Amazon's Open Pilot Season Is the Flip Side of Kickstarter

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The backlash to the backlash to one of Amazon's comedy pilots is proving how letting fans on the Internet choose what they want to watch can backfire for the creative minds behind projects. 

Amazon put all their pilots online allowing people to watch and review them and factoring in data from that in their decision-making process. So when Zombieland's Rhett Reese got the bad news that the episodic adaptation of his 2009 movie would not be moving forward. He went on Twitter and lashed out at the little people: 

Now Zombieland wasn't the lowest rated show among those meant for adults, but it was close to it, with the Huffington Post-parody musical Browsers coming in last.  Zombieland scored three and a half stars out of five. Browsers got three. Critical comments about the show often focused on how the made-for-Amazon version wasn't as good as the movie starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. For instance: 


We don't doubt that this must have seemed harsh for Reese, who is responsible for co-writing both versions of Zombieland. But his cruel accusation toward "fans" is a nasty little glimpse into what Amazon's experiment hath wrought, and says something broader about how the television model is changing. 

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Pilot season decision-making has up until this point mostly been kept behind doors. The idea of pilots "testing well" was mentioned a couple of times at the upfronts, but when it comes to traditional networks we're left to place blame on network executives for not giving us better options. By opening up their process Amazon both seemingly made the process more democratic and allowed people like Reese to place blame on the people with whom he should be culling favor instead of just gearing his anger toward hire-ups.

While Reese should have been also blaming himself for his pilot's failure—fans of the original wanted to like the pilot—he also has a (perhaps unintentional) point. Good comedies don't always have great pilots. The shows grow and change as the cast meshes together and learns the material's rhythm. So, in a way, what Amazon did was unfair. They allowed the public to hate on just one episode of a variety of shows, leaving potential perhaps unrecognized. 

Thanks to projects like Veronica Mars, people in the entertainment business are now seeing the Internet as a hopeful place, where they can subvert the evil industry overlords with fan support. (But not always as is the case of poor Melissa Joan Hart.) But what the Internet giveth, it also taketh away, as in the case of Zombieland. A more traditional model allowed Zombieland to have a pilot in the first place, but the new system stopped it from going any further. 

We've reached out to Amazon for their comment. Deadline reports that Browsers has also gotten the no go, while Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reported that she's hearing Alpha House, starring John Goodman and written by Garry Trudeau, and start-up set comedy Betas are getting picked up. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.