All but one of the 14 pilots, the comedy "Those Who Can't," from the Denver comedy trio the Grawlix, seem to have been developed in the second way -- though these scripts, too, were available for public review and comment on the Amazon Studios site.
Netflix has been releasing all the episodes of its series on the same day, reflecting its rental business and the practice of binge-viewing on DVD. Every so often, it has a big day. But by putting single episodes of more than a dozen shows into circulation at once, and bringing its audience into the process, Amazon gives its TV business an air of abundance and engagement.
What might this mean for the future of television?
The democratic aspect is deceptive. While Amazon wants to know what you think of its pilots, the decisions about which ones to make in the first place took place in executive suites far from your eyes or mouse-clicking fingers. It may bring you in at an earlier-than-usual stage in the process, but it's fundamentally the same as a TV network judging what shows to keep making by viewership, demographic analysis and buzz.
Even the public-rating feature, despite being ballyhooed as an innovation, is fundamentally old-fashioned, an Internet-age variation on the preview cards and focus groups studios have used for nearly a century. It is not the case, as has been reported, that viewers are being asked to "vote" on the series, as if to pick which will be produced; rather, they are being asked to leave comments and take surveys that will "help" Amazon give the people what the metrics say the people want.
In fielding its TV slate, Amazon called specifically for half-hour comedies (that is, 22 minutes with room for commercials, should a show wind up on real TV) and children's shows (with an educational bent). Dramas are more expensive to produce and have not fared as well as comedy online.
The comedies, whose production is highly polished, range from passable to excellent. They feel familiar; none are out to redefine television.
Mostly cable TV in tone, all come with warnings as to content, though a couple would take only minor tweaks to conform to broadcast standards and practices. Amazon's "open-door" submission policy notwithstanding, they are not homemade works of guerrilla television, but the refined handiwork of industry pros.
In terms of content, what makes the Amazon pilots impressive is not that they create something radically new but that they do "real TV" so well. Their true message is that there are new Big Guns in town, and that, just as broadcast TV lost much of its market share to cable, both are going to have to make room for the major players of digital television -- not the diffuse, if sometimes brilliant voices of the medium's shoestring pioneer age, but rather highly professional ones, well-funded and well-positioned to own the Web-based future.
(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Most Popular Stories
- Slow Week Ahead of December FOMC Meeting
- Hispanics Seek to Grow School Board Members
- U.S. Companies Eager for Iranian Business
- 'Knockout Game': Myth or Menace?
- Questions Remain in Jenni Rivera's Death
- Banks Fret as Volcker Vote Approaches
- Bitcoin Used to Buy Tesla Car
- GM Bailout Saved 1.2 Million U.S. Jobs, Report Says
- Paul Walker Fans Pay Respects
- Entrepreneurs' Next Creation May Be New Laws