Today marks another day where Amazon asks you to do the work of deciding which of its TV pilots should become full-fledged series. As part of the streaming service's pilot program, Amazon has released three new comedy pilots for regular Joes like you and me to watch, rate and review, and supposedly, Amazon takes that information and uses it to decide which shows it will greenlight (yeah, right).
But like network television executives, you don't always have time to watch all the pilots you're supposed to before giving them the thumbs up, so we're here to assist you in choosing which of the new pilots are worth squeezing into your busy, busy schedule.
Let's take a look at the options, shall we?
For fans of: The Last Action Hero, JCVD, Timecop, making fun of Timecop
What it's about: Ever suspect that 1990s European martial-arts dynamo Jean-Claude Van Damme was using his "acting" as a front for being an international superspy? Jean-Claude Van Johnson does! The Bloodsport star plays a very, very exaggerated version of himself in retirement from both acting and superspying, but when an old flame (Foster) lures him back into the field, an older, flabbier and weaker JCVD finds he'll have to do more stretching to get those old bones to do his trademark splits.
The verdict: Van Damme is becoming something of a master of self parody, as he kind of did this concept already with the film JCVD, but the spy angle of Jean-Claude Van Johnson adds even more absurdity to the notion of Van Damme poking fun at himself. And there is much fun poking! Hollywood's love for unnecessary action-packed reboots gets plenty of mileage here, particularly with Van Damme's fake movie Huck, featuring a shirtless Van Damme playing Huckleberry Finn and a blonde hottie as Tom Sawyer (yes, it's as bizarre as it seems). Rashad's Tinseltown agent whose side job is a handler for actor-spy hybrids is particularly great, but Jean-Claude Van Johnson's ability to impress will depend largely on the viewer's ability to flush reason down the toilet and just go with the nuttiness. This is a drive-in theater television show with mild laughs that's so bad it's kind of good, or a Saturday Night Live skit that doesn't know when to end, where it's going or why it's here. But if you're high enough, you'll probably like it. I'd watch another episode just to see how insane it can get.
For fans of: Transparent, white people problems, brainy beach reads
What it's about: Based on Chris Kraus' 1997 novel of the same eye-catching title, Hanh plays a not-so-happily married filmmaker who accidentally winds up at an academic fellowship with her husband (Dunne), who she was dropping off on her way to the Venice film festival, and Dick (Bacon), the gathering's host and cocky and confident intellectual whose reputation makes him something of an idol to the many who are attending his retreat in Marfa, Texas. Shocked and perturbed by Dick's casual honesty at first, Chris eventually finds herself psycho-sexually obsessing over Dick and transforming her own writing to work through her feelings.
The verdict: As director and executive producer, Transparent's Jill Soloway leaves her mark. She's got a fantastic eye and knows how to make a television series, and it shows. Unlike Transparent, the characters here are actually tolerable even if they share some of the same self-absorption of the Pfeffermans. Don't expect a lot of action; this is in no hurry to go anywhere, and like most half-hour dramedies today, it's incredibly light on the humor. However, Hanh is her typically incredible self (she deserves a hit more than anyone else in television) and Chris' exploration of her irrepressible emotions, a cocktail of schoolgirl lust and cold-bed anger, is what drives the pilot. Will that be enough to merit a binge? It's hard to tell, but I Love Dick is by far the most fully formed of the three pilots. Plus: Bacon as a studly cowboy/professor? Sure! Bland at first, Hahn's performance and Chris' internal struggle piqued my interest enough to tune in again.
For fans of: The Tick (the 2001 live-action Fox comedy), The Tick (the mid-'90s animated series), The Tick (the 1980s comic book)
What it's about: Set in a world where superheroes are the norm, a lowly accountant named Arthur tries to prove that an assumed-dead supervillain called The Terror is actually still out there. He manages to team up with The Tick (Serafinowitz, taking over for Patrick Warburton), an indestructible, super-strong superhero with a penchant for bellowing gassy monologues in a distinctive baritone.
The verdict: The cult series is back! Series creator Ben Edlund (Supernatural's best writer) is giving the franchise a third shot at television and... well, maybe there's a reason it didn't last too long before. There's a very cool world touched on here, one of goofy superheroes and celebrity status for them, but the pilot foregoes exploring that world and properly introducing The Tick as a character in favor of focusing on his sidekick, the no-power-having accountant. Taking the world of superheroes from a plain Joe's perspective isn't a bad idea, it's just that Arthur is bland as can be. Fans of the franchise may embrace this, but newbies will have no idea what's going on. I'll pass!
You can watch and rate all of the new Amazon pilots right here.