Amazon has had some success this year with original programming—the fall’s best new show is definitely the wonderful Transparent. Part of that success may come from its unique pilot season: Amazon debuts all at its new shows at once and then lets viewers vote on the ones that should be picked up. This morning, Amazon released the list of the fourth batch of pilots: The six new shows for the 2015 season include, as usual, both comedies and dramas. But there’s a seventh show that doesn’t fall into either category: Jigsaw Productions and Condé Nast Entertainment will join forces to create The New Yorker Presents. It’s what Amazon has dubbed a “docu-series.”
It’s not exactly clear what a docu-series is. The release describes the show, directed by Alex Gibney (dubbed by Esquire “the most important documentarian of our time”), as the magazine come to life. And, as in the magazine, there seems to be both fact and fiction involved. So whatever a docu-series is, it isn’t a documentary, apparently.
But the lineup, at least for the pilot, sounds pretty great, if a little vague. Alan Cumming and Brett Gelman will star in a short film based on a story by Simon Rich. Is this an already published story or one that will debut with the pilot? It’s not clear. Rich, who has written for Saturday Night Live, wrote a screenplay for his book Spoiled Brats, and Sony Pictures acquired the movie rights to “Sell Out” after it appeared in The New Yorker. He did not return an email.
There will also be a documentary segment from Jonathan Demme about Tyrone Hayes, who Rachel Aviv profiled in the magazine, and Ariel Levy will interview Marina Abramović (who Judith Thurman profiled in the magazine). There will be a poem by Matthew Dickman. How will this poem be integrated into the show? Will he just stand there reading it? Will it be accompanied by animation? We don’t know. I emailed The New Yorker, and they directed me to Amazon. I was not given any additional details.
Since Amazon only makes the pilot before picking up a series, all this will presumably transpire in just 30 minutes, or less time than it takes to read an especially long piece in the magazine (or to pile up all your unread New Yorkers, look for an article to start with, and then give up on ever finishing them).
The series won’t be the magazine’s first foray into performance. For the past 15 years The New Yorker has had great success with their annual festival, which consists primarily of interviews and discussions, but also includes concerts and movie premieres. More recently, editor-in-chief David Remnick has appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers to bring the magazine’s famous cartoons to life, which some have argued succeeds in finally making them funny. Here’s hoping the Amazon pilot is equally successful.