VOD Review: Amazon Prime Pilot Season 2
aka. The Prime Directive: The Next Generation. Unlike Star Trek, it appears the odd-numbered offerings are the watchable ones.
Second verse, not quite the same as the first.
Last year Amazon decided to drum up interest for its new slate of shows by allowing viewer interaction. Through it’s website, you could fill out a survey and vote for which series would get a full season order. They called it Pilot Season. It was poorly explained, and thus all three shows got the green-light regardless of votes.
This year we have five shows vying for survival. They run the gamut in genre and length. The only unifying theme was that I had a very hard time making it past the first ten minutes of each of them. And no, it’s not because I need Adderall.
We’ll run down the shows in the order I watched them, and give them the praise or scorn they deserve.
The Legend of Master Legend
Master Legend is a real life superhero. At least he thinks he is. Patrolling the strip in Las Vegas, ML helps the homeless, encourages the buskers, and does a very poor job of mediating disputes. At home, he is decidedly less legendary. In fact, his life is a dumpster fire. He’s basically homeless. His estranged wife and daughter are tiring of his shtick. His sidekick found Jesus (and a sugar mama) and has hung up the tights. Lastly, his brother Peanut Head is a junkie with designs to reinsert himself in Master Legend’s life by any means.
The Verdict: Temporary Assistance with State Supervision
The first ten minutes of the film gave off the vibe of an alternate movie dimension where the characters in The Big Lebowski are mentally ill. Everyone’s a loser making their weird way through life, but the Dude wasn’t in need of psychiatric care (all he needed was his rug back, man). It made the first section a little ableist and cringy.
The second half really kicks in the heart, and it saves the show. Everyone is damaged goods, but instead of pointing and laughing, it pivots towards empathy. Sure, they are down and out losers, but they are trying, and the performances felt raw and real. Master Legend, his wife, and his daughter in particular. The show dances the knife’s edge between absurd humor and heartfelt interactions. As long as the performances stay strong, I could see myself doing a few more patrols with Master Legend.
Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) plays a British priest asked to be the chaplain on Oasis, humanity’s first attempt at off-world colonization. In the near future, earth is a slightly bigger mess than it currently is, and the UK has sent its best and brightest to settle a new home. Things go sideways, as they are wont to do. The captain of the endeavor sends his harshest critic Peter (Madden) a plea to come to the embattled colony.
The Verdict: Look, but (possibly) don’t Touch.
Oasis is a very pretty sci-fi show. Richard Madden is a very pretty man. The layout is slick and stylish, from the camera work to the Depeche Mode/Rag’n’Bone Man soundtrack. But it feels a little shallow. The mystery is pretty bog standard thus far, and I don’t see much in it that would differentiate the plot points from movies such as Event Horizon or The Thing. The acting is solid if not exceptional, and the book it was based on had some nice twists and turns that might elevate the show. At the end of the first hour, though, I was not sold on boarding the next ship to Oasis.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a well put together Jewish woman in 1950’s Manhattan. She went to the prestigious school she aimed for, snagged the husband she thought best, and has the world on her schedule. Things begin to fray when her husband’s hobby of doing stand-up comedy leads Miriam to realize what a fraud he is, and that her perfectly ordered world is both shallow and surprisingly fragile. When a gig bombs and Mr. Maisel decides to hoof it out of town with his bimbo secretary, Miriam must learn how to fly on her own. On the bright side, all the time spent buttressing Joel Maisel’s phony baloney comedy career has left her with a razor sharp wit, and a comedy club manager encourages her to try life on the circuit.
The Verdict: It doesn’t matter
The first ten minutes of this show was so narcissistic and shallow that I almost turned it off. It was hard to empathize with such a cynical, self obsessed schemer. As the show went on, we get more and more glimpses that every calculation on Miriam’s part was a conditioned response to a world intent on telling her how to be happy. From her parents (featuring the always affable Tony Shaloub) suffocating insistence on being a traditional Jewish housewife , to 1950’s ingrained sexism, Miriam Maisel was always playing a rigged game. It all falling apart is a godsend; both for Mrs. Maisel and my interest in the pilot. “I Love Dick” was the Icarus of flying too close to the sun of narcissistic navel gazing. Thankfully “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is Daedolus.
Now why doesn’t it matter? The show had a ton of early buzz, and with the Gilmore Girls creators behind it, Amazon already green lit 2 seasons, further showcasing how pointless and poorly explained the Pilot Season program is.
The New V.I.P.’s
The Verdict: Waste as little time watching this show as I did describing it.
Losers who do drugs decide to become losers who grow drugs in 1980’s San Francisco. We have the shit-for-brains leader, the shit-eating-grin negotiator, and the shitty-all-around-human-being. Fuck these guys.
The Verdict: I am sick to death of all the nudity for no good reason in these shows.
I’m sure you already guessed that I hated this look at “Hipsters before being a Hipster was even a term”. So instead I’ll just rant about how four of these show’s trotted out nudity for no other reason than “Hell, it’s Amazon, we can get away with it”. And the one I hated most (VIP’s) was the only one that had the temerity for it to be a dick. Maisel flops out her tits for no good reason. Oasis sure didn’t mind needlessly showing us a girl in the space-shower. And Budding Prospects straight up throws a bush in our faces in some lame attempt at making us uncomfortable. Such Edgy. Much Wow.
This season of Pilot Season was much weaker than last year. I thought Master Legend and Oasis could be OK to watch, but I can’t say I was motivated to fill out a survey. Especially since Mrs. Maisel has shown once again that the survey isn’t all that meaningful. If Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic thought the show was good, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that your two cents aren’t going to move the needle all that much.
This program seems like a marketing gimmick, but it’s poorly marketed marketing gimmick. If Jezebel hadn’t run a bit on Mrs. Maisel, I’d have completely missed that they were trotting this program out again. C’mon Amazon, step your game up.