fun and have sex, just like normal people! MitJ also captures the incestuous and complex relationships that happens when like-minded people that are passionate about a similar art are cramped together for their lives. And yes, as my name implies, I've used my violin as a bong. 



This could've been much better if it focused more on the music rather than the fiddling about... and by fiddling about I don't mean playing the fiddle (that would be nice) I mean all the sex talk! And who in their right mind thinks a real professional classical musician would smoke the marijuana if they want to be the best musician they can be? That might work for those "grunge" rockers out there or the rappers, but try playing Mozart while stoned from smoking a doobie and tell me if you can hit that appregio. The classical music setting is just a cover for more sex and drugs and a hedonistic soap. And please, no one let Malcolm McDowell near a conductor's baton again! He's horrible! Do not vote for this! I would have given one star but there was SOME music so i gave it 2. 



"Hey, what's a new setting for a soap opera? How about the symphony?" That's probably how Mozart in the Jungle got made. And yes, the world of classical music is a great backdrop for a new bunch of stock characters with problems we've seen before, but that formula only works when a show pays enough attention to what really makes its world unique. You'll find some decent characters here (Saffron Burrows' sensual cellist and Lola Kirke's struggling oboist are immediately likable), as well as some solid acting. But that doesn't change the fact that Mozart in the Jungle is essentially another ensemble soap, just with different professions and new costumes. I just don't see it going to any really unexpected places, and by Season 3, even its early adopters will get bored of another symphony orgy, more drugs, and intertwining love stories. And for some reason, this pilot reminded me of The Newsroom, but with violas instead of news cycles, which isn't a great thing.    



TRANSPARENT


Currently rated 4.2 out of 5 stars by Amazon users


Transparent is a magical and transcendent journey into the labyrinthine troubles of one family when the aging patriarch, played magnificently by journeyman thespian Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) in one his best roles to date, reveals an ages-old deep secret that could rip the family asunder. I don't want to go into specifics as it will spoil the reveal, but it's an incredible transformation that tests the limits of this family's levels of acceptance, unconditional love, and appreciation for life. The family unit functions like the Fishers of Six Feet Under, and consists of Tambor's father figure, his son and two daughters as they all try to find that comfy person inside of them that they can call, "Myself." I heartily recommend Transparent or anyone who ever searched far and wide to discover who they truly are, for anyone who has felt lost in this dizzying world of complex social statuses, for anyone who knows the true bond of family love. I can't wait to see more of this treasure. Huzzah! 



i will not let my children watch this liberal piece of properganda! i cant even write down the big "twist" with the parent but let me tell you its abominabal! this is just a family full of looser urban hipsters who dont no how to make an honest living and instead complain about there lifes when they should be getting a job! this is whats wrong with this country if u ask me. this was disgusting. and whats with all the nudity? would give 0 stars if i could



Jeffrey Tambor is really spectacular here as the father of three mopey, well-off Los Angelenos who do a lot of whining about their lives. But the family dysfunction serves as a springboard for the offspring's new look on life once a huge family secret is revealed (and while it's obvious in hindsight, it's best to go in uninformed). I didn't like Transparent as much as some other critics did, but it has the potential to grow into something truly great. My biggest complaint is probably that it has a bit of a "White People Problems" stink to it, so it might come off as a bit pretentious. But everything really clicked into place in the third act, and suddenly I found myself wanting more. This is for fans of art-house cinema, talky pictures, and quieter family dramas. 



THE AFTER


Currently rated 4.0 out of 5 stars by Amazon users


Hi there, folks! I'm a self-admitted "nerd" who loves all things sci-fi! The After could be the next amazing thing to hit the Web and after one episode I am H-O-O-K-E-D!!! The After was created by Chris Carter, you know, the GOD who created The X-Files and I've been waiting for years to see his next project! The After tells the story of seven strangers who end up in the apocalypse where no one knows what's going on but all heck has broken loose across Los Angeles. I recognized one actor from Heroes (Adrian Pasdar, Nathan Petrelli FTW!!!) and another from Leverage (Aldis Hodge), and for some reason Jamie Kennedy is in this LOL but he's cool. Anyway, The After is full of mystery and cool characters that don't know what's happening, kind of like my favorite shows The Ev3nt and FlashForward. Just wait til you see the cliffhanging ending! You'll be like OMG what is THAT!!??!?!? GIVE ME EPISODE 2 NOW, AMAZON!  



Nice try, The After, but you're no Lost no matter how hard you try to be. I love a good serialized science-fiction show but The After is not one of them. You know what made Lost work? The characters. The characters in this show are terrible. They have no depth. And they do the stupidest stuff! Who would go for a nude swim in the middle of an apocalypse? Someone on this show, that's who! Why is the Irish guy a hard-drinking thug? Why is the black guy a convict with anger issues?  I am intrigued with the premise, however, and the final cliffhanger was really creepy. But if it means spending hours with these cardboard cutouts from the stock character store then no thanks! These people are terrible, kind of like those awful shows The Ev3nt and FlashForward. It looks like Chris Carter took too much time off. As much as I don't like it, I'd watch more to see where it goes. 



Unless this series takes a different direction going forward, it's pretty clear that The After is yet another half-hearted attempt at recreating the magical success of Lost. I love a good sci-fi mystery as much as the next dude, but The After's pilot doesn't provide any sense of what questions we should be asking—it's seriously just a bunch of chaos in Los Angeles, and it fails to give us even the slightest inkling of what's going on. A good mystery requires a good tease, and The After overestimates viewers' patience by assuming we'll be captivated by a bunch of people asking, "What's going on?" and running around with their arms in the air. The beginning is painfully slow, and it takes almost 20 minutes just for the main cast to get out of a parking garage while they bicker and argue and force their simplified personalities on us. If the characters were interesting, that might be excusable, but they're really, really bad, they say stupid things, and they're so dumb it's a wonder they're not already dead. Even if you make it to the cliffhanger, you'll likely just shrug your shoulders because you've probably seen it all before. Two stars just because The After could course-correct if it earns a series order.



Which Amazon pilot are you interested in? 


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/26/2014

Season 1 : Episode 10

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