Amazon Studios talks Mad Dogs, Bosch, Catastrophe, The New Yorker Presents at Television Critics Association Press Tour

Kellie Freeze
Ben Chaplin, Steve Zahn, Michael Imperioli and Romany Malco in "Mad Dogs."

Amazon Studios presented its upcoming slate of original series premieres and returns today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. Amazon chief Roy Price started the session by touting the previous night’s Golden Globe successes for Mozart in the Jungle and its star Gael Garcia Bernal plus Transparent’s Globe nominations and Amazon’s 60 other award nominations and 20 wins.

Noting that Hand of God, Red Oaks, Mozart in the Jungle, The Man in the High Castle (the service’s most successful launch yet) and Transparent all received new seasons, Price said the streaming service constantly seeks “visionary creators with voices that will stand out over time” then focuses on bringing its content to customers the way they prefer to view it.

Then Price turned the session over to Morgan Wandell, head of drama series for Amazon studios, to spotlight the 2016 series.

MAD DOGS — Premieres Jan. 22 in U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria.
Created by Cris Cole, who co-executive produces with The Shield‘s Shawn Ryan, Marney Hochman, Andy Harries and Suzanne Mackie, Mad Dogs follows the reunion of a group of longtime, forty-something friends—a mixture of single, married and recently divorced, all seemingly at crossroads in their lives. In the first episode, Cobi (Steve Zahn), Lex (Michael Imperioli), Gus (Romany Malco) and Joel (Ben Chaplin) gather to celebrate the early retirement of an old friend played by Billy Zane at his gorgeous Belizean villa. But, their camaraderie doesn’t last long as old grudges resurface, secrets explode, and their trip to paradise quickly becomes a labyrinthine nightmare of lies, deception and murder. The series is a tale of friendship put to the ultimate test. Completely out of their element, the guys quickly realize that the only way they can survive this adventure will be by having to trust one another, probably the last people in the world they should.

Ben Chaplin, Steve Zahn, Michael Imperioli and Romany Malco in "Mad Dogs."
Ben Chaplin, Steve Zahn, Michael Imperioli and Romany Malco in “Mad Dogs.”

Cole said the primary difference between this Mad Dogs and the British series from which it was culled is that the Brit version was conceived as a four-part miniseries. His ten-parter allows a more robust crime story and better character development. The first four episodes will look like Brit series, then take off from there.

Ryan, who said Cole calls the show “farce noir,” also noted that the series reflects how American men differ from their Brit counterparts. Cole added that British men internalize, while American men externalize and are more in touch with and apt to verbalize how they feel about themselves (“Every American woman just went, ‘What American man are you talking about?!’” cracked Malco.)

One last thing about that.

“This is also a show about the uselessness of the middle age American men,” Ryan said. “These are men who have hit the ceiling, who aren’t going to achieve what they thought they would in their 20s. … Brits wouldn’t necessarily feel like that.”

Chaplin is the only carryover in the cast, having played Zane’s role in the original miniseries. He called switching roles “one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done. I suppose I thought — arrogantly — that it would be fun. Nothing prepares you for how well your mind remembers things when you’re attempting to reshoot it. Every choice I would make was undermined by memory. … The thing that sort of saved me was the quality of the acting.”

BOSCH — Premieres on  March 11 on Prime Video in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria
Back on the job after an involuntary leave of absence, Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), the tenacious LAPD homicide detective at the heart of Michael Connelly’s best selling novels, is ready for action, and his first case may prove his biggest challenge yet. A dead body found in the trunk of a car on Mulholland Drive appears to have a mob connection and leads Bosch and his investigation to Las Vegas. As the case becomes more complex, and intensely personal, Bosch follows a dangerous trail of corruption and collusion, one that uncovers the dark side of the police department and threatens Bosch’s relentless pursuit of truth.

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Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch and Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar in “Bosch.”

Speaking to reporters, Connelly, a former newspaper crime reporter, said that Season 2 will be based on his books The Drop and The Last Coyote, though he’s modernizing the tales a bit. He added that television allows him TV allows opportunities for his characters that film would not, allowing the stories to unfold like a novel. But he trusts his cowriter/executive producer to run the show, joking “Eric’s the mayor and I’m the deputy mayor.”

Both agreed that Season 2 was an easier proposition than launching the series. “You gain momentum after the first season. There’s less set-up.”

Next Amazon’s head of comedy Joe Lewis took over to introduce the half hours.

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The New Yorker Presents

The New Yorker Presents Tuesday, February 16 on Prime Video in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria (Japan to follow). The show will be rolled in 2-episodes every Tuesday for 5 consecutive weeks.
Based on content from The New Yorker, America’s most award-winning magazine, The New Yorker Presents is a unique viewing experience, combining documentaries, short scripted narrative films, comedy, poetry, animation and cartoons. As with the pilot, new episodes will bring the pages of the magazine to life, drawing upon the reporting, fiction, humor, poetry, and cartoons that distinguish The New Yorker. The season will feature content from award-winning narrative directors and A-list talent from the worlds of film, television, art, and music, and will debut provocative and insightful documentary films from America’s most acclaimed non-fiction filmmakers. The pilot features a documentary from Oscar winner Jonathan Demme based on Rachel Aviv’s article “A Very Valuable Reputation,”writer Ariel Levy interviewing artist Marina Abramovic, a sketch from Simon Rich and Alan Cumming, poetry read by Andrew Garfield, and cartoons by Emily Flake.

With nothing to preview, reporters proved a bit confused about this one, but excited by its potential. Executive producers Alex Gibney and The New Yorker’s David Remnick did their best to help explain.

Gibney says the show is intended to celebrate the eclecticism of the magazine itself, finding extraordinarily talented people and celebrating their varied voices — in this case filmmakers instead of journalists. He added that there is no limit to how far back in The New Yorker‘s archives they will go, as long as the material will make for great storytelling.

Executive producer Kahane Cooperman says the series presents a unique opportunity across many entertainment mediums. She said she, the content’s original writers and editors, the producer and filmmaker all get on the phone and collaborate to create the final product. “It’s just an incredible process to be a part of, and the results are in the show,” says Cooperman.

David Remnick — executive producer and The New Yorker writer/editor —reiterated the show’s ability to take stories that began in one form and turning them into compelling TV. He added that the potential development of an even broader audience — particularly younger readers —  for the venerable magazine, because of the show’s modernized format, is a bonus.

CATASTROPHE — New season premieres Friday, April 8 in the U.S.
Written by and starring Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe is a comedy following an Irish woman and an American man who, after making a bloody mess as they struggled to fall in love in London, have embarked on a series of best-attempts to clear it up and generally do the right thing. The stakes are higher as we rejoin the now married Sharon and Rob who are struggling to stay in love–and lust–while taking their trademark mayhem into parenthood. A monstrous family (Carrie Fisher, Star Wars) and crazy friends (Ashley Jensen, Ugly Betty), also seem hell-bent on ensuring that whatever new life-journey Rob and Sharon embark on will be anything but simple. With times having changed for our turbulent lovers, and with their new arrival back home; at the start of the series we rejoin the chaos as they decide on an ill-considered party to get the introductions complete in one hit. Unfortunately for Sharon, the gathering coincides with a visit from Rob’s eBay obsessed (and “card-carrying sadist”) mom, a disturbing revelation about her father’s health and an unfortunate incident with the family dog.

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Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in “Catastrophe” as Rob and Sharon

The married Horgan and Delaney made for a panel as quirky and delightful as their show as they talked about how Season 2 will present an established marriage, rather than getting bogged down by the new-baby slapstick common to so many sitcoms.

“We really conceived what you see in Season 2 almost before Season 1,” said Delaney. “We wanted to show the horror of a marriage in progress. We wanted to cut to the chase.”

Which included plenty of uncomfy moments that all married couples will recognize as part of the deal. “Pain is so critical, because it makes the love shine brighter,” Delaney explained. Horgan added that what sometime appears brutal on the page is softened when the characters infuse it with humanity and emotion.

“We believe that the characters really love each other even when they’re saying horrible things to each other,” Delaney said.

Asked about Fisher’s presence in Season 2, the pair said she will appear more frequently in Season 2, and actually in London rather than the other end of the phone.

“It was so exciting watching her in Star Wars knowing that she was on our show!” Horgan grinned.

So what say you? What Amazon debut or return are you most anticipating? Tell us in the comments section below.

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About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.