Amazon, pilot now streaming
Of all the Amazon pilots, the one that most seems to belong on a regular TV set is Supanatural, which plays like a refugee from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. That's not an insult--Supanatural has all the hallmarks of a really good Adult Swim show, an animated comedy with an emphasis on adult humor and an absolutely bizarre premise. In Supanatural's case, it follows two women who spend their time off from part-time jobs at the mall to hunt ancient relics and fight supernatural foes. It's a weird show. I feel like I need to stress that again. The formula worked for me, though, and I found myself laughing out loud at it more than any of the other pilots.
Onion News Empire
Amazon, pilot now streaming
After a few years doing online video and a cable show experiment in fake news satirical newspaper, The Onion is branching out into a more narrative direction with Onion News Empire. The show's set in an alternate universe where The Onion is the biggest news conglomerate on the planet, and the Onion News Network is the world's premiere outlet. Jeffrey Tambor of Arrested Development and The Larry Sanders Show is the big name that The Onion has been using to promote the series, but the show itself wisely lets him settle in as more of a b-player--a vain, aging anchor who's plotting to destroy the network's new talent. Instead, the show concentrates on being an aggressive parody of HBO's The Newsroom, with dedicated journalists making inspiring speeches and bold decisions in order to make the news worse and more about empty spectacle. In one of the show's darkest and best recurring bits, The Onion makes its own news by kidnapping adorable children and killing attractive, news-ready young people.
Netflix, first season available now
House of Cards was largely a success for Netflix. I had my problems with the show's storyline on occasion but as a showcase for what Netflix's approach is (giving big names the creative freedom to make the season of television they want to make), House of Cards was a huge success. Hemlock Grove, on the other hand, shows the downside to that approach. Giving Eli Roth (director of Hostel and Cabin Fever) free reign to produce a horror show must have _seemed_ like a good idea, but as the first season progresses, the value of reining in a show's creator becomes more and more obvious. The first half of Hemlock Grove is a fairly inoffensive horror/mystery show about supernatural murders in a weird, small town. In the back half of the season, however, the show goes off the rails into a downright disaster of terrible dialogue and pointless gore. Giving creators more latitude in their work is a laudable goal for Netflix to have. In this case however, asking "why?" every once in a while wouldn't have been out of line.
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