Amazon officially announced its presence as a legitimate provider of original entertainment with this year's 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, becoming only the second non-television content producer to be honored by the Academy for Television Arts & Sciences, after Netflix. Now, only three days after the ceremony, Amazon is attempting to capitalize on its awards momentum by announcing the next round of Amazon original pilots. Could one of them be the next Transparent?
That one of these six shows could follow in Transparent's footsteps certainly isn't a given. For all the acclaim that show (rightfully) receives, it's sort of the exception that proves the rule for Amazon. None of its other original series — dramas Bosch and Hand Of God, comedies Alpha House, Mozart In The Jungle, and Catastrophe — have reached anywhere near the same level of cultural buzz, and have received mixed critical receptions, from rapturous ( Catastrophe ) to dismal ( Hand Of God ) and everywhere in between. Other promising projects — like The After , a post-apocalyptic drama from The X-Files creator Chris Carter — were scrapped before they even got off the ground.
So it remains to be seen how many of these pilots will even see the light of day, and, if they do, whether they'll be capable of tapping into the zeitgeist in the way that Transparent has.
Logline: "Set in 1868, Max Martini stars as Josiah ‘Edge' Hedges—a Union officer turned cowboy, who prowls the post-Civil War American West doling out his own peculiar (and savage) brand of justice. When we meet Edge in the pilot, his mission is personal and his vengeance hath no fury."
The audiences for Transparent and this Western probably don't overlap that much, but if Yvonne Strahovski, who has been terrific — and believably kick-ass — in her television roles so far, is given good material to work with, this could be a moderate success.
Good Girls Revolt
Logline: "In 1969, while a cultural revolution with a soundtrack to match swept through the free world, there was still one place that refused to change with the times: newsrooms. Good Girls Revolt follows a group of young female researchers at 'News of the Week,' who simply ask to be treated fairly. Their revolutionary request will spark convulsive changes and upend marriages, careers, sex lives, love lives, and friendships."
Combining an incredibly stacked cast list, the popular period and style of Mad Men, and a timely story about a group of young women suing one of the most powerful publications in the country for gender discrimination, this is one of the two most promising pilots in Amazon's roster. Extra intriguing? Bryant is playing real-life civil rights activist and future congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Gummer is portraying legendary screenwriter Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally...).
Logline: "Highston Liggetts (newcomer Lewis Pullman) is a 19-year-old with a wide circle of celebrity friends—that only he can see. His parents, Jean and Wilbur, force him to get psychiatric help, but his Uncle Billy thinks he’s just fine. Highston is a comedy about what it means to be normal in a world that’s anything but."
Written by Bob Nelson (an Oscar nominee for 2013's Nebraska), directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (the team behind Little Miss Sunshine), and executive produced by Sacha Baron Cohen (of Borat fame), Highston has an incredible confluence of talent offscreen — that will hopefully bear fruit onscreen as well. Oh, and Shaquille O'Neal is cameoing in the pilot, so that's a good sign.
Longline: "A dark comedy, loosely inspired by Tig Notaro’s life, One Mississippi follows Tig as she deals with the complex reentry into her childhood hometown of Bay Saint Lucille, Mississippi, to deal with the unexpected death of her mother, the interminable life of the party, Caroline. Reeling from her own recently declining health, Tig struggles to find her footing with the loss of the one person who actually understood her."
This is the pilot that's likely to invite the most comparisons to Transparent — and not just because it shares two cast members with that show. Notaro is a popular stand-up comedian, famous for being very open about her sexuality and her battle with breast cancer. These issues are likely to be tackled with both humor and sensitivity, given that Notaro herself is co-writing the show with Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody.
Logline: "The political thriller Patriot follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner. His latest assignment is to prevent Iran from going nuclear, requiring him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous 'non-official cover' — that of a mid-level employee at a Midwestern industrial piping firm. A bout with PTSD, the Federal government’s incompetence, and the intricacies of keeping a day job in the 'front' industrial piping company, cause a barrage of ever-escalating fiascos that jeopardize Tavner’s mission."
Terry O'Quinn will be playing the father of the main character (played by Australian actor Dorman), and also the State Department Director of Intelligence. The only question that remains is: Will Patriot be more like Homeland Season 1 or Homeland Season 3?
Logline: "Z is a bio-series pilot based on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern Belle who becomes the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20s. Starring Christina Ricci as Zelda Sayre, Z starts before she meets the unpublished writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and moves through their passionate, turbulent love affair and their marriage—made in heaven, lived out in hell as the celebrity couple of their time."
Between this and Lifetime's The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, it seems like Ricci is currently Hollywood's go-to person for period biographical series about intriguing women. While Z is likely to be less bloody than that previous project, it should be just as twisted — given the nature of Zelda's and Scott's twisted relationship.
So far, One Mississippi shows the most potential to be the next Transparent, but every single one of these Amazon pilots sounds intriguing enough to check out. They have yet to steer us wrong.
Images: Amazon Studios