As Netflix continues annihilating the original content creation game with the likes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, other streaming video services are working desperately to catch-up to their success – none more so than Amazon.
When Amazon was second to bat on the original series game behind main competitor Netflix, the novelty of original shows on streaming services was already gone. But even if that’s the case, Amazon still has yet to deliver on a series that makes audiences have to come to their service. The closest so far has been Alpha House and Transparent, but they are still not enough to put the company on the map.
Continuing on their track of letting fans decide what pilots they take to series, Amazon has announced what new shows viewers can expect to see first episodes for in 2015, including a new Carlton Cuse series and Phillip K. Dick adaptation:
Cocked: The one-hour dark comedy created by Sam Baum (Lie to Me) and Sam Shaw (Manhattan) stars Sam Trammell (True Blood) as Richard Paxson, a family man and corporate lapdog who left his family in rural Virginia 20 years before and vowed never to go back. He’s forced to return home to help run his family’s gun business, but familial conflict ensues. “Cocked” also stars Jason Lee (My Name is Earl), Brian Dennehy (The Good Wife), Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad) and Dreama Walker (The Good Wife). The pilot is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Skull Island) and executive produced by Erwin Stoff (Unbroken), Shaw and Baum.
Down Dog: Comedy about late-30s Southern California yoga instructor Logan Wood (played by Josh Casaubon, I Just Want My Pants Back). Wood’s life gets complicated after he breaks up with his girlfriend, an older woman named Amanda who owns the yoga studio (played by Paget Brewster, Criminal Minds). “Down Dog” also stars Lyndsy Fonseca (How I Met Your Mother), Will Greenberg (Halt and Catch Fire), Andrea Savage (The Life and Times of Tim), Amir Talai (American Dad), Kris Kristofferson (Lone Star) and Alysia Reiner (Orange Is the New Black). The pilot is written by Robin Schiff (Are You There, Chelsea?), produced by Bob Cooper (RFK) and Michael Fuchs (Death in the Modern Age), and directed by Bradley Silberling (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events).
Mad Dogs: Hour-long dramedy based on the U.K. series created by Cris Cole (The Bill) follows the twisted reunion of a group of underachieving 40-something friends to celebrate the early retirement of a friend at his gorgeous villa in Belize. The pilot stars Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club), Billy Zane (Twin Peaks), Romany Malco (Weeds), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) and Ben Chaplin (World Without End). Mad Dogs is directed by Charles McDougall (The Mindy Project) and is being co-produced with Sony Pictures Television. Executive producers are Cole, Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Marney Hochman (Last Resort), Andy Harries (DCI Banks), Suzanne Mackie (All in Good Time) and McDougall.
The Man in the High Castle: One-hour drama based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel is set in an alternate post-World War II world after the Allied Powers lost the conflict — with the U.S. and much of the rest of world now carved up between Japan and Germany. Pilot stars Alexa Davalos (Mob City), Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars), Rupert Evans (The Village), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat: Legacy), Joel De La Fuente (Hemlock Grove), Rufus Sewell (Eleventh Hour) and DJ Qualls (Z Nation). Directed by David Semel (Heroes) and written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files), who both serve as executive producers. Executive producers also include Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker, Stewart Mackinnon and Christian Baute of Headline Pictures (The Invisible Woman), and Christopher Tricarico (May in the Summer), with co-executive producer Jordan Sheehan of Scott Free Prods. (The Good Wife, The Andromeda Strain). In addition, Isa Dick Hackett will executive produce and Kalen Egan will co-executive produce on behalf of Electric Shepherd (The Adjustment Bureau).
The New Yorker Presents: Half-hour docuseries pilot features several segments: a short film with actors Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) and Brett Gelman (Go On) based on a story by Simon Rich (Saturday Night Live) and directed by Troy Miller (Arrested Development); a poem by Matthew Dickman; a documentary by director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) about biologist Tyrone Hayes based on a Rachel Aviv article; and an interview with performance artist Marina Abramović, conducted by New Yorker writer Ariel Levy. Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) is executive producer, joined by Dave Snyder (Death Row Stories) and Condé Nast Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff (The Fashion Fund). Pilot is co-produced by Condé Nast Entertainment and Jigsaw Prods.
Point of Honor: Hour-long drama turns on a Virginia family led by their West Point-bred son John Rhodes (played by Nathan Parsons, “True Blood”), who at the outset of the Civil War makes the controversial decision to defend the South while freeing all of their slaves. Shot entirely on location in Virginia, “Point of Honor” also stars Christopher O’Shea (Baby Daddy), Annabelle Stephenson (Revenge), Riley Voelkel (The Newsroom), Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Old School), Patrick Heusinger (Revolution), Luke Benward (Ravenswood), Adrienne Warren (Black Box), Lucien Laviscount (Waterloo Road) and James Harvey Ward (Low Winter Sun). Pilot is directed by Randall Wallace (Braveheart), written by Carlton Cuse and Wallace, and executive produced by Cuse, Wallace and Barry Jossen (Sex and the City). Point of Honor is being co-produced with ABC Signature Studios.
Salem Rogers: Half-hour comedy stars Leslie Bibb (About a Boy) as Salem Rogers, an overly confident, outrageously blunt and hard-partying former supermodel who is forced to face her past and re-enter the real world after 10 years in a posh rehab center. Trying to return to fame, she tracks down her former assistant Agatha (played by Rachel Dratch, Saturday Night Live), who is now an author of self-help books. Pilot also stars Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), Brad Morris (Playing House), Harry Hamlin (Mad Men), Toks Olagundoye (The Neighbors), Brad Morris (Cougar Town) and Scott Adsit (30 Rock). Salem Rogers is written by newcomer Lindsey Stoddart, executive produced by Will Graham (The Onion News Network) and directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls). Stoddart submitted “Salem Rogers” through the studio’s online screenplay submission process.
Right now, what Amazon continues to lack from its original programming is credibility. Amazon is the current holder to the exclusive streaming rights for series including 24, Hannibal, Orphan Black and a whole slate of older HBO content such as The Wire and The Sopranos. With those series, the company’s able to keep itself marketable and in the fight; but if something doesn’t pop soon from their original series department, the fight could be lost sooner rather than later.
This isn’t to say Amazon would bow out of the game completely, but they may scale back their original programming slate in favor of acquiring more exclusive streaming deals for existing series the way Netflix did when it was first trying to break into the streaming game. 24 and Hannibal (as well as other Universal properties such as Suits) are great ways to anchor a programming slate, and they also do a great job at keeping other contenders, such as Hulu, away, so there’s still hope.
With any luck, Amazon will one day find ground to compete with Netflix in a major way. Perhaps it will come from a deal with DC/Warner Bros., the way Marvel has one in place with Netflix. Perhaps prestige will come from the company’s first Emmy nomination. The great thing about the new game of internet streaming is that its dynamics can change as fast as the data takes to transfer. So who knows what could be in store for early-2015? Maybe it’ll be something great.
Watch for Amazon’s new slate of original series in 2015 – and as always, we’ll keep you updated.