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