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Amazon pilot contest includes 'Hand of God' with Ron Perlman

Dana Delany and Ron Perlman in the drama

Dana Delany and Ron Perlman in the drama "Hand of God." Photo Credit: AP / Amazon Studios

Amazon's third annual experiment in TV democracy, where you pick which of their new pilots should live ... or not, begins Thursday. My votes:

THE COSMOPOLITANS

Whit Stillman comedy-of-manners, set in Paris, with Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny.

In the (apparently) idealized Stillman world, nothing much really happens. Instead, people of a certain class and style talk, observe, drink -- then do it all over again. To fans, this comedy-of-manners banter is pure charm; to detractors, fingernails across the chalkboard. Take your pick! For me, a Stillman TV series, particularly one based in Paris, is irresistible, even if the full flavor here is a little wan.

GRADE B

HAND OF GOD

Marc Forster's ("Finding Neverland") drama about a corrupt judge (Ron Perlman) who finds God after his son attempts suicide.

Anything with Perlman automatically gets my vote. But an asterisk should be appended: Forster's first TV effort is relentlessly dark and cluttered, and its world filled with parasites, and con men. Perlman's Pernell Harris may be first among their equals here, too -- a hard character to like, or fully comprehend, given that his religious conversion feels almost as casual as a trip to McDonald's. But with its hard-boiled edge, "Hand of God" at least feels compelling.

GRADE B-

REALLY

Comedy about married Chicago couple (Jay Chandrasekhar, Sarah Chalke) and their pals.

On paper, a sitcom with Chandrasekhar -- founder of comedy troupe Broken Lizard -- sounds promising, and so (logic dictates) does "Really." Add Chalke, and what's not to like? The show, as it turns out: Annoying married people discuss sex lives, perform sex acts.

GRADE D+

RED OAKS

Steven Soderbergh-produced comedy about a pair of tennis pros at a New Jersey golf club, set in the mid-'80s.

A funky retro-'80s distinctiveness makes "Red Oaks" Amazon's single best new series. Dryly amusing, the characters are sharply drawn and often appealing -- even when they are not. Ennis Esmer ruthlessly heists every scene he's in, and Craig Roberts deftly creates a character you may even recognize from your own past -- only funnier.

GRADE B+

HYSTERIA

In this Austin-set series, cheerleaders come down with a "psycho-physiological illness" that may be spread ... through YouTube. Stars Mena Suvari and James McDaniel.

Full of frantically shaking cheerleaders, puzzled doctors, incomprehensible dialogue -- and a plot to match -- "Hysteria" is a forlorn mess.

GRADE D

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