Amazon’s New Woody Allen Show Would Be A Bad Idea Even If He Wasn’t A Pedophile
As news broke yesterday that Amazon Studios brokered a deal with controversial filmmaker and alleged pedophile Woody Allen to create a TV series for the fledgling streaming network, perhaps no one encapsulated the reaction better than Allen himself. “My guess is that Roy Price will regret this.”
Price, vice president of Amazon Studios, likely will regret the partnership, but not simply because a company best known for shipping toiletries en masse should take a beat before getting into bed willingly (a subject Allen knows little about) with someone whose talents are not suited for episodic television (another subject Allen knows little about). Coming off critical acclaim and a Golden Globe victory for their latest series, the Jeffrey Tambor comedy “Transparent,” Amazon also gained huge ground in the LGBTQ community for thoughtfully representing transgender issues, in addition to maintaining its commitment to further diversity in television by hiring transgender voices to script the show as well.
While Amazon was using “Transparent” writer/producer Jill Soloway’s series to quietly attract more talent to their development slate (and compete with Netflix in the internet direct streaming space), Allen was dealing with the fallout of his daughter Dylan Farrow’s open letter in The New York Times, detailing how Allen had sexually abused her as a child. While the allegations had come up previously in 1993, when Allen split from wife Mia Farrow, the director was never charged, and much like Bill Cosby, allowed to carry on his merry way in Hollywood, making complicated films about women.
But it’s neither the disregard towards its grassroots minority communities who support their shows, nor the risk of Cosby-level backlash that Amazon should be worried about. On its face, this is just very likely not going to be the type of show that Amazon needs right now. Sure, it’s facing opposition against Netflix, who has been churning out hits with recent favorites “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” But what Netflix had in common for both of these series was the blessing of low expectations. Jenji Kohan (creator of “Orange is the New Black”) and Beau Willimon (creator of “House of Cards”) both had plenty of Hollywood cache to garner a full season order from a risk taking network, but not nearly the type of credentials Allen has been trading in the since the 70s. Unburdened by expectations of any sort really (back when “House of Cards” was on the verge of premiering, all the breathy fawning we have now over the show was preceded by articles judging whether Netflix’s risky $50 million bet would even pay off),the shows were able to stand out, rather than in the shadow of their creators.
Further, Amazon still hasn’t had a breakout hit the way Netflix has, even with their recent Golden Globe win. Much of it can be attributed to Amazon Prime’s barrier to entry — even if you have a Prime account, navigating the maze of bargain books, toilet paper, and add-on items to find its video offerings is a like traversing through a previously unwritten eighth circle of Dante. Then there was their whole “Project Greenlight”-esque competition to give viewers a chance to view 15 (fifteen!) pilots at once before voting on the ones they wanted to move forward. For Amazon to really break out for a commercial and critical success, they need to truly align closer to the Netflix model: a low fanfare show, an excellent script, a well-assembled cast, and expectations that aren’t reaching Icarus level heights before a concept is even place. And all of that is before even taking into consideration that an auteur like Woody Allen likely would be suited to the small screen, with the freedom of seven or so episodes to play out his banal musings on the mundanities of modern life. It won’t even matter how well he can execute in practice, because no Woody Allen TV show will ever be as good as a Woody Allen TV show should be.
Would it be great if Hollywood didn’t keep letting sexual predators like Allen, Cosby, and Roman Polanski fail upwards? Sure. Would it be even better if viewers put their consciences where their mouths were and stopped paying creators like Allen with their viewership? Absolutely. But these aren’t problems that Amazon is going to face, because we don’t live in that Hollywood ecosystem yet, and our status quo isn’t changing anytime soon. But those aren’t Amazon’s problems. Finding a hit to elevate their network: that is. Woody Allen’s new show? Not that hit.