Amazon’s Second Pilot Season Takeaway: The Good, the Bad and the ‘Cocked’

Buddy: Tech Detective
Not making any kind of value judgment here, but the creators of Buddy: Tech Detective are mass murderers. Let me explain. When we first meet our animated child protagonist Buddy, he’s hanging upside down from a tree branch ten feet off the ground. And then he casually does a full flip off of the branch, landing on his feet. This show is aimed at pre-schoolers, who are notorious for A) climbing things, B) copying what they see on TV, and C) having underdeveloped self-preservation instincts. So, you gotta assume a bunch of youngsters have met their demise by copying Buddy’s dangerous stunt. Now, to give the creators the benefit of the doubt, perhaps this is merely your classic Whiplash situation, and they’re trying to weed out all the kids who aren’t the Charlie Parkers of gymnastics. And then the kids who land and survive will be trained from that tender age for Olympic gold. But I doubt it. If you’re sitting there wanting to know more about the actual show, instead of immediately joining my change.org petition to hold Amazon accountable for the blood on its hands, then you’re just as much of a monster as the show’s creators.

NOT PICKED UP
Just Add Magic
Just Add Magic is pretty much a carbon copy of Sex and the City. Except that instead of featuring four adult women, Just Add Magic follows three middle school girls. And instead of finding love in New York City, our protagonists find a mysterious old cookbook in an attic. And instead of exploring the magic of newfound romance, our tween heroes explore the magic of the cookbook’s recipes. And instead of leaving men speechless with their enchanting charm and beauty, Hanna, Kelly, and Darby leave Kelly’s little brother speechless by feeding him a slice of enchanted Shut ‘Em Up Shortcake that causes him to temporarily lose the ability to talk. And instead of Carrie freaking about Mr. Big leaving her for Natasha, Kelly freaks about a magical recipe leaving her unable to bend her arm during tryouts for the school basketball team. And instead of copious nudity, the show has no nudity. But other than those minor caveats, Just Add Magic and Sex and the City are identical.

PICKED UP
The Stinky & Dirty Show
Dear Dirty: I’m writing to you because I watched you on The Stinky & Dirty Show, and I see a lot of potential in you. You’re a very talented talking backhoe. The way you not only figured out how to move that heavy boulder out of the intersection, but took control of the situation and effectively managed the egos of both Big Ben the flatbed truck and Chip the mobile crane—it showed real leadership skills, Dirty. But, there’s something holding you back. This is going to be hard for me to say, and it’s going to be even harder for you to read, but your best friend Stinky the garbage truck is dead weight. Think about it. Why did that boulder fall onto the road in the first place? It was because Stinky’s erratic driving caused a truck to swerve into a cliff and dislodge it. And every time you came up with an innovative solution, you had to stop to draw it out in the sand so that Stinky would understand. Meanwhile, Stinky’s best idea for moving the boulder (he mentioned it at least twice) was to throw watermelons at it. And people may not say it to your face, but if you think they’re not secretly making fun of you for hanging out with a smelly garbage truck, you’re living in a fantasy world. Look, I know Stinky is your best friend. That much is made very clear by the song in the opening credits. And yes, he does occasionally come up with helpful ideas, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. I’m not suggesting you stop hanging out with him altogether. All I’m saying is, if you really want to reach your full potential and be the best truck that YOU can be, you should find another sidekick, and limit your time with Stinky to nights and weekends. Sincerely, A Concerned Fan.

PICKED UP
Advertisement
Table 58
Table 58 can best be described as Man Seeking Woman for preteens. It was the best of the three Amazon pilots aimed at elementary schoolers, due to its genuinely funny and frequently surreal writing. In the same way that Man Seeking Woman creates over-the-top gags by heightening dating clichés, Table 58 derives much of its humor from its twisted interpretations of middle school clichés. The pilot episode introduce us to protagonist Logan Davis on his first day at Milton Middle School. Because he’s the new kid, he finds himself spending lunch at a table with the other misfits, Table 58 (in one of the shows best sight gags, we see that the goths are at Table 13, the math geniuses are at Table 3.14, the popular kids are at Table 1, and so on). At first blah blah, but then blah blah blah, okay this is boring, see? You can read that kind of stuff anywhere. Also, I’m not that good at it. Like, I repeatedly cited Man Seeking Woman, even though I’ve never actually watched it. I’ve just seen the commercials. But fine, point taken, I will try to stay a little more on topic.

NOT PICKED UP
Sara Solves It
Sara Solves It is a show for preschoolers, yet even I, an adult (albeit a dumb one), was unable to satisfactorily solve the central mystery of the pilot. We are meant to believe that Rumples the dog was the sole pizza thief, but I think there’s something more sinister going on here. Because if it really was Rumples acting alone, then:
  • Why did Victor Vector keep using his mechanical arm to turn off the lights in the pizza parlor, enabling the pizza thief to steal slices under cover of darkness? And why did he look so guilty when Sara accused him of being involved?
  • After getting accused of being the pizza thief, why did Pizza Lady break into a self-implicating song about how she always cooks the pizza but can never eat it? Seems like a pretty odd move for an innocent person to make. Does the 5th Amendment not exist in the world of this show?
  • How could anyone think Rumples is capable of such a heinous crime, when he is clearly a good boy? Look at him waggin’ his li’l tail! Good boy!
  • If Stevie Wonder is really blind, how did he know to catch the falling microphone stand that Paul McCartney knocked over in that one video?
Hopefully Sara Solves It will get picked up for more episodes, because I need some damn answers here.

NOT PICKED UP
Down Dog
My career goal is to be a writer for a TV comedy, so after I told my family about this assignment, my mom, dad, and sister respectively called, e-mailed, and texted to warn me against insulting any of the comedy pilots, lest I someday want a writing job from the people who made them. (Mom: “I am SURE you have thought of this, but this is compulsive me reminding you anyway: when you write your piece for the NY Post [sic], remember not to insult anyone’s work who you might one day be applying for a job from.”) Down Dog, which follows a handsome slacker as he’s thrust into running his ex-girlfriend’s yoga studio, is the first comedy pilot I watched (the pilots in this article are listed in the arbitrary order in which I watched them). And I’m terrified to say anything about it (beyond providing the above logline), lest it jeopardize my future (although my gross overuse of parentheses has probably done more damage to my professional writing prospects than any one insult ever could). So I won’t say anything. Moving on.

NOT PICKED UP
Advertisement
Salem Rogers: Model of the Year
Along with Down Dog, Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998 is Amazon’s other comedy pilot this year, and I thought it was hilarious! But remember, I’m gonna say I like all comedies, even if I really don’t like them. Luckily, I don’t have that conundrum here, because I truly did like it. But I would say that even if I didn’t actually like it. But I did actually like it. But I’d say that regardless. But I did like it. But I’d say that anyways (especially because I looked up its writer and executive producer on IMDb and they’ve both worked on multiple shows that I love). With that out of the way, here are my thoughts on the hilarious (or is it?) Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998. The show stars the always-hilarious Leslie Bibb as Salem Rogers, a crass former Victoria’s Secret model who has “vomited on every continent twice” and who ends her 10-year stint in rehab in the pilot’s hilarious opening scene. She immediately tracks down her old assistant, Agatha (the always-hilarious Rachel Dratch), who is now a successful author of teenage self-help books. Salem convinces Agatha to become her assistant again as she attempts to claw her way back to supermodel status, and hilarity ensues. I would just like to take this moment to say that I would be humbled and honored if the always-hilarious creators of Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998 were to offer me a writing job on any of their future shows. It will be a crime if Amazon fails to pick up this hilarious pilot.

NOT PICKED UP
Mad Dogs
You’re not here for my weak plot summary (Mad Dogs follows four mid-midlife crisis American friends who visit their other friend at his estate in Belize, and initially seems to be a slow meditation on aging and relationships until a sharp mid-episode turn towards the macabre), my weaker analysis (it will be interesting to see what tone the show takes going forward, as the first half of the pilot had an entirely different feel than the second), or my even weaker yet opinions (it was my favorite of the pilots, or at least the one that most made me want to see a second episode). No, you’re here to marvel as I effortlessly apply my trademark brand of edgy yet relatable humor to the question of whether or not Mad Dogs makes me want to go to Belize. Well, on the one hand, it makes Belize look absolutely beautiful. But on the other hand, it makes Belize look like a super dangerous place for dumb American tourists like me. But on the other other hand, I was just listening to a podcast where they interviewed the guy who plays Montez on Workaholics, and he said his mom is from Belize. And considering that making the pilgrimage to the museum that is no doubt located on the grounds of the childhood home of the mother of the guy who plays Montez on Workaholics is on my bucket list, it looks like I’ll be heading to Belize after all, in an alternate reality in which I have money.

PICKED UP
Prankin’ Across Belize with the Guy Who Plays Montez on Workaholics
No, that’s not a real pilot, but could you imagine? WOULD BE PICKED UP IF IT EXISTED
Advertisement
Cocked
Cocked tells the story of three generations of the Paxson family, owners and operators of Paxson Firearms. After watching, I was surprised to see that Amazon describes it as a “dark comedy,” even though it’s very light on attempted laughs, and the show’s creators have backgrounds in drama. Plus multiple reviews categorize it as a drama. So I think Amazon is just trying to pull another Transparent on awards show voters, and get a drama into the comedy category (should Cocked ever be nominated for any awards).  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore Transparent (which started out as one of last year’s Amazon pilots), and it deserves all the acclaim it can get, but it should not have won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series, seeing as it is not a comedy series. Transparent makes GIRLS look like Family Guy.  (Ed. note: I'll allow this, but only because Family Guy, currently, is objectively more a "comedy" than GIRLS' is in its fourth season.) Just because it has comic actors, occasionally funny situations, that doesn’t make it a comedy. (Ed. note: Transparent was a comedy, exactly because of the tone it kept in dealing with material like death and divorce and loss, but I understand the irony of trying to stick an outdated genre label onto that particular program.) Comedy is not the absence of melodrama. Comedy is comedy. (Ed. note: Okay.) Anyways, because Cocked isn’t a comedy, and I feel okay saying that it isn’t worth picking up. It wasn’t terrible, but it could’ve been great if only its creators had a point of view. The show refuses to take an overall stance for or against American gun culture, which significantly softens its resonance. Jason Lee’s over-the-top gun nut character (motto: “beauties, bullets, and blow”) would’ve fit wonderfully into a satire about gun violence, but sadly its creators were so afraid of alienating half the country that they ended up making a show that not many people in the country would want to watch.

NOT PICKED UP
The New Yorker Presents
I’ve been consistently going over my word limit for these capsule recaps (with the exception of Prankin’ Across Belize with the Guy Who Plays Montez on Workaholics), and I’m worried a bunch of stuff will get edited out for space. So I’m gonna cut this one short, hopefully buying myself a few extra sentences somewhere else. **

If you want to know what The New Yorker Presents is like, read an issue of The New Yorker.

PICKED UP

** (.rotide ym ot pu s’taht sseug I ?sdrow evitagen sa tnuoc ti lliw ,sdrawkcab epyt I fi :ereh tuo gnihtemos tset ot tnaw I ,sdrow artxe gnitteg fo gnikaepS)

(Ed note: Nope. But points for trying to fix Cameron's car the same way!)
Point of Honor
There’ve been a million articles about how offensively bad the Point of Honor pilot is, and I don’t really have anything unique to add on that front, so here's a mercifully abridged version of a real exchange from the show, which will convey its shitty writing much more effectively than my own shitty writing ever could.

In this scene, John, a Virginian (played by an Australian actor with a lightly-concealed accent) tries to explain to his Northerner brother-in-law Robert why he has decided to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil war, even though he hates slavery to the point that he freed all his slaves.

JOHN: “I’m not fighting to defend slavery.”

ROBERT: “Read what’s in the Confederate Constitution. This war is all about slavery!”

JOHN: “They write in ink, we write in blood.”

Oh, word? That’s a convincing-ass rebuttal, John.

JOHN (continued): “Slavery is a stench in the nostrils of God, and that is exactly why I made my decision.”

Wait, you decided to fight for the Confederacy because you’re anti-slavery? Was there literally a typo in the script?

ROBERT: “John, this is lunacy!”

Amen, Robert!

JOHN: “War is lunacy! And yet everyone is clamoring for it.”

And scene. This is the best explanation we get for the decision that forms the backbone of the entire show, and it’s so stupid that even the writers had to call it out as lunacy.

PICKED UP. SIKE, NOT PICKED UP
Advertisement
The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle is an adaptation of a book by Philip K. Dick (the pen name of author Philip K. Penis) (Ed. note: Oh dear lord....come on, it's the one of the first novels by the guy who brought you all the good sci-fi stories and all the terrible movie adaptations, Blade Runner notwithstanding. After he died, someone stole his robot head. This man is not just a penis joke.) Which is kind of a bummer because it means that the plot is already out there and someone is going spoil it for me, just like when the lady behind the counter at the DMV spoiled Game of Thrones for me (that sounds like the lead-in to a bad joke, but it really happened). (Ed. note: Spoiler alert: No dragons, no red weddings, no reaction vids...I think you are safe.) But it wouldn’t be fair for me to hold this against the show, and the general consensus online is that this was the best of the Amazon pilots. And although I enjoyed Mad Dogs more, I agree that this pilot was the most impressive. At the very least, it had the coolest premise of any of the Amazon pilots: it takes place in an alternate-history 1962 in which the Axis Powers won World War II and divided America between Germany and Japan. It’s the opposite of Point of Honor, in that there have been a million articles about how awesomely good it is. (Ed. note: As I DO feel strongly about this, keep in mind that although Ridley Scott might be box office GOLD, I have not forgiven him for his take on the biblical story: Batman Saves Passover. However, Scott's got the perfect darkly dystopian...or I guess...dyst-ultaneously...palate to work from. Sure, would I have liked to see this in the hands of, say, a Terry Gilliam? Most def. But this is the Amazon Pilot you need to see ASAP.)

PICKED UP
Niko and the Sword of Light
Thanks to the pent-up criticism that I haven’t been able to unleash due to my family’s advice, I want to rip this show to threads. But actually liked the show, with its unique anime-esque animation style and colorful cast of characters.

NOT PICKED UP

For the past two years, Amazon has simultaneously released the first episodes of several original series and called it their “Pilot Season.” (This year, there were thirteen, released in mid-January). Based on that democratic feedback, Amazon decides which pilots to pick up for a full season of episodes. (Ed note: This is how Transparent happened, and Mozart in the Jungle. It was how Whit Stillman’s The Cosmopolitans didn’t happen, sadly. Though we hold out hope!)

As you can imagine, this blitzkrieg of content was overwhelming at first, and no sooner had I finished analyzing the new batch of hopefuls than Amazon announced which five shows they would pick up. Without even consulting me first.

Which might have been wise, considering how different my tastes apparently run to Amazon’s prime (not Amazon Prime, but sure…that, too) viewership. Click through the slideshow to see my reactions to each of the original series, and whether or not they’ll soon be taking the place of…well, not Transparent. But Alpha Dogs, maybe?

You can find Jeremy Tramer on Twitter @jeremytramer, and nowhere else.

We noticed you're using an ad blocker.

We get it: you like to have control of your own internet experience.
But advertising revenue helps support our journalism.

To read our full stories, please turn off your ad blocker.

We'd really appreciate it.

How Do I Whitelist Observer?

How Do I Whitelist Observer?

Below are steps you can take in order to whitelist Observer.com on your browser:

For Adblock:

Click the AdBlock button on your browser and select Don't run on pages on this domain.

For Adblock Plus on Google Chrome:

Click the AdBlock Plus button on your browser and select Enabled on this site.

For Adblock Plus on Firefox:

Click the AdBlock Plus button on your browser and select Disable on Observer.com.

Then Reload the Page