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2014-15 Might Mean More Streaming to View Quality TV
September 15, 2014  | By Eric Gould  | 3 comments

Say it’s late October and you’ve got NBC’s Constantine on. That means you’re watching a knock-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but instead of a blonde ingénue in the lead, it’s a hangdog Brit (Matt Ryan) channeling Keith Richards, if he was a supernatural exorcist.

And you might be wondering if that’s all there is to new television this year.

ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder is virtually alone this season as a must-see – with some outrageous plot antics you won’t mind because Viola Davis sells it like nobody can.

You’ll have to get all the way to early next year to get two from producer Vince Gilligan – Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad back-story about crook lawyer Saul Goodman on AMC, and around the same time, his un-buddy detective dramedy, Battle Creek premieres on CBS. (TVWW has seen the Battle Creek pilot and it’s great – looking every bit as buzzworthy and award-winning as Breaking Bad.)

Meanwhile, through next January, that might leave streaming content from Amazon Studios as the best and most worthy options. (Cable has a few upcoming winners, most notably BBC America’s import of the UK miniseries A Poet in New York in October.)

That’s no surprise for viewers who have flocked to Netflix to binge on House of Cards or Orange is the New Black for full-season same-day releases.

Amazon premiered a handful of pilots earlier this year and then polled viewers on which shows should go to series. Starting this month, one of those will be available to subscribers of their Amazon Prime service. Others will follow once a month through the fall season and early next year.

The online retailer is following in the footsteps of AMC, Sundance and others – carefully acquiring smart shows to make its mark, lacking the network luxury of a bag of new shows they hope will stick but likely cancel.

First to debut on September 26 is Transparent from Six Feet Under veteran Jill Soloway. She’s written and directed the ten-episode series about a dysfunctional LA family of two divorced parents with three adult children. Following the Netflix model, the entire series will be available on the premiere date.

The Transparent characters may seem über-self-absorbed in the style of Girls (and it features Gaby Hoffman from that series), but more likely you’ll find the series a smart, icky-tricky family study, full of little twists you didn’t see coming.

Transparent also stars perennial Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, above, right,) as the family patriarch and is probably the hip dramedy of the year if it can create enough streaming buzz.

Around December, the web company will premiere Mozart in the Jungle, produced by Roman Coppola and actor Jason Schwartzman. Featuring Malcolm McDowell and Bernadette Peters, the single-cam dramedy follows a struggling oboist and the adult hijinks around a New York City orchestra.

Perhaps the biggest Amazon fish here is X-Files veteran Chris Carter who produces The After – a Lost-like enigma starting up in early 2015 (co-starring Louise Monot, right). It follows a group of mismatched LA survivors thrown together after the power goes off and causes civil order to unravel. The After has a terse, well-constructed pilot but the reveal at the end will tell whether you want to see more or not.

If you’re looking for a hard-boiled procedural without a lot of tricks out of the writer’s room (and a new anti-hero to get behind), Bosch ought to fill that bill well. Also premiering in 2015, Bosch is based on the Michael Connelly novels and follows Detective Harry Bosch, a grizzled, jazz-loving Harry-O-type loner and stars Titus Welliver (top photo; he’s currently the suave pitchman for the speedy Comcast Business Class). Though there are heavy Hollywood detective tropes here, the twists are honest and Welliver is endlessly fascinating to watch. (And you have to love a character titled after the 15th century visionary painter Hieronymus Bosch.)

While the Amazon shows feel at times like arty/indie ventures that the cable channels might have passed on, they thrive on strong directorial vision and assiduously avoid the usual network-style canned shtick.

And the content-first, demographics-second commitment is continuing. Amazon released five more pilots last month, including a comedy produced by renowned filmmaker Steven Soderbergh who has a critical hit with The Knick currently running on Cinemax.

Given the tepid network lineups upcoming for 2014-15 you might be better off picking up the tablet and putting down the remote.

And start streaming.

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Noel Holson
Hey, Porpoise. "Sloppy" or not, the phrase "quality TV" has been around for several decades and the implication of the phrase is widely known.
Oct 6, 2014   |  Reply
Very much looking forward to "Bosch." Saw the "After" pilot and was into it until the stupid showed up at the end.
Sep 17, 2014   |  Reply
Note to your headline writer: Everything has a degree of quality -- high, low or none. If high quality is implied, that's a sloppy supposition.
Sep 16, 2014   |  Reply
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