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Amazon and Netflix Present Latest in Grand Stream-Schemes
August 4, 2015  | By Ed Bark  | 1 comment

Whether its executives like it or not, Amazon Prime is still Avis compared to Netflix's Hertz in the grand "streaming" scheme of things.

Even so, that's a pretty good business. And Amazon's half-day presentation Monday held ample promise in terms of both new series and current ones.

Amazon's Transparent (Jeffrey Tamobr, right), currently filming its second season and already renewed for a third, received 11 Emmy nominations last month, the most for any comedy series.  Bosch, which Amazon executives touted as the network's most-watched series, chipped in with a single nomination.

The stars of Transparent (returning Dec. 4) met with TV critics along with principal cast members from another returnee, Mozart in the Jungle (back for Season 2 on a still-to-be-announced date in January).

Amazon also showcased two new and dark drama series, plus a dramedy set in the 1980s.

Hand of God, featuring Ron Perlman (top), Dana Delany and Garret Dillahunt, is the saga of a "hard-living, law-bending" judge whose mental breakdown sets him on a quest to find the man who raped his daughter and tore his family apart. Lacking any hard evidence, Judge Pernell Harris (Perlman) relies on visions and messages that he believes are coming from God. The 10-episode series is coming in full Sept. 4.

There's also The Man in the High Castle, which Amazon drama head Morgan Wandell not so humbly termed "the boldest new series of the year," even though it was rejected in previous years by both the BBC and the Syfy network. Premise: the Allies lost World War II. And by the 1960s, the East and West coasts of the United States respectively are controlled by the Nazis and the Japanese. Adapted by Frank Spotnitz from the same-named Philip K. Dick novel, this 10-hour joy ride is due Nov. 20.

The other new entry, Red Oaks, is built around a New York University student and assistant tennis pro who's basically confused about a lot of things, including whether his parents ever really loved each other. UK-born newcomer Craig Roberts plays the young man at sea in a cast that also includes veterans Jennifer Grey, Paul Reiser and Richard Kind. Look for this one Oct. 9.

Amazon Studios head Roy Price says the service has commissioned 49 pilots in just over two years, with 17 of them graduating to full series. Many of Amazon's pilots are streamed for brief periods, with subscribers' comments factored into whether they should continue with multi-episodes. Bosh was among the pilots that received an enthusiastic thumbs up from viewers.

On Friday, Aug. 7, Amazon will put up two new pilots and see how subscribers react to them. The inaugural episode of Sneaky Pete is executive-produced by Bryan Cranston, and includes a guest star appearance by him. Giovanni Ribisi (left) otherwise stars as a "lovable ex-con," with Margo Martindale also in the cast.

Amazon's "most ambitious pilot to date," Casanova, stars Diego Luna as "the notorious bad boy of the 18th century," in Price's words.

Add Woody Allen to the Amazon roster -- and no, he doesn't have to put his show to any viewer vote. Price said he "was with Woody on Friday," and that the scripts for a six-episode Season 1 of his still untitled show are almost finished. They're expected to stream on Amazon at some point in the second half of 2016, Price said. He offered no further details on the show's premise.

In terms of what Amazon's not doing, it's decided against going ahead with The After from Chris Carter, executive producer of The X-Files.

"You know, not everything works out over the course of time," Price said. "That's just the way it goes."

Amazon, like Netflix, is secretive about how many subscribers actually are watching their original series. They just have a bit different way of dodging the question.

"I can assure you, internally, we talk about the quality of the shows a hundred times more than we ever talk about the numbers," Amazon comedy head Joe Lewis said with a straight face.

OK, then, do Amazon executives talk much about Netflix as their perceived arch rival?

Not really, Lewis told tvworthwatching.com. "There are hundreds of shows out there in the marketplace. So our job is to figure out, really, what's the highest-quality, best show we can do that doesn't occupy a piece of real estate that's already really well-covered . . . That's way more important than, like, what Netflix is doing."

Jennifer Grey, the Red Oaks co-star best known for her indelible role as Frances "Baby" Houseman in Dirty Dancing, talked up a storm on behalf of Amazon after tvww innocently asked about any novelties in working for a streamer as opposed to a broadcast or cable network.

"It's run nothing like a broadcast network," she said. "It is so far-and-above superior to that."

The writers, producers and directors of Red Oaks are "basically answering to no one except themselves, and they have insane taste," Grey added.

Reiser (right, with Roberts) said that during filming, "You don't have a sense that it's going to come through somebody's computer. That's really so far down the pike. The hardest part really is explaining to my 80-year-old mother-in-law how she can watch it, because I don't know how it's going to happen."

"I got (Amazon) for my mother. Get it for her. Make it simple," Grey interjected.

"Jennifer, mention the free shipping, free music," Lewis urged.

"Amazon Prime has changed my life," Grey insisted. "I haven't been in a store in years. We were early adapters and every day, ding-dong, I open the box (of merchandise ordered from Amazon). It's like Christmas. We're so old that we forget we ordered it."

"Is she getting some extra check that we're not getting?" Reiser wondered.

Probably not. But she should.
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Mark Isenberg
Most prefer to forget that Showtime was a second rate cable channel for many years to HBO with silly sex or drugs dramedies although it did have the first mature black series in Linc's with Pam Grier. It takes time to let writers find their way and while HBO will probably always be the most creative outlet,Showtime is doing better efforts beyond Homeland for Viacom elderly tycoon Sumner Redstone. Amazon will figure it out and the Ron Perlman Hand of God may be one improvement.
Aug 4, 2015   |  Reply
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