Amazon’s comedy pilots reviewed: Are they any good?

alphahouseBY ALEX RUSSELL

Amazon recently announced a run of eight possible comedy pilots that they would stream to see if anyone liked them. They said they’d buy the ones people like. I previewed them here and basically hated them. I think anything’s worth 22 minutes, though, so I decided to watch them.

I reviewed the first four pilots here.

Are the other four any good? Let’s get into it.

Browsers

Browsers is a musical comedy. That sentence will tell you everything you need to know, which may be good or bad. It’s about a fictional link aggregate website which is so shamelessly based on Huffington Post that it’s not even worth making fun of for it.

A character describes himself by his Twitter name and includes the “@” sign out loud. Twice. The Asian character is called “a bad Asian.” There are about ten bad weed jokes. The black character is never explicitly said to be gay (his name in the show is Gabe Blackman, which tells you how inventive they are here) but the rest of the cast literally makes jokes about how gay men are basically women so I guess we’re either supposed to think he is or that this show takes place in Liberal Hell.

Browsers is a shitty musical (the last song is “Someone With Whom Not To Fuck” which is a doctorate-level course in forced rhyme) but worse than that, it’s racist, sexist, and not even that funny. The only good joke in the whole episode is ruined by someone looking into the camera and explaining it.

Verdict: F. People are going to love it or hate it because it’s a musical, but dammit, this show would be just as bad without the soundtrack.

Dark Minions

Dark Minions is the only animated show on the list today. It’s your standard science fiction story with a slacker twist. At this point, is putting a “slacker twist” on something a twist? It seems like everyone in every show is some form of slacker.

Anyway, it’s slow and boring but kinda endearing. It has a decent (but unexplained) love story. It’s got some good casting (you might recognize creator/star John Ross Bowie from The Big Bang Theory, so they tell me) but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s definitely better to be boring than to be bad, but in a contest to get people to love your pilot, maybe it isn’t.

Verdict: C+. I wouldn’t watch it, but it’s not nearly bad enough to get anything worse than that.

Zombieland

I didn’t see the movie Zombieland. Does that matter? Probably. Will it stop me from judging this? NO. I shouldn’t need two hours of prep work to watch your show if you’re selling it as an Amazon “please vote for me” show. I’m going in COLD.

Zombieland the show constantly uses the same jokes and joke structures. It peaks with funny moments (the opening scene of two people having a boring conversation just before all hell breaks loose is especially nice) but they just can’t avoid the pitfalls of stupid humor. They keep a running tally of “vagina jokes” which stems from a woman (correctly) pronouncing Regina, Saskatchewan as “Reg-EYE-na” rather than “Re-GEE-na” and that seems to be their favorite joke. If you love that, I don’t love you.

Someone says “there was this thing called the 20th Century” to someone else, which is essentially the dialogue version of hitting someone with a cream pie at this point. SNL was making that kind of joke ironically through David Spade in 1992. It is absolutely staggering to me that this joke is in a show in 2013.

Then someone says “you’re the awesome in my blossom” and they make about ten mini-commercials for OnStar that are totally seamless and not at all forced. It’s a shame, too, because there’s some actual emotion hidden in this.

Verdict: D+. This is well made and decently funny, but the bad is really, really, just so fucking really bad.

Alpha House

Alpha House is the only one of the eight that assuredly has a cast you know, at least a little bit. John Goodman, Bill Murray, Clark Johnson (the editor from season five of The Wire), and Matt Malloy (you’d know him if you saw him) are four Senators living in the same house. Bill Murray turns himself in to the Department of Justice. That’s where we open – on a full minute of Bill Murray getting ready to turn himself in and cursing his life.

This is the only show that could have survived without any “star power” and yet it’s got the most of it. It’s got strong comedy without any really big groans. It builds a complete world reminiscent of The West Wing (right down to the left-wing bias) and other political comedies.

This is the only pilot of the lot that didn’t need to feel like a real episode to make it, but it does. It’s fantastic, and I can’t suggest anything that’s a better, freer use of your time. Plus, Duke jokes! Kinda!

Verdict: A-. This is a really good show. I’d go out of my way to watch it on TV, and when it gets picked up here I’ll go out of my way to watch it on whatever goofy service they sell it on.

You can watch all eight of the pilots on Amazon’s website or on anything that makes pictures move around really fast. Watch some of them and vote for the ones you like. Then they’ll get made and you can say you HELPED!

What’d you think? Let us know in the comments.

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