MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
If I could only pick one of the current crop of Amazon TV pilots, amid comedies and dramas, it would have to be “Mozart in the Jungle.” After having given it a try, along with the four other pilots, it stays with me the most. That’s not to say the other shows aren’t quality items. In fact, this whole roster has a lot to offer and I’ll say a little about them too. What I find to be most appealing about this particular show is that you have compelling conflict evenly distributed amongst compelling characters. You have the main character, Hailey, who is likable and someone to root for. Lola Kirke brings something of the appeal of “Girls” to the show and that’s not just because she’s the sister of one of its stars, Jemima Kirke. She does not seem to be an especially strong character but you get the sense that she’s growing and will strike when she needs to. Other characters already know how to strike all too well and it will be fun to see just how far they will go. This is the world of classical music but it’s a jungle too.
I think to give your main character, a homicide detective, the name of one of the great painters of the Apocalypse, Hieronymus Bosch, is totally hilarious. For me, it sort of gets in the way, since this is far from a comedy. Imagine, if his name were, say, Picasso. “Hey, Picasso, get over here, I think you wanna get your ass over to that crime scene! And take Miro and Warhol with you too.” Well, that crime was already committed years ago when Michael Connelly created the character for his popular series of crime fiction. Procedurals, along with Westerns, are some of the oldest dinosaurs on television, but when they work, you don’t notice the creaking so much. You need a really good twist. How about if your main character, the leader everyone looks up to, is a bit wacko, like Hugh Laurie on “House”? Well, meet Titus Welliver as Detective Harry Bosch.
You have to hand it to Amazon to offer up such diverse options. In the same pilot package, you have a comedy based in the world of classical music and you have this show, based in the world of football. In both cases, the setting does not overpower what is going on. You don’t have to know anything about Mozart or Joe Montana to enjoy either of these programs. In fact, the utter ignorance of anything to do with football is played to the hilt by Natalie Zea, as Julie Levine, a recent widow who has been left sole ownership of a pro-football team without an instruction manual. Levine, at first, is ready to throw in the towel. But, in the end, a lot of soul-searching leads her to make a fateful call. This show has a lot of charm with a bite to it too.
How can you possibly go wrong with a show that stars the comedy legend, Jeffrey Tambor? From “Three’s Company” to “The Larry Sanders Show” to “Arrested Development,” he’s the go-to guy for tragic clowns. Well, he doesn’t disappoint here either. He’s plays something of a King Lear in this one. He has a big secret he’d like to share with his grown kids but the kids are licking their chops having concluded he must have cancer and will soon be parceling out his possessions. Not so fast. This dramedy by Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under, United States of Tara) is a full on the mouth kiss and love letter to California excess.
Nowadays, it takes quite a lot to scare and/or intrigue an audience. “The After” is interesting. It is brought to you by none other that Chris Carter of “The X-Files.” But, depending on your taste, it could try your patience. Imagine, the end of the world. Right, we’ve been doing a lot of that lately. But, stay with me, this time around it’s the most unlikely group of survivors you’ve ever come across. Right? Well, we’ve seen plenty of that too. But was there ever a mix quite like this: a professional clown, a matriarch, a lawyer, a prostitute, a drunk Irishman, a policewoman, an African-American former prisoner, and a French actress? Well, maybe not quite but close enough. So far, even with the big hints of the supernatural, this show still has some more convincing to do in order to be embraced. But, you never know for sure about these quirky shows.
Check out the current lineup of Amazon pilots and help decide what moves forward into full production to join the ranks of “Alpha House” and “Betas.” And, keep in mind, Amazon also has pilots for kids too. Visit Amazon Originals here.