Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Amazon Looks for Its “Seinfeld,” and Asks for Your Help

Like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, Amazon is taking a stab at making its own Web video, starting with sitcoms and kids’ shows. Here’s the first foray from Jeff Bezos and company — an order for a half-dozen sitcom pilots, some of which involve people you’ve heard of:

  • Alpha House, about “four senators who live together in a rented house in Washington DC.” Written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, who also made the vastly underappreciated “Tanner ’88” for HBO.
  • Browsers, “a musical comedy set in contemporary Manhattan that follows four young people as they start their first jobs at a news website,” from former “The Daily Show” head writer David Javerbaum.
  • Dark Minions, an animated series “about two slackers just trying to make a paycheck working an intergalactic warship,” from “Big Bang Theory” co-stars Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie.
  • The Onion Presents: The News, “set behind the scenes of The Onion News Network.”
  • Supanatural, an animated series about “two outspoken divas who are humanity’s last line of defense against the supernatural”; one of the producers is “The Daily Show” star Kristen Schaal.
  • Those Who Can’t, “about three juvenile, misfit teachers,” written by three guys Amazon found via its open call for submissions.

Word that Amazon was betting on some of these has already been out in the trade press for awhile, but today is the formal rollout. Will any of them work? Who knows! It’s just like regular TV!

(And, in fact, some of these shows got look-sees from regular TV networks before falling into Amazon’s hands. But that’s standard practice in Hollywood, where someone’s rejections become someone else’s hits. See, for instance, “The Sopranos,” which Fox famously passed on before HBO picked it up.)

The twist here is that you, the Web video viewer, will get to have a say: Amazon will post the produced pilots online, and “viewer feedback will help determine” which ones actually get picked up. Much more fun than leaving it in the hands of network types — and a very clever promotional gambit.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google