The best and worst of Amazon’s new TV show pilots

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Legend of Master Legend amazon pilotAmazon Studios
Once again, Amazon Prime Video wants to know what you think of its new pilots.

On Friday, the company kicked off its newest pilot season with two one-hour drama pilots and three half-hour comedy pilots.

Instead of a bunch of suits debating what to greenlight, viewers can watch the pilot episodes and review them in order to help Amazon choose which ones it will order to series.

The stakes are pretty high for Amazon. According to estimates, it’s investing more than $3 billion this year on original projects. And that means it’s going to need to make more than a tiny dent into Netflix’s streaming dominance and get a bigger share of Hollywood’s Emmy awards bounty.

We watched Amazon’s new batch of pilots. Here’s our take:

Drama: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Amazon Studios

From Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, the husband-and-wife team behind “Gilmore Girls,” drama pilot “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) downfall from her perfect life as a 1950s Manhattan wife and mother to becoming immersed in the seedy downtown stand-up comedy scene.

The pilot’s excellent cast includes Michael Zegen (“Boardwalk Empire”), Alex Borstein (“MADtv”), Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”), and Marin Hinkle (“Two and a Half Men”).

Our take: The pilot is immensely entertaining, with crisp dialogue and smart pacing. Plus, it really captures some very unique cultural aspects of 1958 New York City, such as the Jewish upper-crust and especially the burgeoning careers of comedy iconoclasts such as Lennie Bruce.

Drama: “Oasis”

Amazon Studios, Left Bank Productions

Based on the cult-hit novel “The Book of Strange New Things” by Michel Faber, drama pilot “Oasis” stars “Game of Thrones” actor Richard Madden, an ecumenical priest who is sent into space to help establish a colony on a distant planet. But once he arrives, he finds morale is low among the settlement team and there’s an inexplicable force that makes the planet very deadly.

It also stars Anil Kapoor (“24”), Mark Addy (“Game of Thrones”), and a grown-up Haley Joel Osment, who played the young boy on “The Sixth Sense.”

Our take: There’s some very good acting on “Oasis,” but the dialogue and plot can feel very predictable. There’s a real urge here to show off the arid, yet beautiful surroundings of the planet, but a pilot is limited in the amount of character exploration that it can cover. It really only scratches the surface there while setting up what feels like the show’s important plot twist.

Comedy: “The Legend of Master Legend”

Amazon Studios

This dark comedy pilot revolves around Frank Lafount (John Hawkes), who hits the streets of Las Vegas as low-budget superhero Master Legend. Charmingly delusional, Frank has to balance his deep sense of justice with the burdens of actual life and disapproval from his family.

The pilot also stars Dawnn Lewis (“Major Crimes”), Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”), and newcomer Anjelika Washington.

Our take: This pilot makes it tough not to love and conversely feel sorry for its homemade superhero. Its eclectic characters give the comedy so many directions to go, which makes this pilot a pretty good bet for a surprising full season. This definitely lives up to the expectations of a show that’s produced and written by a team whose credits between them include “Argo” and “Transparent.”

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via @Business Insider