These Amazon Pilots Take Flight


David Wills

In addition to writing about the state of Amazon Prime Instant Video’s innovative pilot strategy, I took the opportunity to watch some of the available pilots. Taking into account quality of pilot, novelty of format, and potential, here are some of my favorites:

Niko and the Sword of Light
Based on the comic book, this animated series follows a 10-year-old boy who is the last human left on the planet. He has no memory other than his quest that he must use the Sword of Light to reach a volcano and defeat the darkness that has enveloped the world.

While this show is aimed at children, it is an entertaining show to watch for all ages. There is a wide range of creatures even in the first episode, all of whom are entertaining and well-written. It is an action show, but in many ways it feels like a comedy, given how genuinely funny some of the dialogue is. The main story is fairly standard “good-versus-evil” fluff, but I want this show to get picked up because I want to see more of the world and the creatures that inhabit it.

The New Yorker Presents
This 30-minute show blends together the unique high-brow nature of The New Yorker magazine with the structure of a show like 60 Minutes. This particular episode begins with a short comedic film, followed by an interview with the artist Marina Abramovi, and then a mini-documentary of biologist Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes, PhD. There are also three cartoon segments interspersed throughout, and the episode ends with a poem performed by Andrew Garfield.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this show. I may not be a fan of The New Yorker, but I thought they did a good job of translating their quality, unique voice, and brand into the episodic format. Each segment is unique, they are all either funny or moving, and all of them were accessible to somebody who gets nervous whenever somebody even mentions The New Yorker. I definitely want to see more of this, as I feel like this type of “docu-series” is not seen enough.

The Man in the High Castle
This show is definitely my personal favorite. Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick (whose stories have been adapted into science-fiction film classics, including Blade Runner and Minority Report), this show asks the question: what if the Nazis and the axis powers won World War II? Taking place in 1962, the show follows characters who are looking for “the man in the high castle,” a supposed leader of resistance against the fascist regimes that have taken over America. The show also deals with the shaky relationship between the Japanese empire, which has control over the western half of the United States, and the Nazi empire, which has control over the eastern half.

From the very beginning, this show is oozing with intrigue. The depiction of an axis-controlled America is executed down to the grittiest details (although some of the CGI is noticeably unrealistic at times). It really is fascinating to see how America might have been if we had lost the war, which is only enhanced by the well-written and well-acted characters.

With acclaimed cinematic and television minds on as executive producers, including Ridley Scott (Academy Award-winning director of Gladiator, Alien, and Blade Runner) and Frank Spotnitz (writer and executive producer of The X-Files), this show has the pedigree, quality, and subject matter to turn into one of the best shows on television. I highly recommend this show to anyone.

Honorable Mention: Cocked
Cocked is a show about a family man who is forced to help his father and brother’s gun company, which is on the verge of going under. The premise of the show is interesting enough to watch, but it’s the characters that make me unsure of the show. Despite featuring the talents of recognizable actors, including Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte of “True Blood”), and Jason Lee (Earl from “My Name is Earl”), none of them are particularly likable, and by the end of the episode I wondered what had really changed. The show itself is incredibly cocky (excuse the pun) in the beginning, which I found off-putting as it didn’t really have much to back itself up with.

However, there is a lot of visible room for growth in this show, and on that merit I give it an honorable mention. I could easily see this show developing into something great if it were given a little more time. At this point, though, I could take it or leave it.