Amazon released three new half-hour comedy pilots: Love You More, The Climb, and Sea Oak. As with past pilot offerings, Amazon asks viewers to take a brief survey to help determine which shows should be ordered to series. While I see Amazon’s intention behind soliciting viewer feedback, I also question the validity of this method. Not least because I had trouble even finding these shows. When I logged in through my Amazon Fire Stick, none of the three pilots appeared in any of the primary lists of Prime TV series on my homepages. When I used my voice remote to search for Love You More, Alexa kindly responded “That’s nice of you.” I had to search for Bridget Everett to actually find the show. One has to wonder how much Amazon really cares about any of these series when the content is so deeply buried.
Love You More
“Karen Best has a big life. She’s a big girl with a big personality and a big love of Chardonnay, which occasionally, causes her to make some big mistakes with men. But the biggest thing about Karen is her big heart, a heart she uses to excel at her job as a counselor at a group home for young adults with Down syndrome located in an old brownstone in New York City.”
Like Everett’s live act, Love You More balances brashness and shock value with an underlying sweetness. The show features one of Everett’s NSFW original songs, and while utilizing the comic’s existing work is understandable, it would’ve been nice to see something brand new in the show.
Buoyed by a strong supporting cast of actors with Down syndrome (including American Horror Story’s Jamie Brewer and Secret Life of the American Teenager’s Luke Zimmerman) and Loni Anderson as Karen’s roommate, Love You More finds its best moments in the smaller, more intimate interactions between characters.
The show certainly raises Everett’s live act to a newer, and more nuanced, level, and it was my favorite of the three pilots I watched. I’d like to see Amazon give Love You More a chance to grow and develop.
“An office assistant in Detroit seeks an extraordinary life and internet fame, with her best friend always in tow.”
The Climb features writer and star Diarra Kilpatrick as Nia, an office drone searching in her words for “fulfillment.” She idolizes internet sensation Copper Lewinsky (played by supermodel Jessica White), and bristles at her stepmother’s dismissal of women who are famous for “nothing.” Nia and her best friend Misty represent the current state of millenial angst. They’re stuck in literal boxes at work, and live for happy hour and the “freakin’ weekend.”
The strongest element of the pilot is the friendship between Nia and Misty. Too few shows value interaction between female characters, and it’s great to see female friendship at the core of this pilot. The opening sequence of Nia describing a dream of literally birthing herself to Misty is the highlight of the episode, but the in between spaces drag a bit. I’d like to see The Climb embrace it’s more surreal and fantastical moments. The pilot sets us up for Nia’s journey to becoming herself, but it doesn’t give the audience much sense of where the story might lead. I’m not completely sold yet, but I’m intrigued enough to want more.
“Genre-bending comedy Sea Oak features Aunt Bernie, a meek, working-class woman who dies tragically in a home invasion. Compelled by sheer force of dissatisfaction, she comes back from the dead full of rage, determined to get the life she never had. She proceeds to inflict a range of demands on her immediate family who live in a low-end subsidized hellhole of a housing complex called Sea Oak. Sea Oak is created by George Saunders, 2017 Man Booker Prize winner for Lincoln in the Bardo.”
Sea Oak was my least favorite of the shows. The entire pilot episode of Sea Oak is simply build up to the final few minutes when Bernie returns from the dead. The pacing dragged throughout, and while comedy is certainly a matter of taste, characters who are simply stupid—like Bernie’s two nieces—just don’t strike me as funny. I suppose this can be characterized as comedy if you find an elderly zombie women swearing at her nieces and nephew amusing, but for me it felt like the opening to an absurdist horror movie. Classifications are a strange thing. Had this been presented as horror rather than comedy, my expectations may have been different, but as it was, I’m not interested enough to see where it goes from here. It feels like a waste of Glenn Close’s talent.
What I appreciated most about the three pilots was seeing Amazon take a chance on female-led, inclusive comedy. The execution is sometimes wanting, but there is a lot of potential here. I hope that if these shows are given full seasons that they improve upon their pilots. A rough pilot doesn’t always mean much. Some of my all-time favorite shows began with rocky pilots, but found their rhythm in their first seasons. I’d also like to see Amazon do more to promote these shows. It feels a bit as if they’re checking off boxes of inclusivity without really giving the content the opportunity to be successful.
A.R. Wasserman | Contributor