Tyler Vendetti
April 26, 2013 5:00 am

Amazon has taken customer feedback to a whole new level. The online mega-retailer has recently released a number of original pilots for free on their site. Anyone with an Amazon account can watch these episodes as many times as they want and are encouraged to leave comments and reviews of each one. Using this information, Amazon will determine which show has the most potential and sign it for a full season.

I’ve always appreciated producers who consider the audience’s opinions (mostly because those who don’t are setting themselves up for failure – I’m looking at you, American Idol), so I might be a little biased here, but I think this whole “return-the-power-to-the-people digital democracy” idea is simply brilliant. This is not the first time a company has tried this method. Reality shows like ABC’s The Glass House and NBC’s The Voice both use audience input to ultimately determine the show’s winner. Additionally, Broadway shows like The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which lets the audience vote on the ending of their choice, have started to embrace the importance of the viewer-content relationship. However, unlike these examples, all of which are already guaranteed a full-length production regardless of the viewer’s decision, Amazon’s Original Pilot initiative lets people decide what shows they want to see more of. While I love all of these pilots like my own children, I know that I can’t choose them all so I’ve tried my best to narrow them down.

The Onion News Empire

Easily the best series on the list, The Onion News Empire envisions a news division dedicated entirely to stories from the satirical paper, The Onion. When I first started watching the pilot, adjusting my mind to the script’s purely satirical nature was fairly difficult. (When every sentence is along the lines of “There’s also that special on the secret sex life of Jesus…” it takes a view minutes to recalibrate my thoughts.) Not only is the show hilariously, pee-your-pants-in-public, launch-milk-out-your-nose funny, but the lead journalist is none other than Chris Masterson, AKA Francis from Malcolm in the Middle. With its killer one-liners and its meta-on-meta satire (it’s a show about a real-life news corporation, The Onion, that becomes a broadcast news corporation whose purpose is to mock the structure of news corporations…) The Onion News Empire is bound to fill up every gigabyte of space on my iPod once it is released.

Zombieland: The Series

If you think this is related to the 2009 movie Zombieland, you would only be partially wrong. Zombieland: The Series combines the same silly humor and dramatized gore that made Jesse Eisenberg’s film a classic. All of the characters are replacements of those in the original film but while Tyler Ross, a Zac Efron-esque teen, does a fairly good job at capturing Eisenberg’s awkward charm, I’m simply unable to picture anyone other than Woody Harrelson playing Tallahassee so in that way, it’s kind of lacking. In fact, I don’t really like it when any movie or show tries to replace the original actors for the same characters. (When April Fool’s rumors came out that Jennifer Lawrence would not be reprising her role as Katniss in The Hunger Games, I had to lock myself in a closet to prevent myself from constructing picket signs and starting a riot.)

Alpha House

Although I’m not typically a fan of politics, Amazon’s original series Alpha House seems to have potential, mostly because it stars John Goodman and that man can do no wrong. The show follows the lives of 4 senators who are looking for a new housemate and explores many of the aspects of the campaign process through humor and vulgarity. Even if you don’t like politics (or, more specifically, Republicans), I implore you to at least watch the trailer because if you’re not completely sold after the first 10 seconds…well…I don’t know, something bad will probably happen, why are you even asking, is this a test or something??

Tumbleaf

Amazon’s TV project doesn’t just include comedies, though. The site has also released a number of kids pilots that could potentially beat out Clifford as the best kids show of all time. (Made that statistic up because Cliffy doesn’t get as much appreciation as he should these days so I figured I’d throw him a bone…GET IT? A BONE?? Because he’s a dog! It’s funny! No, stop, what are you doing, don’t walk away!) One of the shows, Tumbleaf, is an animated series about a fox named Fig. Using stop-motion techniques, the producers of this show have successfully created a likeable, interesting character (with slightly terrifying big eyes) that any child would enjoy.

Television as we know it is changing. Video-streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix are engulfing traditional television channels. People don’t have time to watch regularly scheduled programming anymore and even if they do, most would rather wait and watch it online so they can watch the new Walking Dead episode while simultaneously livetweeting about it. In this day and age, for a television show, or anything for that matter, to succeed, there needs to be some sort of viewer involvement. By allowing viewers to determine the future of these original pilots, Amazon is jumping on the customer-appreciation bandwagon and making further progress in its efforts for world domination. (They don’t tell you that last part but I’m sure it’s in the fine print somewhere.)

Image via IndieWire.com

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