Ron Perlman has made a comfortable living being a scary guy.
As the devil hero in Hellboy or the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, not to mention the leader of the motorcycle gang in Sons of Anarchy, Perlman is adept at bigger-than-life characters who walk the fine line between good and evil. In Amazon Studios’ latest greenlit project, Hand of God, Perlman’s imposing frame and booming voice shape the character of a corrupt judge who teeters between good and evil after seeing the light (and other things) as a result of becoming born again.
Hand of God is one of two original pilots Amazon announced will be added to its Instant Video roster next year. The other, Red Oaks, is a verbatim rework of the 1984 Garry Marshall film The Flamingo Kid, with just a touch of Caddyshack tossed in for good measure. Set in suburban New Jersey circa 1985, our hero in Oaks is a confused teenager (is there any other kind on TV?) on the brink of adulthood who spends a memorable summer as the assistant tennis pro at a country club. Craig Roberts stars as David Myers, our protagonist, dealing with the angst of rather odd parents (Richard Kind is funny, as always, as the beleaguered dad), a clingy girlfriend, and a megalomaniac country club owner played by Paul Reiser.
Reiser, a standup comic known for roles in Diner and the long-running TV series Mad About You, seems out of place and uncomfortable playing the heavy, even a lightweight one. That’s where The Flamingo Kid has this pilot beat—the relationship between stars Matt Dillon and the late Richard Crenna was what gave that film its tension and heart. Nonetheless, Red Oaks is a passable fluffball of good intentions.
Hand of God seems to have better longterm prospects, and the show’s supporting cast, which includes Dana Delany (China Beach, Desperate Housewives) as Perlman’s wife, gives the pilot additional oomph. Delany brings a nice touch to her role, which never quite reaches the melodramatic stage yet engages with the right element of “What’s she up to?” It’s also worth noting that the amount of wince-inducing gore makes Hand of God not exactly the sort of show you’d like to offer impressionable kids, but then again, I was raised on a steady diet of vampire movies.
Adding Hand of God and Red Oaks to the lineup gives Amazon somewhere around seven original drama and comedy series, plus a handful of kids’ programs. Keep in mind, these are pay programs that can be viewed either through an Amazon Prime subscription or a per-episode payment, which puts Amazon in direct competition with Netflix and, to a lesser extend, Hulu Plus.
Amazon has never made it clear what sort of copyright ownership deals it has with its original programming, which will be an important element in both multiplatform and global distribution.
Screengrab via Apart Never/YouTube