Amazon's second wave of original pilots goes live

The latest batch includes hour-long dramas for the first time, and Amazon Studios will again crowdsource content decisions, picking the ones to make full series based on customer viewing data and reviews.

Actor Gael Garcia Bernal hold up a rose in a scene of "Mozart in the Jungle"
Gael Garcia Bernal stars in Amazon's pilot "Mozart in the Jungle," which the company says is all about sex, drugs and classical music. Amazon

Amazon's pilot season is back, and this time it's bringing shows that have Netflix in the center of its crosshairs.

The pilots, which are available for any Amazon customer to watch regardless of whether they pay for Prime, include hour-long dramas, as well as the half-hour comedies that Amazon focused on for its first original primetime-style series: "Alpha House" and "Betas."

Rival Netflix has had the most success with its own originals by producing hour-long dramas like "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black," including Emmy and Golden Globe wins for participants in the former.

Amazon has taken a different approach. While both of the tech giants leverage their troves of consumer-preference data to make content decisions, Netflix decides which programs to make on its own based on that data, whereas Amazon produces a collection of pilots and uses its viewing data later to decide which ones to make -- and which to abandon after a single episode. Netflix also joins forces with producers on its originals, spreading the cost of the operations around but also limiting its ownership of the content itself. Amazon is typically the producer of its pilots and shows, giving it more licensing opportunity down the road. In addition, thus far Amazon has released its full series episode by episode, while Netflix typically debuts a season in one bingeable bunch.

Amazon is aiming to have a couple of pilot seasons every year for the public at large to check out and weigh in on. That, along with keeping up an ongoing discussion with customers about new content with tactics like previews for dedicated watchers, creates opportunities to keep viewers -- and potential Amazon Prime subscribers -- interested.

But they arrive while Amazon's Prime service has unusual uncertainty hanging over it. Last week, Amazon said it was considering raising the price of Prime memberships for the first time, by $20 to $40. Even at the low end, that would increase the monthly rate above the cost for Netflix for the first time.

Thursday's Amazon pilots also include a handful of kids shows, including the first pilot to come out of the Amazon Studios open submission process. "Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street" was created by a preschool teacher and first-time writer David Anaxagoras, while many of the other pilots have big Hollywood names attached to them. See Amazon's descriptions of all the shows below, or watch them all yourself

Though the pilots are free for all, they're preceded by ads for Geico, which is sponsoring the free run. People who subscribe to Prime, which in addition to free two-day shipping provides access to premium streaming video, have to watch the ads despite paying $79 a year for the service.

The pilots are also available on Amazon's Lovefilm in the UK.

Primetime pilots

"Bosch" - Based on Michael Connelly's best-selling Harry Bosch series and written by Eric Overmyer and Michael Connelly, drama pilot "Bosch" follows a relentless LAPD homicide detective as he pursues the killer of a 13-year-old boy while standing trial in federal court on accusations that he murdered a suspected serial killer in cold blood. Bosch is played by Titus Welliver ("Argo," "The Good Wife") and stars Annie Wersching, Amy Price-Francis, and Jamie Hector. Henrik Bastin of Fabrik Entertainment ("The Killing") produced and Jim McKay directed the pilot.

"The After" - Written and directed by Emmy-nominee Chris Carter ("The X-Files") executive produced by Marc Rosen of Georgeville Television and produced by Gabe Rotter, "The After" follows eight strangers who are thrown together by mysterious forces and must help each other survive in a violent world that defies explanation. Aldis Hodge, Andrew Howard, Arielle Kebbel, Jamie Kennedy, Sharon Lawrence, Jaina Lee Ortiz, Adrian Pasdar, and Louise Monot star in the pilot.

"Mozart in the Jungle" - Dramatic comedy, "Mozart in the Jungle" was written by Oscar-nominated writer and director Roman Coppola ("Moonrise Kingdom," "The Darjeeling Limited"), actor and musician Jason Schwartzman ("Saving Mr. Banks," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"), and Tony-nominated writer and director Alex Timbers ("Peter and the Starcatcher"). The project is based on the memoir "Mozart in the Jungle" by Blair Tindall. Mozart in the Jungle is all about sex, drugs -- and classical music -- and shows that what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens on stage. Paul Weitz ("About a Boy," "Admission") directed the pilot and executive produced. Gael Garcia Bernal, Saffron Burrows, Lola Kirke, Malcom McDowell, Bernadette Peters, and Peter Vack star.

"Transparent" - Written and directed by Emmy-nominee and 2013 Sundance Best Director winner Jill Soloway ("Afternoon Delight,"" Six Feet Under" and "United States of Tara"), "Transparent" is a darkly comedic story about an LA family with serious boundary issues. In this exploration of sex, memory, gender and legacy, the past and future unravel when a dramatic admission causes everyone's secrets to spill out. Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker ,and Jay Duplass star in the pilot.

"The Rebels" - Written by Jeremy Garelick and Jon Weinbach, sports comedy "The Rebels" follows Julie Levine (Natalie Zea) after her husband suddenly dies and leaves her as the sole owner of a pro-football team. The Rebels creative team also includes executive producer, Matt Alvarez ("Ride Along"), musician and actor Ice Cube and Michael Strahan, former football player for the New York Giants and host of "Live with Kelly and Michael."

Kids pilots

"Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street" -- "Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street" is a live-action adventure show created by David Anaxagoras, a first-time writer, discovered through Amazon Studios' open-door submission process. "Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street" is a coming-of-age tale that centers around Gortimer, his two best friends Ranger and Mel, and their exploits on Normal Street --a n ordinary suburb that has a hint of something magical just beneath the surface. The pilot was directed by Oscar winner Luke Matheny ("God of Love," "Maron") and guest stars Fionnula Flanagan.

"Hardboiled Eggheads" - "Hardboiled Eggheads," created by Emmy Award-winner Duane Capizzi ("Transformers Prime," "Jackie Chan Adventures," "Men in Black: The Series") is an animated action-comedy for children ages 6 to 11. The ultra-precocious bespectacled Kelvin and Miles may look, dress, and speak like typical nerds, but when these two brainiacs suit up in their high-collared white lab coats and protective goggles to battle monsters born of toxic waste, martians lured to Earth, or even killer vegetables, they don't look and sound so nerdy anymore.

"The Jo B. & G. Raff Show" - "The Jo B. & G. Raff Show" is an animated series created by multiple Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Josh Selig ("The Wonder Pets"). Created specifically to help teach preschoolers the importance of resolving conflict in constructive ways, "The Jo B. & G. Raff Show" follows two best friends, Jo B. and G. Raff, hosts of their very own TV show. Each day, just as their show is about to start, Jo B. realizes G. Raff has gone somewhere new and exciting and needs to go find him. Jo B. travels to get G. Raff, but G. Raff always wants to stay and explore. The two friends end up reaching a compromise and singing, "If I give a little and you give a little, together we can meet in the middle!"

"Maker Shack Agency" - "Maker Shack Agency" takes a unique look at the "maker" movement through the adventures of Wolfie, a 13-year-old inventor with grand idea and a motto of "fail forward." Together with his friends Merle, a tech wizard, and Jo, a girl who can build anything, they create gadgets to help fellow classmates. Wolfie, Merle and Jo use all the branches of science and personal ingenuity to solve problems with a new invention in every episode. Created in conjunction with the think tank Applied Minds and the production company Electus, the pilot was written by Arland DiGirolamo ("Sketchy"), Geoff Barbanell ("Kickin' It") and directed by Alex Winter ("Ben 10," "Downloaded") and features original music from Dr. Dog.

"Wishenpoof!" - Written by Angela Santomero, creator of "Blue's Clues," "Creative Galaxy," and the Emmy-nominated literacy series, "Super Why!", "Wishenpoof!" is an animated pilot that revolves around Bianca, who has "wish magic" which means if she wishes to play under the sea then -- Wishenpoof! -- she's a mermaid, swimming around with the sea horses. Bianca uses her wish magic to help others and learns to solve life's problems in her own creative way because with magic, or without, we all have the power to make good choices. This is Santomero's second Amazon Studios pilot. Santomero's first pilot, "Creative Galaxy," is currently in production and scheduled to be available on Prime Instant Video in 2014.

 

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