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The people have spoken and Amazon Studios has made its series pickups.
Of the five comedy and drama pilots first made available to audiences on Feb. 6, four of them have been picked up to series. They include Transparent, a dark comedy about a dysfunctional L.A. family from Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under); Mozart in the Jungle, a comedy set in the world of the New York Symphony from Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Alex Timbers; The After, a science fiction drama from Chris Carter (The X-Files); and Bosch, a drama based on the Michael Connelly series written by Eric Overmyer and Connelly.
The After has an 8-episode order, while the other three series will have 10-episode first seasons.
Of the five children’s pilots that Amazon released in February, two have been picked up to series. They are animated series Wishenpoof! and live-action Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. Both series have 13-episode orders.
The studio — owned by the Seattle e-commerce giant — has also ordered a second season of political comedy Alpha House. The John Goodman starrer was part of Amazon’s first batch of originals and made its debut last year.
Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios, says audiences are “responding well to” Amazon’s pilot process, adding that viewership was up 100 percent over last year. He spoke to THR about the series orders, Amazon’s distribution strategy and why three of the four new shows are set in Los Angeles.
What was the audience response to your second slate of pilots?
It was a super successful pilot season. We’re really happy with how many people came and shared feedback. We knew there would be some tough choices because it was a strong lineup. I think the whole concept of having a public pilot season is something that people are responding well to.
Were there any surprises in terms of audience response?
I think we were gratified to have a really positive response overall. That’s what we were hoping for. So, you know, it wasn’t that surprising. But it’s always a relief to see that the audience is responding well to the shows that have gone to pilot.
You have a critical success in Transparent. Is that validating to your process?
You could see as soon as we read the script. It’s just very distinctive; great material about very real people. So we’re thrilled that the critics embraced it just as we had hoped. You know we do want to find shows that are really distinctive. Part of that is finding someone who has a real vision to create something new and special and interesting. Those things are certainly all true for Jill Soloway. The public response was also very positive, so it was great to see that as well.
Why the decision to add two one-hour dramas to a lineup of mostly comedies?
Our goal is to produce shows that reflect what the Amazon audience is responding to and interested in. There’s definitely a strong interest in dramas.
What drew you to Bosch?
Bosch combines a character who’s well known with a lot of fans on Amazon, a real driving narrative around a crime mystery and real multi-layered characters that people can really get into. We knew that audience would have certain expectations about what Bosch is like. They’re coming with high standards, so it was very important for us to have Michael Connelly involved every day in the production and planning and postproduction. I think one thing we got loud and clear is that the audience was really happy with the whole show. Titus Welliver really brought the combination of things that that community was hoping for for the Harry Bosch character.
And The After?
Similarly, we have a lot of sci-fi fans on Amazon and a lot of fans of Chris Carter. That’s a fan community that brings a lot of expectations. That fanboy community will be very, very expressive if you get it right or get it wrong. We were very happy to see a positive response and a lot of people intrigued to see what is going on in the Los Angeles of The After.
Speaking of Los Angeles, three of your four new series are set in L.A. Was that a coincidence?
I do think it helps a show if you give it a very specific sense of place. There’s no way to convey that better than actually being there, shooting there. You may have noticed that in Bosch we had Angels Flight and a lot of real icons of the city. You know for The After we had to kind of shut down Century City for a day so Chris Carter could blow it up. I had to tell some of our friends at CAA not to go to the office on Saturday.
Alpha House was your first renewal. What went into that decision?
It had a strong viewer base and a good trajectory in terms of viewership, so it had a positive response. It developed a fan base and it looks like that fan base could grow. People were responding to the cast and Garry Trudeau‘s writing. Those are the factors that we took into account, just seeing whether people are engaging with the show and enjoying it.
Gortimer Gibbon’s is the first script submitted through the website to get picked up to series. Does that mean it’s a viable way to source new material?
We’ve done 24 pilots — two were from the website and one has been ordered to series. I’m delighted that we have that. It’s not going to replace regular Hollywood very soon but it’s a great supplement to the traditional development process. Gortimer Gibbon’s was one of the best kids 6-11 pilots that I’ve seen, and I’ve spent some time in the kids business.
You’ve been vocal against the Nexflix model of releasing an entire series in one day. Is that still how you feel?
We’re open-minded to whatever customers would respond to. If you release them all at once, you have to postpone your launch a few months. There are circumstances where people might not mind that. But then there are some people who would rather have their show a little sooner. It might be worth experimenting and sort of trying a couple different approaches. That’s all part of what we’re doing now in terms of figuring out the exact release schedule. We want to dig into that. There’s no way to know until you try it both ways.
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