News Column

Amazon series features John Goodman as N.C. senator

June 2, 2013

YellowBrix

June 02--Amazon.com has announced five new series for users of its Prime Instant Video service ... and one of them features John Goodman as a North Carolina senator.

Amazon tested the pilot episodes of 14 different shows with users, who could watch the pilots online, vote for their favorites and comment on them. Two comedies and three children's shows made the cut.

"Alpha House" is a comedy from Garry Trudeau, the creator of "Doonesbury." It follows four Republican senators who share a townhouse in Washington.

Goodman was the breakout star of the pilot, playing a bombastic, droll senator who has spent much of his political career coasting on goodwill from his constituents. But when a popular Duke University coach decides to run against him, he suddenly has to step up his game. The Southern accents in the pilot were pretty over-the-top, especially from the senator's wife and assistant.

Amazon also picked up "Betas," a comedy about tech geeks trying to create a new social networking app and hit the big time.

The shows for kids that were picked up were "Annebots," about a young science whiz and her three robot helpers; "Creative Galaxy," an animated interactive art series; and "Tumbleaf," a show for preschoolers about a playful blue fox.

Among the notable comedies that didn't make the grade were "Onion News Empire," based on the popular satirical news site, and "Zombieland," based on the popular 2009 comedy-horror movie. Many fans of the movie criticized the Amazon pilot, to the point that Rhett Reese, one of the creators, tweeted " I'll never understand the vehement hate the pilot received from die-hard Zombieland fans. You guys successfully hated it out of existence."

The five shows that did get picked up will be available online later this year and in early 2014.

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After a long wait, "The Venture Bros." is returning for a fifth season, with a new episode airing today at midnight on the Cartoon Network's late-night "Adult Swim" lineup. The animated comedy is a parody of action shows such as "Jonny Quest," following a family of bumbling adventurers led by an incompetent scientist as they contend with rivals and equally incompetent supervillains. The season premiere catches viewers up on the characters who, apart from a one-shot Halloween special last October, have not been seen since 2010.

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The raunchy FX series "Wilfred" is one of the oddest comedies on TV, telling the story of a neurotic young man who sees his girlfriend's dog as a rumpled, sarcastic man in a furry outfit. Everyone else just sees him as a friendly dog. And Wilfred the dog tries to teach him how to let go of his inhibitions, often leading him into trouble.

The FX show is a remake of an Australian comedy, and fans of the American version can check out the original Tuesday, when "Wilfred: The Complete Original Series" comes to DVD. Some of the Australian humor will likely be lost on American audiences, but it's fun to see the same scenario played out differently. The same actor, Jason Gann, plays both the Australian and the American versions of Wilfred.

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New on DVD Tuesday: the second season of "Falling Skies," the cable sci-fi drama about humans rebelling against alien invaders who have destroyed civilization; the third seasons of "The Big C," a quirky comedy-drama about a cancer patient; "Pretty Little Liars," a teen drama, and "Combat!," the classic series about soldiers in World War II; the fifth season of "Breaking Bad," the sixth season of the vintage Clint Eastwood Western "Rawhide," in two volumes.

"Breaking Bad" and "Falling Skies" are also available on Blu-ray.

tclodfelter@wsjournal.com

(336) 727-7371

Twitter: @tclodfelterwsj

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