As “Peak TV” reigns supreme and every network or streaming service of repute has made its way into developing original TV shows, Amazon has remained a fascinating mixed bag. While many of its shows have garnered critical acclaim, none of them have reached the heights of pop culture buzz or audience enthusiasm on the level that Netflix has regularly achieved. A few notable series made a splash – The Man in the High Castle has its fans, Mozart in the Jungle has become an unlikely awards favorite, and the oft-overlooked Transparent that became the first TV show from a streaming service to win a Golden Globe.
Yet the zeitgeist remains just out of reach, with a few of Amazon’s most hyped efforts flopping hard, such as the sadly underappreciated The Good Girls Revolt and the less-than-stellar Crisis in Six Scenes (Woody Allen’s first foray into TV, a deal which Amazon made without him having a script or even idea ready). The service’s pilot scheme, where users can watch a series of potential pick-ups and vote for the one they liked the most to get a full season, is a smart idea that’s helped Amazon stand out in an increasingly crowded field, but it doesn’t seem to have translated to viewers in the long-term. For many people, Amazon is still just the place to shop online, not stream TV.
That may be changing, however, thanks in part to the incredible success Amazon has had with its film division. After adopting a more traditional indie studio mold of releases for films such as Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman, Amazon became the new darling of the industry, making millions at the box office and picking up a couple of Oscars along the way. Compare that to Netflix, which has struggled to gain legitimacy in the industry by stalwartly sticking to the streaming model. The new objective for Amazon is to see if that mold can be replicated in its TV division, where a strictly streaming-based strategy is necessary. Where Amazon seeks to differentiate itself from Netflix is in its specific branding as a place for creators. Like its impressive film slate, Amazon’s upcoming TV series shows off much-anticipated collaborations with major directors from the film world as well as beloved TV show-runners. Like Netflix, it’s keen to encompass a solid variety of genres and audiences, but on a much smaller scale. There are familiar names as well as big-budget risks and idiosyncratic indie fare.
We’ve compiled a list of all of Amazon’s upcoming original programming. Some of these shows have set premiere dates, but many are simply tentatively listed for 2017, while others are still in production or the very early stages of development. All of these dates and programs are subject to change.
I Love Dick
While the title may be impossible to Google safely, the new show from Jill Soloway (Transparent) carries some major arthouse clout. Based on the influential novel by Chris Kraus, the series’ pilot made a splash with critics thanks to its deft handling of a tricky tone and unflinching examination of a trio of flawed and frequently unlikeable characters. I Love Dick, part autobiography, part meta-study of gender, is a love-triangle drama about a dissatisfied film-maker (Kathryn Hahn), her professor husband (Griffin Dunne) and the unnervingly charming Dick (Kevin Bacon), an infamous academic who neither of them can stay away from. Much of the story centers on the smothering and painfully pretentious art world the trio inhabit and skewers the artistic community’s grand delusions of changing the world with impenetrable academic theory, which makes the show sound unbearably dry. In fact, it’s a witty satire shot beautifully through Soloway’s style and offers career best roles to both Hahn and Bacon. As Soloway’s Transparent brought much needed critical acclaim to Amazon, the site will be hoping for lightning to strike twice.
I Love Dick will premiere on May 12th.
Next: Jean-Claude Van Johnson
Jean-Claude Van Johnson
In 2008, the Muscles From Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme, made a self-aware indie movie called JCVD, wherein he played a partly fictional version of himself as a struggling actor past his prime. It’s more Godard than The Expendables, but showed Van Damme as a canny on-screen presence with a full awareness of his much-loved persona. A stint in a series of adverts for Volvo and Coors Light helped strengthen that – sleeveless denim jacket and all – and now he’s made his way into TV comedy with Jean-Claude Van Johnson. It seems that he excels when playing himself, and his latest venture has him poking more fun at himself while embracing the persona that made him a star. The show has a killer set-up – JCVD has used his actor life as a cover for his escapades as a secret agent and must battle the forces of evil. It’s a knowingly bonkers idea the pilot has a lot of fun with, so the challenge will be to see how long such a high-concept plot can be sustained.
Jean-Claude Van Johnson will premiere some time in 2017.
Out of Amazon’s most recent round of pilots, The Tick was arguably the one with the biggest brand recognition. From the absurdist comic series that delighted in parodying the superhero genre, to the short-lived animated series to the even shorter-lived first attempt at a live-action adaptation, The Tick‘s popularity has remained consistent, if not stratospheric. Perhaps this era of pop culture, where superheroes are dominant and audiences seemingly can’t get enough of them, will benefit the series and help it find an audience beyond its cult status. This time around, the eponymous blue avenger is played by Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead), and the pilot hinted at an epic overriding story that may delight fans of the character who have been waiting for a definitive adaptation.
The Tick will premiere some time in 2017.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
Amazon’s last dive into the expansive back-catalogue of science-fiction icon Philip K. Dick gave them The Man in the High Castle, an ambitious if somewhat faulty drama that took on the much-theorized question of what America would be like if the Nazis had won World War 2. Dick is one of the genre’s most revered figures, and his influence spans across pop culture, so why adapt just one of his stories when you can go for several at once? That’s the plan put forward by acclaimed show-runner Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica) and Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).
Electric Dreams, which was originally commissioned by Channel 4 in the UK, is a passion project for all involved and will adapt 10 of the author’s short stories for an anthology series. Moore and company have amassed an enviable pool of writing talent to assist them in this endeavor, including Dee Rees (Mudbound), Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim) and Matthew Graham (Doctor Who). Recent casting announcements for the series include Terrence Howard (Empire) and Anna Paquin (True Blood). No clues have been given on what stories will be adapted, but with over 120 stories and 44 novels to his name, they won’t be short of material.
No air date has been announced yet for Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.
Next: The Last Tycoon
The Last Tycoon
American literary icon F. Scott Fitzgerald has been an unlikely source of inspiration for Amazon’s TV division. With Z: The Beginning of Everything – the Christina Ricci starring drama on the life of Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda – on the slate, it will soon be joined by The Last Tycoon.
Based on the author’s last novel, the drama will star Matt Bomer (White Collar) as a Golden Age Hollywood producer who fights the studio bosses to force their hand in opposing production regulations supported by the rising Nazi government of Germany. With a plummy cast and prestige material, it’s no surprise that The Last Tycoon was originally developed for HBO. Amazon will be hoping some of the critical shine finds its way to its own service.
No air date has been announced yet for The Last Tycoon.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
After Netflix’s revival of her beloved series Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman-Palladino is on top of the world. Her previous attempts at new shows separate from the characters of Stars Hollow fell flat on arrival, with Bunheads lasting only one season and The Return of Jezebel James only making it to three episodes before the plug was pulled. This time around, the pilot season proved far more successful and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was picked up for an unprecedented two seasons.
If you loved the screwball-style speedy dialogue of Gilmore Girls, expect to find Sherman-Palladino’s particular trademarks in full force here, only now the setting has been moved to the 1950s, following a beleaguered housewife who discovers a talent for stand-up comedy. Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) stars as the eponymous Mrs. Maisel, with support from Gilmore Girls bit-part player Alex Bornstein (Family Guy).
No air date has been announced yet for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
Taking on the mantle of Tom Clancy’s most iconic character has become something of a rite of passage for the mandated leading man of any given era: From Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford to Ben Affleck to Chris Pine. With the series making the jump to television, The Office star John Krasinski is the latest star to join their ranks. Some big names will steer the ship behind the camera, including Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel), Graham Roland (Prison Break), and none other than Michael Bay himself on producer duties with his company Platinum Dunes. Don’t worry, he won’t be directing. That responsibility is reserved for Morten Tyldum (Passengers), who will direct the pilot, with further episodes and production helmed by Daniel Sackheim (The Americans).
No air date has been announced yet for Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.
Untitled David O. Russell Series
Once upon a time, David O. Russell was a toxic name in Hollywood. His on-set temper and infamous fights with his casts – including a clip of him screaming at Lily Tomlin that went viral and the long standing rumor of a fistfight with George Clooney – led to a dry spell in his career. Fortunately for him, The Fighter cleaned up his reputation and began a succession of Oscar nominations for his film work.
It seems that Amazon is keen to latch onto that buzz, and has negotiated a two season, 16 episode deal with Russell and producer partners The Weinstein Company. Russell is allegedly commanding big bucks for his work, with the budget said to be an eye-watering $160m, but he’s also bringing in the big talents, with Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore set to star. No details have been given on the plot, with word only that the show is a mafia drama, something Russell has a little experience with thanks to American Hustle. Much is riding on this show, so let’s hope cooler heads prevail.
No air date has been announced yet for the Untitled David O. Russell Series.
Next: The Romanoffs
It’s been two years since Mad Men ended, thus signaling the climax of one of the best shows of its era, and fans had critics alike have been eagerly awaiting news of Matthew Weiner’s next project. His ambition and literary style made him a favorite with Emmy voters and turned AMC into a must-watch network. Amazon seemed keen to get Weiner on board, allegedly negotiating a $50m budget for his new series, The Romanoffs, an anthology that will follow a series of people connected by their belief that they are descendants of the Romanov family, the last imperial dynasty to rule Russia before being murdered by revolutionaries. Romanov conspiracies plagued the mid 20th century, particularly those centered on the Emperor’s daughter Anastasia, who many believed had survived the massacre and lived into adulthood under a new identity, and several women did step forward alleging to be her (this was proven false by DNA testing). In an interview with
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Weiner laid out his plans for the series, and they are as ambitious as you can imagine, with the anthology structure of Black Mirror noted as an influence. No casting has been announced but Weiner has not ruled out bringing in some of his Mad Men favorites.
No air date has been announced yet for The Romanoffs.
Too Old to Die Young
Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) joins Amazon’s ranks as another auteur from the film world ready to put his stamp on television. Too Old to Die Young was greenlit with a straight-to-series 10-episode pickup and will start filming later this year in LA. Miles Teller (Whiplash) will star as an officer in the LAPD working amidst the city’s criminal underworld, navigating the turf wars between the various factions of Russian mobsters, Mexican cartels and Japanese assassins. In typical Nicolas Winding Refn style, the series is said to follow “killers’ existential journeys in becoming samurai”, so expect visceral violence and a top-notch soundtrack.
No air date has been announced yet for Too Old to Die Young.
Sausage Party was one of 2016’s most surprising hits. Who would have thought an animated film about the secret and super adult lives of supermarket food would make over $140m? Annapurna, the studio that produced the film, certainly saw its potential and is now on board with the latest venture from Conrad Vernon. Based on the darkly comedic Mollisan Town books from Tim Davy, Amberville is a noir-inspired story of sex, drugs, and gangsters that just happens to be populated by living, breathing stuffed toy animals. A high concept story, sure, but Sausage Party proved there was an audience for this team’s work, and TV isn’t short of a few boundary-pushing genre cartoons aimed squarely at grown-ups, from South Park to Rick and Morty.
No air date has been announced yet for Amberville.
In just a few short years, podcasting has become a cultural phenomenon, influencing the worlds of comedy, journalism and storytelling. Making the jump to the big or small screen, however, hasn’t been easy for the medium, but Amazon are ready to take a risk and have commissioned a series based on the hit podcast Lore. Hosted by Aaron Mahnke, Lore is an anthology style series that explores the history, facts and fiction behind various folkloric tales. It’s a suitably eerie show, loaded with atmosphere, and producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) is hoping to replicate the magic on-screen.
No air date has been announced yet for Lore, but it is said the premiere will be some time this year.
Kevin Bacon seems right at home on Amazon. With I Love Dick close to premiering, he’s got time to return to an old favorite, as the streaming service has picked up a series based on the film Tremors. The film that Bacon once dismissed has become a cult favorite and spawned a number of sequels. Now that he’s given the film a reappraisal, Bacon is ready to reprise his role and executive-produce the adaptation alongside Jason Blum of indie horror darlings Blumhouse Productions. Few details are available on the series, such as whether or not it has a full season pick-up (the way Bacon talks about it suggests it may), but he has confirmed that it will pick up 25 years after the original, and probably ignore the sequels.
No air date has been announced yet for Tremors.
TV adaptations are ten a penny nowadays. Some are surprisingly excellent (Hannibal) while others flounder at the opening gates (Damien). It’s all about whether a new team of creators can put their unique spin on a beloved story, just like Martin Scorsese did in bringing the Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs to Boston with The Departed. This time around, writer Jason Richman is moving the action to Illinois and having the double-crossing insider cops and gangsters battleground to the Latino crime families of Chicago. None of the film’s cast or crew are set to appear in the show.
No air date has been announced yet for The Departed.
Which upcoming Amazon original TV shows are you the most excited for? Let us know in the comments!
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