What Should Woody Allen’s Amazon Television Series Be About?

By  · Published on January 14th, 2015

Sony Pictures Classics

Apparently flying high on its very first pair of Golden Globe wins, thanks to original series Transparent, emerging television force Amazon has announced that it has hired on a sizable name to helm yet another new series: Woody Allen. The new project will mark the writer and director’s first journey to small-screen creation ‐ though, in his early years, Allen did write for shows like Stanley and Candid Camera — and although the news that Allen is set to work in a new medium is interesting, it comes with a caveat.

Namely, that Woody Allen has no idea what the hell his new show is going to be about.

The Untitled Woody Allen Project (Or Whatever The Good Goddamn We Feel Like Calling It) has already earned itself a full series order from Amazon, but neither Allen nor his new network have any clue whatsoever what the series will be about. Sounds great. Allen will write and direct all episodes of whatever the hell he feels like churning out, and the series will premiere exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video, probably even if the whole endeavor is a giant mess, because this is what happens when you give someone (anyone) what amounts to a blank check.

Of the news, Allen himself commented: “I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price [Vice President of Amazon Studios] will regret this.”

This is a real comment from a real writer and director in response to real deal made in Hollywood this very week.

Amazon didn’t hit it big in the television arena by hiring a big name like Allen first –Transparent creator Jill Soloway, while an accomplished veteran of shows like Six Feet Under, doesn’t have nearly the same recognition of Allen. (Soloway does have a pair of Sundance films under her belt, though, and while I was not a fan of her 2013 entry Afternoon Delight, she has a unique and strong voice that should get all the series orders and movie greenlights possible.) Amazon didn’t seem particularly interested in turning to showboating and recognizable names when it took on Soloway’s series, instead they seemed enamored by her creativity, ideas, and story. What a concept!

Snapping up Allen ‐ well-known auteur, proven Hollywood quantity, and publicly embattled man ‐ runs counter-intuitive to what Amazon started building when they started making Transparent, a groundbreaking and sensitively-made series. (Soloway, in a refreshing change of pace from other Hollywood creators, responded to criticism from the transgender community by hiring a transgender writer to add authenticity and experience to her series, while also making it a priority to employ other transgender people in various roles on her crew.) That Allen snagged a deal (a full series order!) without so much as a title for his series, much less an actual idea behind it is baffling and, frankly, pretty insulting. There can scarcely be even the most half-hearted of debates that Allen got this deal simply because of his name. The lackadaisical approach to the material, the “oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something attitude!” presented by Allen, obviously in an attempt to add levity to a mighty slim announcement, instead reads as smug and immature.

But it doesn’t matter, because Allen will surely be able to mine his frequent and repetitive tropes, trends and tricks to put together something familiar, if not workable for Amazon and however many episodes the series they’ve ordered sight unseen. Despite heaps of personal troubles, Allen has continued to crank out films with startling regularity ‐ at least one a year, dating all the way back to 1981 ‐ and although there have been a handful of notable winners in the bunch (Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris are arguably two of his best works), they’ve been unfortunately trapped amongst lesser efforts like Magic in the Moonlight, To Rome With Love and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Allen’s next feature project (incidentally listed on IMDb as Untitled Woody Allen Project, and please God, don’t let this be some kind of trick, because we can’t stand the idea of watching this sort of plot play out week after week) is not only rife with all the usual Allen-isms, but it’s also stunningly tone-deaf. That film, reportedly one that stars Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, is set “on a small town college campus, [where] a philosophy professor in existential crisis gives his life new purpose when he enters into a relationship with his student.” Is Allen so creatively tapped out that he needs to start cribbing from Josh Radnor movies that made less than a half-million dollars at the box office? (Honest, true apology to Radnor here, I liked Liberal Arts.)

Allen’s Amazon series will, almost assuredly, feature some mop-topped neurotic male who finds his worldview thrown for a loop by some lesser version of a manic pixie dream girl. It will probably take place in New York. Allen’s usual performers might turn out to play around in the small screen sandbox. It will be wry and sardonic and it will not contain a lick of actual insight not already delivered by Allen’s previous work.

What should Woody Allen’s Amazon television series be about? It doesn’t matter ‐ and even its own creator thinks so, too.

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