Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Amazon cancel THE AFTER; is their whole system flawed?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Chris Carter's new sci-fi drama was chosen to become a full series in March 2014, but Amazon Prime yesterday announced they won't be moving forward with an intended eight-episode commitment to post-apocalyptic mystery THE AFTER.

Doesn't this call into question Amazon's whole process with their pilots, which subscriber feedback supposedly seals the fates of? It's becoming increasingly clear that Amazon choose whatever they think has a real chance of success and longevity, and it just so happens to match what viewers also think (most of the time). Although, of course, Amazon have the advantage of knowing what a full series would resemble because they can talk to the creators, whereas viewers are reacting on pure gut-feeling to an introductory episode.

And now it seems Amazon can have second thoughts about everything, a whole year later, and cancel a project they'd previously announced would happen because of positive viewer response.

I don't begrudge Amazon making this decision. They clearly got a sense that The After was going to be a terrible show, so why recklessly pump cash into a disaster waiting to happen? I just wish they'd consequently admit their entire process is heavily flawed and little more than a piece of marketing bullshit...
'Come and vote for your favourite of these avant-garde pilots', they say. 'And we'll make MORE of whatever YOU love the most. The power's in YOUR hands, not the out-of-touch suits in charge of traditional networks, who have advertisers and share-holder to please, or the inhuman algorithms of Netflix that declare the world wants more Adam Sandler movies.'
Well, that's nonsense. Viewers don't have any real power with Amazon's decision-making. It's a nice idea that appeals to a feeling of democracy, but viewers shouldn't be in charge of commissioning anything based on a pilot. And it seems like a waste of time for Amazon to keep creating a dozen or more pilots every year (all of a decent enough standard), only to essentially cherry pick their favourites anyway. Where's the cold hard evidence that people wanted to see more of The After? And if they really did vote their support in droves, were people thinking about its longterm creative chances, or just that it was a more fun vote to cast?

Amazon's biggest success has been with the family drama Transparent about a father undergoing a sex change, which was a pilot I really didn't like. I was astonished they took it to series, and would love to know if the online votes genuinely backed it. It feels like Amazon simply knew that it would work for their marketplace, and—voila!—they have a hit.

Maybe they should just forego the 'vote for your favourite pilot' rubbish and do what Netflix do: make good shows that traditional broadcasters find too risky because of their advertising-led business models. I'd certainly have more respect for that, because championing a pilot that takes anywhere from 6-12 months to become a series, and in the meantime may just get canned by Amazon because of creative problems... well, it isn't fun.