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Amazon Studios Officially Picks Up Six Pilots to Series

Look at what you did.

Many of you watched the latest original pilots released by Amazon Studios in early February. Afterward, you thoughtfully and passionately weighed in on them. Informed by your feedback, today Amazon Studios officially confirms that “Transparent”, “Mozart in the Jungle”, “Bosch” and “The After” have received full series orders.

Amazon also is moving two of its children’s pilots to series, “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” and “Wishenpoof!

That means four out of the five comedy and drama pilots Amazon showcased earlier this year will become series – a significant commitment, considering that Studios picked up only two titles from its first pilot season round, granting a second season to just one of them so far, “Alpha House”.

These series orders aren’t merely a matter of Amazon Studios beefing up its stable of originals, all of which will available exclusively on Prime Instant Video. Picking up “Transparent”, “Mozart in the Jungle”, “Bosch” and “The After”  also makes sense from a business point of view.

“Bosch”, which follows an LAPD homicide detective working a murder case while standing trial for shooting a serial murderer, has a hardcore literary fanbase already built in. Readers who love Michael Connelly ’s Harry Bosch novels could evangelize on the show’s behalf, if it passes muster.

That’s a valuable asset for any new series to possess. As a person unfamiliar with Connelly’s books, the pilot felt like a typical cop show to me. Granted, the fact that “Bosch” is a police drama will be a selling point for many; lots of people love shows set within that world. But with certain notable exceptions such as “The Shield”,“The Wire” and “True Detective”, which were character studies more than procedurals, I am not one of those people. However, reading a few assessments of the pilot by fans of the novels, as well as Titus Welliver being cast in the title role, is enough to buy “Bosch” more rope with me.

“The After” represents a return to the serialized content game for Chris Carter, the man who gave us “The X-Files”. That legacy in itself has stoked excitement in those still entranced by that seminal series and the universe of weirdness Carter and his writers created. The fact that Carter has been away from the TV realm for such a long time adds an extra mystique to “The After,” which already starts with an incredibly odd if familiar story. It also helps that the pilot’s cliffhanger reveal demands explanation, regardless of what one thinks of the 50 minutes that preceded it.

One also has high hopes for what “The After” can do to raise the profile of Aldis Hodge (“Leverage”) whose performance in the pilot proves he has the chops to carry a series.

Series that invite critical and intellectual dissection also are great for any production house’s profile, which is where “Mozart” and “Transparent” come in.

Between these two comedies, one suspects “Mozart” has the potential to earn a broader fan base. It’s glamorous, grants sex appeal to the classical music world  — a setting that the average person may see as stuffy — and boasts an impressive cast including  Saffron Burrows, Malcolm McDowell, Bernadette Peters, Gael García Bernal, and Lola Kirke. “Mozart” also trades in arch (if accessible) humor, and teased us with a nice exploration of the various social strata existing within the fine arts realm. From the up-and-comers living bohemian lives as they chase their dreams, to the stars hatching political schemes in the backseats of limos, there’s a lot of story to explore here.

“Transparent”, which received a series order of at least nine additional episodes, is daring in a different way — a thought-provoking meditation on identity, loyalty and the fine line between self-realization and behaving selfishly, all told through the prism of family dramedy. Jill Soloway, a producer on “Six Feet Under”, employs a style of storytelling which imbues every scene with gently simmering emotion, and its stars Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker and Jeffrey Tambor, have tremendous chemistry.

Are these comedies critic bait? Sure. They’re also “social” bait: Not only is it conceivable that people will be talking about “Transparent” and “Mozart,” but the content of both shows sounds intriguing enough to persuade newcomers to watch in order to join the conversation.

Amazon Studios’ announcement also includes a Cinderella story: the pick-up of “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”, a live-action children’s show about a boy named Gortimer who enjoys adventures with his friends in a suburban neighborhood. It was created by pre-school teacher and first-time writer David Anaxagoras, who submitted the pilot through Amazon Studios’ open-door submission process.

Meanwhile, “Wishenpoof!” is the second Amazon Original from Angela Santomero, creator of “Super Why!” and a co-creator of “Blue’s Clues”. It revolves around Bianca, a girl who uses “Wish Magic” to help others and learns to solve life’s problems creatively. Santomero’s other Amazon Original series “Creative Galaxy” premieres on Prime Instant Video this summer, along with previously announced children’s series pick-ups “TumbLeaf” and “Annebots”.  Premiere dates for the latest slate Amazon Originals were not included in today’s announcement.

Unfortunately, today’s announcement also means sad news for “The Rebels”, the story of a hard-partying, gun-toting monkey and the down-and-out football team that loved him.

Poor little fella. While the rest of “The Rebels” cast, including Natalie Zea, Hayes MacArthur, Affion Crockett and Billy Dee Williams will likely continue to pop up on screens large and small (Zea is back on “The Following,” and Williams is participating in this round of “Dancing with the Stars”), that monkey must return to the relentless grind of auditions and call-backs. Bananas may grow on trees, but they ain’t free.


- Melanie McFarland

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