Amazon’s TV pilots showcase strong female representation

Amazon pilots like “Sea Oak” saw high ratings from viewers.

Last Friday, Amazon released three new shows as a part of their biannual pilot season program. The way the pilot season works is they release a bunch of pilot episodes for new shows, after which the viewers are able to rate and review them. The ones with the best ratings get picked up for a series order. This winter, they released three new pilots — “I Love You More,” “Sea Oak” and “The Climb” — showing a push for female representation both on and off the camera.

“I Love You More”

“I Love You More” follows Karen Best, a middle-aged woman who’s described as “a big girl with a big personality and a big love of Chardonnay.” She’s played by Bridget Everett, who you may know as the gal pal of Amy Schumer, often appearing on her show, “Inside Amy Schumer.” Beside trying to maneuver herself through the world of dating and hook-ups, Karen is busy with her job at an independent-living residence for adults living with Down syndrome.

Everett is really spectacular and really unapologetic in the show. Her comedy has always been so physical and open, and she’s carried that into this really well. Her character, Karen, is such a new representation of what womanhood looks like. Sometimes womanhood is a hot mess — like your-boob-popping-out-of-your-top-in-the-middle-of-work kind of hot mess. Also, since the show takes place in this living residence, we get a really fantastic cast of actors with Down syndrome as well — one of whom is “American Horror Story” fave, Jamie Brewer.

Though it was a feat of representation, it fell flat otherwise. Everett, who often utilizes musical numbers in her stand-up, broke out into song towards the end of the episode. The song itself was really funny, but the one-off musical number felt really disjointed from the rest of the episode. Don’t get me wrong; I love musical numbers, but in order to pull them off, you’ve got to commit to the genre (see “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” as exhibit A).

“Sea Oak”

My personal favorite of the three pilots was “Sea Oak,” and it was definitely the one I was least excited to watch. The show plays heavily with genre, creating this simultaneously hilarious and dark final product. Glenn Close plays Bernie, an incredibly meek and nervous woman who’s taking care of her horrible nieces, Min and Jade, and well-meaning nephew, Cole, but is consistently overlooked and ignored by everyone. Bernie ends up dying after their home in the run-down subsidized housing unit, Sea Oak, is robbed. Min, Jade and Cole swear to find justice for their aunt, but come home from the funeral to find Bernie back from the dead and hell-bent on living life to the fullest this time around.

Glenn Close is truly incredible in this. The range of character depth she gave in the pilot alone is going to stick with me for a long time. Also, I never really knew Zombie Glenn Close is something my life was lacking until now. Jack Quaid (who plays Cole) gives a really sweet and heartfelt performance as well. Everything about this show is excellent, from the writing to the cinematography and cast. Amazon has another winner on their hands with this one, and I’m incredibly confident on the full-series pick-up of this show. I anxiously await the next episode.

“The Climb”

In “The Climb,” we get a completely different glimpse into womanhood when we meet Nia (Diarra Kilpatrick), an unsatisfied 20-something who dreams of being a social media persona, like her idol Copper Lewinsky. She’s making it day-by-day in Detroit with the help of her best friend, Misty (Alysha Umphress).

It’s no surprise that after the success of HBO’s “Insecure,” other studios would try to step up and take their shot at it. The parallels between the two are pretty heavy, even down to the protagonist’s mirror pep-talks and momentary slips into their own fantasies. However, if we had an “Insecure” on every channel or streaming service, the world may be a better place. Kilpatrick and Umphress are both really fun, especially when they share the screen. The chemistry between the duo is something to marvel at.

The biggest thing that’s keeping “The Climb” from getting picked up for a full series is the writing; it’s pretty cringe-y throughout. Though I’m tempted to give it to them this time since the show is going for such a strong tone from Kilpatrick, it’s hard to establish it in one episode alone.

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