Amazon unveils its latest smiles and thrills

08/27/2014 9:09 PM

08/27/2014 9:11 PM

Playing catch-up with Netflix is grueling business. Amazon posted five new online pilots aimed at adults in February and ordered full seasons of four of them in March. Now, before any of those shows have arrived, five more pilots are being posted Thursday on Amazon Instant Video.

Like the February batch, this group consists of two hourlong dramas and three half-hour comedies and involves major names like Whit Stillman, Marc Forster and David Gordon Green. And again, overall, the comedies are better. Perhaps the prestige associated with outlets like HBO, AMC and Netflix draws better dramatic projects. Here’s a rundown of the latest Amazon pilots, from best to worst.

Red Oaks

Set at a suburban New Jersey country club in 1985, Green’s pilot is not a sendup of 1980s coming-of-age comedies or even a tribute to them, but a surprisingly straightforward extension of the genre. Craig Roberts stars as David, a college student spending his summer as the assistant tennis pro under the tutelage of the club’s paunchy stud, Nash (a funny Ennis Emmer). Providing some ‘80s flavor are Jennifer Grey, as David’s mom; Paul Reiser, as the club’s alpha male; and an abundance of female toplessness.

The Cosmopolitans

Stillman’s first television-length project stars Adam Brody (“The O.C.”) and the newcomer Jordan Rountree as Americans living in Paris whose only discernible occupations are falling in love and crashing high-class parties. But it’s quite amusing, especially at the beginning, and not as arch as you might expect.

Hand of God

Ranking this as the better of the two dramas is a coin flip. Forster (“World War Z,” “Quantum of Solace”), also going short-form for the first time, directed from a script by Ben Watkins (“Burn Notice”) that’s almost comically overheated. Ron Perlman plays a corrupt judge who goes off the deep end after his son attempts suicide. He starts to believe that God is leading him to the people who drove his son to desperation, and, of course, he may be right.

Hysteria

Veteran TV producer Shaun Cassidy (“Invasion”) is behind this drama that combines the contagion thriller with the Internet paranoia thriller.

Really

Written, directed and (unfortunately) starring Jay Chandrasekhar, this noncomedy feels like a laboratory experiment: Just how off-putting can a show be and still maintain the semblance of entertainment?

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