Zombieland and Amazon: A match made in television pilot heaven?

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

Color me ignorant, but I thought the whole zombie thing went out of style with Blackberries and Bon Jovi records a few years ago. The pinnacle of the craze came in the form of two things, really. 1) The beginning of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for which I have far too many friends going to bat, telling me that “It’s not all about zombies” and it’s “Really, really good.”

No. 2? “Zombieland,” the 2009 mildly subversive hit movie featuring every teen intellectual’s favorite neurotic actor, Jesse Eisenberg, every teen intellectual’s favorite level-headed actress, Emma Stone, and every teen intellectual’s resident Dude From Cheers, Woody Harrelson. Fringe fans of zombie flicks ate it up like brains on a plate (see what I did there?!). Others admired its supposed wit and humor. And a surprisingly large amount of movie-goers recommended it to others with a very acute sense of exuberance, so much so that it made you wonder how a movie starring the older brother from “The Squid And The Whale” could be so darn beloved.

(And yes, I say all of this with an abundance of ignorance — I’ve never seen “Zombieland” and yes, I will more than likely never see “Zombieland.” Why? Because Zombies + Colin = No).

Why bring it up now, then, on such a dreary, you-have-to-be-kidding-me-that-it’s-snowing-this-late-in-March Monday? Insert everybody’s home for Free Super Shipper Savings, the fantastic Amazon.com. Nick Summers of The Next Web, what say you …

“Amazon has announced today that it is creating a pilot for a TV show based on the film Zombieland, originally released by Columbia Pictures and starring Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, among others,” he wrote Monday. “Zombieland will be the seventh comedy pilot to be produced by Amazon Studios, the Internet retailer’s original movie and series production arm, alongside six other TV show pilots aimed at children.”

And here is where it gets interesting. For those who may have missed the news in the past few months (hey — this blog can’t cover everything, now!), Easy A (Amazon, not Stone’s underrated 2010 movie) has decided to explore the following approach to developing its own original content: Green-light a trillion pilots for shows. Post them all on Amazon.com. See which pilots stick. Begin production of full seasons of said stickiness. Boom. TV history.

It’s like “The Voice,” though instead of watching Adam Levine act smug to some coffee house singer from Wichita, you, yourself, get to be the one in the chair, deciding when it spins and makes futuristic noises!

Or something.

Anyway, among the other pilots in question are comedies with names such as “Alpha House” and “Supanatural” (we see what you did there, you witty Amazon, you!) and something from The Onion, as well as a few series aimed at entertaining children including “Teeny Tiny Dogs” and “The Untitled J.J. Johnson Project,” both of which I didn’t realize were highly provocative names until I just physically typed them out. As for premiere dates, CNET was told, very specifically, that they are … “coming soon,” which, as we all know by now, lands somewhere between “never” and “tomorrow.” There is no limit on how many of these might actually be developed further, though as anyone who ever watched NBC’s “Outsourced” already knows, the success rate of television pilots aren’t particularly forgiving.

Or, as Summers put it, “By piloting the shows beforehand, it can try out a lot of new and experimental ideas, but only commission those which truly resonate with fans. Unless they’re all terrible, Amazon is likely to come away with at least half a dozen shows that Prime Instant Video and LoveFilm subscribers are excited about.” 

Prime, being the specific Amazon service, of course, and LoveFilm being the British equivalent of Netflix, of course. Just in case you were keeping score.

It’s intriguing. Amazon, while still not the preferred, dinner-party-topic that Netflix has become over the years, is still a viable option for those looking to check out episodes of television shows online (case in point: all of the words produced by me for last year’s Mad Men Project came as a result of sitting down with each episode on Amazon each week and never once did I have any problems with watching or re-watching an episode). More notable is the fact that this tiny trick is just the right amount of original to get some consumers to take notice. “Help decide if a show survives past a pilot?!” somebody with thick-framed glasses and Belle & Sebastian records on repeat says to his or herself. “Where can I sign up, and how many more days do we have until this ‘Veronica Mars’ thing happens?!”

The move is innovative in a subtle way. Regardless of if it will serve as yet another valve that can be used to help others gain interest in the whole TV on the Internet thing, you have to at least acknowledge (and somewhat respect) Amazon’s desire to set itself apart from its competitors in what has become a very crowded and very cutthroat race for streaming supremacy. Whether or not any of these series will actually be any good … well, we’ll have to wait and see.

Netflix set itself apart with “House of Cards.” Amazon hopes to do the same with … something called “Oz Adventures.” Hey: You have to start somewhere.

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