Attempting to determine the quality of a show based on a cast list and short press release blurb is almost impossible. So many variables are out there. Shows with boring descriptions and a mostly unknown cast can end up being great, and it’s not super fair to leap to judgment and damn them before you see a single frame. The whole thing is a pointless endeavor that does nothing but provide wild speculation and reveal the biases of the person who is trying to make the determination.
Buuuut it’s also fun. And so, here’s an extremely preliminary ranking of the five shows that Amazon just announced for its Spring 2017 pilot season, all of which will be available for Prime subscribers on March 17. We’ve got a weed comedy, a new drama from Amy Sherman-Palladino, and a sci-fi show starring Richard Madden from Game of Thrones, among others. Let’s dive in.
The Legend of Master Legend
The Legend of Master Legend is a dark comedy about the life of Frank Lafount, aka Master Legend — a homemade superhero whose mission is to protect the people of Las Vegas from evil doers. Master Legend juggles the demands of justice with the even more complicated demands of his real family, who don’t see him as a hero at all. The Legend of Master Legend is executive produced by Youree Henley (20th Century Women), Joshuah Bearman (Argo) and David Klawans (Argo), along with executive producers and writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue (Transparent) and Noah Harpster (Transparent). The pilot is directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Dawnn Lewis (Major Crimes), Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire) and newcomer Anjelika Washington.
Apologies to everyone involved in this show for ranking it fifth out of five. I will definitely watch it. They had me at “homemade Las Vegas superhero named Master Legend.” My only issue is that dark comedies are a tricky balance and Amazon has not always had the best track record with tricky balances. Again, we’re not doing science here.
The New V.I.P.’s
Amazon’s first adult animated comedy show, The New V.I.P.’s follows a group of low level employees who seize control of a major corporation after accidently murdering their boss. The show was created by Steve Dildarian (The Life & Times of Tim), Titmouse served as the production company (Ben Kalina and Dave Newberg), along with producer Peter Principato (Central Intelligence) from Principato Young. The pilot stars Matt Braunger (Agent Carter), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Missi Pyle (Gone Girl) and Jonathan Adams (Last Man Standing).
The Life & Times of Tim was a cool show and I generally support office shenanigans that involve employees using acts of violence to take control of their company (by which I mean “9 to 5 is a good movie”), so let’s file this one under “reasonably optimistic.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) and executive produced by Daniel Palladino (Family Guy) and Sherman-Palladino. It’s 1958 Manhattan and Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan, House of Cards) has everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect husband, two kids, and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent—one that changes her life forever. She charts a course that takes her from her comfortable life on Riverside Drive, through the basket houses and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she storms the world of stand-up comedy…a course that will ultimately lead her to a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel also stars Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) as Midge’s husband Joel Maisel, Alex Borstein (Family Guy) as Susie Myerson, Golden Globe winner and three-time Emmy Winner Tony Shalhoub (Monk) as Midge’s father Abe Weinberg, and Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men) as Midge’s mother Rose Weinberg.
- Amy Sherman-Palladino creates shows that people tend to lovelovelove or kind of meh about. Like, if you mention Gilmore Girls around a Gilmore Girls fan, whoa Dolly, buckle in, because you have just opened a box you cannot close. (And might not want to, depending on your own feelings about the show.) The question here is whether a period show about stand-up comedy will capture the same intense audience devotion as her past work.
- You might remember Rachel Brosnahan from House of Cards, in which she played the prostitute who had a… oh, I’ll say a “complicated” relationship with Doug Stamper. This is all I’ll say, however, because a) spoilers, and b) the resolution of that plot still makes me so angry that I might heave my laptop out the window if I keep thinking about it.
- Tony Shalhoub is a national treasure.
I think that sums it up.
In 1983, three hapless city boys move from their comfort zone of the San Francisco counter-culture to Mendacino to grow marijuana. Their expectations of the experience being a back-to-the-land, nurturing adventure in a beautiful rustic setting run up against the harsh truth prior to their arrival at “The Summer Camp” – a miserably run-down shanty out in the middle of nowhere, where they are bedeviled by rats, snakes, mosquitoes, and harsh, unfriendly growing conditions, noisy neighbors, dangerous locals, and menacing law enforcement. Budding Prospects is directed and executive produced by Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa), executive produced by Vincent Landay (Her) and co-written by Melissa Axelrod. The pilot stars Adam Rose (Veronica Mars), Joel David Moore (Bones), Will Sasso (MADtv) and Brett Gelman (Fleabag).
A weed comedy from the mind responsible for Bad Santa, co-starring Brett Gelman. Yes, okay. This will do.
Based on the cult-hit novel The Book of Strange New Things from Michel Faber, Oasis follows a chaplain (Richard Madden, Game of Thrones) who is sent into space to help establish a colony on a distant planet. What he ends up discovering not only puts his faith to the test, but life as we know it. The pilot also stars world-renowned Indian actor and producer Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire, 24) as Vikram Danesh, the head of the base on Oasis, Michael Shaw (Limitless) as B.G., Antje Traue (Man of Steel) as Grainger, Mark Addy (Game of Thrones) as Halloran, Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Alpha House) as Sy, Maureen Sebastian (American Gothic) as Alicia Ruiz, Michael Shaffer (Coach Sinclair) as Phelps, and Zawe Ashton (Nocturnal Animals) as Severin. Oasis is written by Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), executive produced by Charman, Andy Harries (The Crown) and Lila Rawlings (Left Bank Productions), produced by Rob Bullock (The Night Manager), with Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) directing. The one-hour drama pilot is a co-production of Amazon Studios and Left Bank Productions.
Will this show be good? I don’t know.
Have I read The Book of Strange New Things ? No.
Was I on-board the instant I realized that Robb Stark from Game of Thrones is playing a freaking space priest? Yes.
Yes I was.