Z/Amazon

Your guide to the new slate of Amazon Studios pilots

Available for streaming (and voting!) by Prime members now.

Feb 29, 2020, 3:52 pm*

Streaming

 

David Wharton

The Daily Dot has collected a viewer’s guide to Amazon Studios’ newest pilot season, currently available for streaming (and voting) for Amazon Prime members. Here’s a look at the fall slate.

1) Edge

What’s it about?

A Western based on the series of books by George G. Gilman, which has been dubbed “the most violent western in print.” Josiah “Edge” Hedges (Pacific Rim’s Max Martini) is a former Union soldier who sets out on a campaign of vengeance after being betrayed by those he trusted. But his personal brand of justice may put him at odds with very powerful men.

Who’s in it?

In addition to Martini, the cast includes both Chuck’s Yvonne Strahovski and True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten.

Why should you care?

Two words: Shane Black. Over the years he’s given us flicks such as Iron Man 3, Lethal Weapon, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang—and he’d still be one of my favorite screenwriters even if that last title were the only thing he’d ever done. Edge reteams him with someone from his earliest days in the industry: Fred Dekker, with whom Black collaborated on the ’80s cult classic Monster Squad waaaay back in the day. Black and Dekker (holy shit, that should be their production company if it isn’t already) adapted and developed Edge from Gilman’s books, tag-teaming the script with Black in the director’s chair. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang permanently ensured that anything Black makes goes straight to the top of my must-see list, and the prospect of his unique style and voice being filtered through the lens of a hyperviolent Western is incredibly exciting. And obviously Black and Dekker enjoyed their reunion: They’re also working on a new Predator film together.

2) Good Girls Revolt

What’s it about?

Set in 1969, Good Girls Revolt follows a group of female researchers for News of the Week who demand fair treatment, a request that “sparks convulsive changes and upends marriages, careers, sex lives, love lives, and friendships.”

Who’s in it?

Genevieve Angelson (Backstrom), Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect), Erin Darke (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Chris Diamantopoulos (Silicon Valley), Hunter Parrish (Weeds), and Jim Belushi, to name a few.

Why should you care?

With Mad Men having departed in a cloud of cigarette smoke, we could use another intriguing period drama to fill the void in our souls.

It’s based on a real-life 1970 case in which 46 women sued Newsweek for sexual discrimination. Author/reporter Lynn Povich was one of those women, and she eventually chronicled her story in the 2012 book The Good Girls Revolt. With Mad Men having departed in a cloud of cigarette smoke, we could use another intriguing period drama to fill the void in our souls, and creator Dana Calvo is a proven TV vet who’s worked on shows ranging from Netflix’s Narcos to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to the underrated time travel series Journeyman. In this era of so-called “men’s rights activists” and the ongoing “war on women,” Good Girls Revolt’s subject matter is sadly no less timely today than when the real events unfolded, so there should be plenty of potent and relevant drama for the series to mine. Come for the fashions; stay for the social commentary.

3) Highston

What’s it about?

It’s a coming-of-age tale about 19-year-old Highston Liggetts, the sort of sweet-natured guy who interviews for a job at a collection agency but ends up offering to send his money to help with his sick wife. Highston still lives with his parents and enjoys spending time with his friends. The only problem is, his friends are all famous people, but he’s the only one that can see or hear him. Cue the therapy and cameos…

Who’s in it?

Newcomer Lewis Pullman plays Highston, but he’s backed up by TV veterans Mary Lynn Rajskub (24) and Chris Parnell (SNL) as his well-intentioned parents. Curtis Armstrong of Revenge of the Nerds fame plays Highston’s abrasive uncle who insists Highston doesn’t need any help. A big part of the show (if it goes forward) will be the celebrity cameos on which the schtick hinges, and the pilot enlists the services of basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Why should you care?

Highston was written by Bob Nelson, who earned an Oscar nomination for 2013’s Nebraska, and directed by the Little Miss Sunshine team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Borat himself—actor/comedian Sacha Baron Cohen—serves as an executive producer. Highston has an endearing innocence to it that’s reminiscent of My Name Is Earl, and I can see it having a good long run if it gets picked up. The concept really hinges on getting entertaining celebrity appearances and letting the writers have fun with those personalities, so it’ll be interesting to see who they line up if Highston does go to series.

4) One Mississippi

What’s it about?

Comedian Tig Notaro (playing a fictionalized version of herself), returns to her hometown in Mississippi to prepare for the impending death of her mother, during which she must deal with her relatives, her own health problems, and the looming loss of “the one person who actually understood her.”

Who’s in it?

Tig herself is the main attraction, but the cast also includes Noah Harpster (Transparent), John Rothman (The Devil Wears Prada), and Casey Wilson (Gone Girl) in the role of Tig’s girlfriend.

Why should you care?

Tig has justifiably become a major name in the comedy world in the aftermath of her legendary performance at Largo on Aug. 3, 2012. Taking the stage only days after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Notaro delivered a set that was hilarious, heartbreaking, and intensely personal, and which captured the attention of many, including comedian Louis C.K., who released a recording of her Largo set on his website and who serves as executive producer on One Mississippi. Notaro co-wrote the pilot with Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult). Like the best of Notaro’s material, One Mississippi is intensely personal and both funny and terribly sad, often at the same time. If it leaves you wanting more, we recommend also checking out the excellent documentary Tig on Netflix Instant.

5) Patriot

What’s it about?

“N.O.C. is short for “non-official cover,” explains the opening title card of Patriot. “With limited governmental protection, N.O.C. agents assume a great degree of risk.” John Tavner (Michael Dorman) takes on just such an assignment, embedding himself in a Midwestern industrial piping firm as part of a mission to interfere with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Unfortunately, he’s got more than just the Iranians to deal with: His struggles with PTSD, family drama, and the incompetence of his own government may prove to be just as challenging.

Who’s in it?

Lead Michael Dorman hasn’t really had a breakout role yet, but the rest of the cast includes some serious heavy hitters and veteran character actors, including Kurtwood Smith (RoboCop), Terry O’Quinn (Lost), Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption), and Julian Richings (Death from Supernatural, among other things).

Why should you care?

From a quick glance at the Amazon page for Patriot, you’d assume it’s a straight-up intelligence thriller. Intriguingly, however, but it mixes the Jack Ryan stuff with a streak of black comedy and absurdism that puts it tonally closer to FX’s Fargo than Showtime’s Homeland. I mean, the lead is trying to foil Iran’s nuclear plans while working as a mid-level pencil-pusher in a piping firm. He channels his struggles with PTSD into folk songs and enjoys riding mechanical bulls. That bizarre chimeral nature can likely be tied directly to writer/director Steve Conrad, who previously wrote Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness, and the 2005 Nic Cage flick The Weather Man. It’s a deeply weird beast, one that should easily be the most divisive of this Amazon pilot season crop.

6) Z

What’s it about?

The early life of Zelda Sayre: flapper, writer, feminist icon, and eventual muse for one F. Scott Fitzgerald. But the spotlight is very much on Zelda as she heads into the Roaring ’20s, a decade she would help define.

Who’s in it?

Christina Ricci plays the lead, a Southern girl railing against the restrictions of both her society and her proper conservative parents. Gavin Stenhouse plays “Scott” and David Strathairn plays Zelda’s tut-tutting dad, but this is very much Ricci’s show.

Why should you care?

Z runs only a half-hour, which is unusual and strangely jarring for a drama, but certainly makes it easily digestible.

Outside of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the 1920s isn’t a decade that’s been extensively mined in the modern TV landscape, and it would be interesting to see the years between the wars explored from a different perspective. The Fitzgeralds are also fascinating characters well capable of anchoring a series. The pilot was directed by Tim Blake Nelson, based on Therese Anne Fowler’s 2013 novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Z also runs only a half-hour, which is unusual and strangely jarring for a drama, but certainly makes it easily digestible.

Screengrab via Z/Amazon

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*First Published: Nov 19, 2015, 2:36 pm