Amazon has added a 1980s coming-of-age comedy produced by Steven Soderbergh, with "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey and "Mad About You" alum Paul Reiser, as the final contender in its lineup of pilots debuting later this year.
As part of Prime Instant Video's third pilot season, the half-hour "Red Oaks" -- about a college student's summer job at a suburban New Jersey country club in 1985 -- will join four other shows vying for customer votes: half-hour comedies "Really" from the maker of "Super Troopers" and "The Cosmopolitans" about ex-pats in Paris, as well as hour-long shows "Hand of God" with Ron Perlman playing a vigilante and the social-media thriller "Hysteria."
Amazon lets customers watch a handful of pilots and vote on favorites as its Hollywood arm, Amazon Studios, decides which should be ordered for a full season. It's been cooking up a couple of pilot "seasons" every year as it develops its own stable of original content for subscription video service Prime Instant Video, in a tactic designed to keep subscribers of $99-a-year Prime coming back for new content and to give nonsubscribers a taste of what they could get with a membership. The approach differs from that of Netflix, its biggest competitor in online streaming video, which also plumbs its data for types of programs to make, but orders whole seasons (sometimes more) at once.
So far, Amazon's original programming push -- which has consisted of two pilot seasons and a freshman round of two original full series -- hasn't generated the same kind of chatter and cachet as Netflix, which has been nominated for multiple Emmys and other awards. Amazon is more frequently turning to high-profile Hollywood names like Soderbergh to bet on generating more buzz.
"Red Oaks" follows a college student played by Craig Roberts, who gets a summer job as an assistant tennis pro at the Red Oaks Country Club in suburban New Jersey in 1985 while coming to grips with his father's heart attack and choosing his major. The show has "a colorful cast of misfit coworkers and wealthy club members," tapping some big names from the '80s and '90s, including Grey and a corporate raider played by Reiser. Amazon doesn't describe Grey's character, but putting her in anything set in an '80s summer club can't be wrong, right?