What is a Pilot Season and Why Should You Care?

An Amazon Prime subscription is a bit like a closet with too many clothes in it: every once in awhile you discover some new thing you forgot you paid for and are pleasantly surprised by it. Among these things is a video streaming service that features a variety of tv and movies, including some originals. There’s also a nifty thing called a pilot season. Viewers can watch a bunch of different pilots, fill out a survey, and Amazon uses the info to determine which ones will become a full series. Essentially, Amazon has turned their entire subscriber pool into a focus group, a market innovation that gives us one more thing to love about the streaming economy.

m2_001_trans_1sht_V1.inddThe concept already has a few success stories to boast, most notably Transparent, which earned Amazon 10 of its 16 Emmy nominations this year, and it won five last year. The show’s lead, Jeffrey Tambor, not only won the 2015 Emmy for Best Lead Comedy Actor, but the equivalent titles at the SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards as well. (I would argue this show shouldn’t be competing in the “comedy” categories based on its content, but I won’t waste your time with that soapbox right now.) There’s also one of my new personal favorites, Mozart in the Jungle, which won the 2016 Golden Globes for Outstanding Comedy or Musical Series and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy or Musical Series. (Transparent was also nominated in both categories).


No Anarchy for the Emmys

SOA-poster-1If you felt cheated by Richard Mattox’s “5 Biggest Snubs” article last week when the Emmy nominations were revealed, I’ve got your fix. Or at least a taste.


Over on Nikki Finke’s recently unveiled website,, the Queen of Snark allowed Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter a soapbox to vent his conflicting feelings on his FX show being passed over once again for any nominations in the major Emmy awards categories (the show was nominated for Original Song.)


Sutter’s conflicts seem to stem from wanting to have his cake and eat it too. One of the appeals to the show by it’s fans (of which I am a former member) is that the series is so counter-culture and bad-ass that “we don’t need no stinking awards”. Sutter wears that badge with honor yet admits that it would be nice to be recognized by his peers.


Honestly – and I actually believe this – I think we’d drop viewers if ‘Sons of Anarchy‘ were ever nominated for an Emmy. My bombastic outlaw-asshole reputation would be tarnished.

That’s not to say that I don’t want to win an Emmy. I absolutely do. More than anything. Any artist who tells you they don’t want to be acknowledged and awarded by their peers is a fat fucking liar.


Sons of Anarchy Creator - Kurt Sutter
Sons of Anarchy Creator – Kurt Sutter

These are the same peers that he calls-out who vote more out of loyalty than objectivity. (This is so true by the way. During an Oscar season years ago, I asked a friend who she was voting for in the Best Actor category. She replied she’d vote for her friend. I asked if she saw his film, and she said she hadn’t yet, but he just “deserves one”. I mentioned that he already won one a few years prior and she just said. “Well, then he should get another one.” I had already stopped paying attention to award ceremonies a couple of years before that, but after that conversation, it really solidified for me that all these big award shows are crap.)

Kurt Sutter’s bigger issue is Hollywood. He has created a great show. His opinion about other nominated shows having lost their way after 3 season while his continues to flourish is debateable. Like I mentioned, I am a former fan. Sutter clearly wants to be a member of the popular kids club and still hold onto his bad boy image. But with Sons of Anarchy is overflowing with violence, sex, rape, drugs, guns plus enough testosterone to make Lena Dunham beg to be stay-at-home mom, it’s going to be a long time before the PC stooges of tinseltown give you an award. He posted his article on Nikki Finke’s website, which means he really should have had more guts to call-out these Hollywood cronies and name names other than a childhood nemesis. Instead, he just drops f-bombs and jokes about killing puppies. If he going to call himself an “outlaw-asshole” at least write like one.

Long live Opie.

NETFLIX: When the little guy becomes The Man

It all started with a White Elephant Christmas gift exchange in 2002. Or maybe 2003. It’s really immaterial to the story because either way, Netflix was still new(ish) and novel and no one that I knew was using it, which is always a sure sign of a fledgling endeavor because I’m the opposite of an “early adopter.” (I got a smartphone right around the time your great grandmother did–which reminds me: have you heard of this new thing called quinoa?) So when my mom Godfather’d her way to a nondescript package in the middle of a pile of unmarked gifts, and discovered a check for a three month trial subscription to a service that would mail her VHSes that looked like CDs, my first thought was, “They deliver movies in the mail? In a red envelope? Oh, man–the future is adorable!”


Even better was the absence of late fees, which was probably the main selling point for my parents, who had to take out a second mortgage in 1995 to cover fines accrued when a Blockbuster copy of “Ernest Goes to Camp” went missing.

Anyway, I’ll skip over the years of household strife that emerged as an organic development when a family of 6 has to agree on anything, let alone entertainment choices.

(Strikes years 2002-2006 from the record.)

In February of 2007, Netflix announced its 1 billionth DVD delivery. “YES WE CAN!” I shouted to no one in particular, and now kick myself for not trademarking. It seemed like the adorable little engine was going to get over the hill after all. The company’s early successes were had when no one–especially Hollywood–was watching. Studios, normally suspicious of anything they can’t control, practically gave away licensing contracts to the plucky up-start. As a result, Netflix capitalized on the low cost of doing business, allowing it to slowly but surely morph into one of the most powerful entertainment outposts since Philo Farnsworth slapped together a couple of two by fours, threw an antenna on top and called it good.

Since its billionth delivery, Netflix has gone on to partner with some of the best creative voices in film and television, racking up Emmy nominations like it’s 1974 and they’re CBS. Now, in the midst of a new world order that includes Net Neutrality, Netflix is getting even savvier. Last week it was announced that the company mostly known for its online services will be partnering with regional cable companies, whereby essentially acting like a new broadcast channel. This move allows Netflix to spread its risks–and potential for rewards–across more platforms, while other companies like Comcast scramble to figure out ways to keep up.

In just a few short years, the company that got its start renting us movies through the mail has become one of the most dominant forces in the entertainment industry. But empires don’t come cheap, and on the heels of their cable announcement, the media giant also announced that starting in June, subscription rates are set to rise.

It looks like it’s time to call an emergency gift exchange. Let’s hope the check is a little bigger this time.