Review: Amazon’s New Comedy Pilots from Green, Stillman & Chandrasekhar

As I mentioned yesterday, Amazon has rolled out another 5 shows in a third crack at “Pilot Season” where viewers get to watch the shows for free (preceded by an ad from sponsor Geico) and then tell Amazon what they think with an eye toward the shows becoming actual series. The first batch earlier this year was mostly forgettable. The second batch gave us the potentially terrific Transparent starring Jeffrey Tambor, and this third batch looks promising as well. I gave the three 30-minute single-camera comedies from Whit Stillman (Metropolitan), David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls, Pineapple Express) and Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) with mixed results.

Executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, David Gordon Green’s likable ’80s-set comedy Red Oaks tells the story of David (Submarine‘s Craig Roberts), a well-off young man working as an assistant tennis pro at a snobby country club during the summer before college. Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing, duh) and Richard Kind (Mad About You, A Serious Man) play David’s parents while Paul Reiser (Mad About You) plays the rich asshole president of the club. Red Oaks strikes a pleasant Caddyshack vibe, but it’s a bit more thoughtful and polite. Green’s affection for the period and time of life shines through and his vision is well supported by a capable cast. Standouts include Ennis Esmer (The Listener) as Nash, the head tennis pro and smooth talking mentor (“I just hate to see a bright young fellow like yourself throwing your future for an education.”) and Oliver Cooper (Project X) as Wheeler, the best-friend-stoner-Jonah-Hill-type club valet. Being Amazon, there’s plenty of room for light swearing, drug use and boobs. Green takes full advantage, but it feels organic to the tone of the show and not just a gimmick to draw attention and eyeballs. It was good too to see Jennifer Grey back on screen, too. I’d watch more of Red Oaks if it gets picked up.


Next up is The Cosmopolitans which was written, directed and produced by Whit Stillman. It tells the story of a group of apparently well-off American late-20-early-30-somethings headed by Adam Brody (Thank You For Not Smoking) who are looking for love and meaning in Paris (“We live here. We’re Parisians”). Carrie MacLemore (from Stillman’s Damsels in Distress) shines as a southern girl who is being exiled by the French writer-boyfriend who convinced her to move to Paris and move in with him. If you’re a fan of Stillman’s movie work (lots of clueless preppies sitting around talking smart) then there’s plenty to be encouraged by in The Cosmopolitans, but non-fans needn’t bother. Personally, I like Stillman’s shtick and he’s got a likable cast who make potentially unlikable characters bearable. Plus, Stillman constantly gives the audience permission to make gentle fun of them so they’re less irritating. Chloe Sevigny (Zodiac) has a juicy guest spot as an American fashion writer who doles out advice to MacLemore’s Abbey: “Loser is kind of an ugly world, but aren’t they old enough to have started putting things together… such as their lives?” Also making a guest appearance is the international dance craze The Sambola which fans of Damsels in Distress will appreciate.


Finally we have Really from Broken Lizard’s Jay Chandrasekhar who co-stars alongside Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) as a couple of comfortably(?) married with children 30-somethings. Brace yourselves for boring conversations about snoring, going to the gym and recycling; awkward questions from children; and dinner parties with annoying friends complete with dull discussions about reality TV. Because it’s Amazon, there are also birthday blowjobs, masturbation, weed and talk of butthole eating. I’m not the target audience for this and didn’t find it remotely appealing, though when the party host has way too much wine and makes a scene, the show takes an intriguingly dark turn. Overall, Chalke is as an engaging a presence as she was on Scrubs, but Chandrasekhar’s thin charms wear out quickly. Those who find this world familiar and relatable might find a lot to like. If it gets picked up, I’ll consider sampling another episode, but if it doesn’t, I don’t think it will be any great loss to television

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the shows yourself along with a couple of hour-long dramas and take Amazon’s survey here.

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