Somehow it’s that time of the year again: pilot season. Leading the charge is online retailer Amazon, back for its third year of offering a handful of series pilots, all of which containing the potential to become full series. What this means is that Amazon offers these pilots for free streaming by way of its instant video service, allowing viewers to leave feedback and votes which aid executives in the final decision process.
This year the offerings are at their lowest number, three half hour comedies and two dramatic shows, fill the bill. So, let’s take a look at the comedies first. Although none of these pilots offer the instant grab and hook of last year’s excellent Transparent, writer-director Jill Solloway’s take on an LA family experiencing a change in their patriarch, there is still some things here worth paying attention.
Comedy fans are sure to take note of Really, due mostly to the comedy pilot being written, directed and starring Broken Lizard member Jay Chandrasekhar, notably of Super Troopers fame. Really is another comedy aimed at taking a more realistic look at how middle aged people relate to each other in both their friendships and marriage relationships. Tonally, Really is very reminiscent of FX’s new series, Married, although I think where that show needed four episodes to develop a heart, Really makes a point to push the intimacy of the main couple to the forefront of the action.
Really follows the marriage of Jed (Jay Chandrasekhar) and Lori (Scrubs’ Sarah Chalke), as they balance love, family, friends, and sex. For the most part, I enjoyed watching the chemistry between Chandrasekhar and Chalke. They manage to evoke a (usually) tender connection, where they enjoy each other, yet the jokes never venture into that mean territory that so many sitcoms use to suggest relational intimacy. Their group of friends is punctuated with notable names like Selma Blair and Rob Delaney. Acting is where Really’s strength lies. Each performer brings a humanity to their characters, both within the confines of their respective relationships as well as the interplay of gender roles. When Jay witnesses two of his friends cheating on their spouses, he calls his buddy on it, but still keeps his secret. He doesn’t know how to handle it, much less how to trust his wife with the information, so we watch the knowledge take a toll on him.
If all this sounds a little grown up, that’s because it is. Still, Broken Lizard fans shouldn’t worry. There’s still plenty of crude sex and drug humor, that comes close to threatening to derail the show. Again, nudity is trotted out where it doesn’t feel necessary, but the female characters are excitingly well developed. As a side note, for you pervs out there, you get a little more intimate look at Ms. Chalke. The sexual comedy specifically is the only area that dips its toe into more angry waters, but doesn’t stay there too long.
Ultimately, Really feels like it wants to be more mature, but is struggling with what exactly that looks like. As a pilot, Really often feels like it’s keeping as many options open as possible, which hurts its focus, but only a little. There’s plenty of room to expand and grow should Really go to series. I’d give it 70/30 odds.
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