Woody Allen is coming back to television, signing a deal to create a series for Amazon Studios, where he will write and direct every episode.
Amazon’s press release didn’t have much more info on what’s for now referred to as “Untitled Woody Allen Project,” save that the series will, of course, premiere exclusively on Amazon Prime in the US, UK and Germany.
“Woody Allen is a visionary creator who has made some of the greatest films of all-time, and it”s an honor to be working with him on his first television series,” Amazon Studios vice-president Roy Price said in a statement. “From ‘Annie Hall’ to ‘Blue Jasmine,’ Woody has been at the creative forefront of American cinema and we couldn”t be more excited to premiere his first TV series exclusively on Prime Instant Video next year.”
“I don”t know how I got into this,” Allen added in the statement. “I have no ideas and I”m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price will regret this.”
Price refers to this as Allen’s first television series, which is technically kind of true, but it’s not his first work in television. Many of his earliest assignments in the ’50s and early ’60s involved writing for television, most famously on several Sid Caesar specials (collaborating with the great Larry Gelbart). He has also written and directed a handful of TV-movies, most recently 1994’s “Don’t Drink the Water” with Michael J. Fox, Julie Kavner and a young Mayim Bialik.
This is a change in how Amazon conducts its burgeoning TV business. Until now, they’ve insisted on first making pilots and then allowing their audience to view and rank the pilots to help decide what gets picked up. It’s unclear how much Amazon ultimately factors in these votes, but it at least creates the illusion that the viewers are part of the process. I suspect Allen wouldn’t have agreed to do this if the crowd-sourcing was part of the process, not just because he has a very specific, idiosyncratic, private style of working, but because the feedback forms would likely be inundated with angry comments from people who believe he molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow.
That Amazon’s willing to team up with Allen despite the ongoing anger from those who believe Farrow’s accusations is an illustration of just what a creative coup the studio thinks the deal is. (And also shows how differently the Allen and Cosby scandals have been treated; NBC eventually pulled the plug on plans for a new Cosby series.) Professionally, Allen’s a legend, and also someone who has long played hard-to-get in his career. Signing him to create, write and direct a TV series is a huge get for Amazon, and perhaps an even bigger sign that the operation has arrived than this week’s Golden Globe wins for the wonderful “Transparent.” It’s also a sign of the esteem television is now held in, that someone like Allen would be willing to come back to the medium.
(Amazon, still new to this game, has also been relatively hands-off with its creators, which no doubt appealed to Allen.)
What does everybody else think? Are you excited or appalled that Allen’s coming back to TV? If you’ve been a fan of Amazon’s crowd-sourced pilot process, how do you feel that Allen got to avoid it? Are you expecting something more overtly comic than many of his recent films, or do you think returning to the medium that gave him his start might bring back some of his more farcical instincts?