Mozart in the Jungle, one of Amazon's newest pilots, is good on paper. Thankfully, that translates to something we hope gets picked up.
Amazon Studios has once again put its pilots online for the general viewing public to judge, and it's fair to say that Mozart in the Jungle is already better than anything Amazon put out last year, which, yes, included a musical about a Huffington Post-like publication.
But Mozart in the Jungle—based on a book by Blair Tindall—immediately ups the game. Coming from Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, and Alex Timbers, the pilot has a touch of Altman in it as it delves into the world of classical musicians in New York. Lola Kirke—Jemima's sister—is the newbie Hailey, an oboist currently playing in a Broadway pit and teaching lessons while waiting for her break. (She's also kissing hot Juilliard ballet students.) Malcolm McDowell is the symphony conductor, being pushed out for Gael Garcia Bernal's sexy Rodrigo, who has a touch of Gustavo Dudamel to him. Bernadette Peters plays the symphony board's chairman doing the pushing. Constantine Maroulis has a cameo playing a guy playing Oedipus in a Broadway show featuring the music of Styx—a winking send up of Maroulis' involvement in Rock of Ages.
The pilot deals with a pretentious subject in an unpretentious way, and that's maybe what makes it so fun: it advances the notion that people involved in high art aren't necessarily all that classy. In one scene, for instance, Hailey's friends force her into a drinking competition with a flutist. The game involves spinning a bottle to determine how many shots the competitors have to take and what style of music they have to play.
There is, of course, work to do. I want to see more from Saffron Burrows' veteran cello player and how she becomes a mentor to Hailey. I want Bernal's Rodrigo to have more character traits than simply "sexy" and "ambitious." I want to see more Bernadette. (I always want to see more of Bernadette.) The key thing here is I want more, which I couldn't really say of any of what Amazon had to offer last year.
We'll chime in with thoughts about the other pilots Amazon has available as we get a chance to watch them, and they sound equally promising. For instance, a comedy from Jill Soloway features Jeffrey Tambor and Gaby Hoffmann, and Amazon ventures into hour-long programming with two dramas, including one from X-Files creator Chris Carter.