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Amazon's third pilot season will feature five new shows

Amazon is gearing up for its third pilot season, in which it will present five new shows for users to watch, rate, and review. Starting on August 28, three half-hour comedies and two hour-long dramas will be made available on Amazon Instant Video in both the U.S. and the UK. Users will be able to watch the pilots, rate them, and even comment on them. By the end of the pilot season, that feedback helps choose which shows become an Amazon Original series.

Here’s a quick rundown of this year’s pilots: READ FULL STORY

Steven Soderbergh, David Gordon Green collaborate on Amazon's final 2014 pilot

Clearly, “retirement” means something else in Soderberghland.

Though the Academy Award-winning director has stuck to his promise to stop directing feature films since 2012 (when he shot Behind the Candelabra), Soderbergh has hardly stopped making art in the intervening years. Recent projects include directing Cinemax’s 10-episode period drama The Knick (premiering this summer), helming an Off-Broadway play starring Chloe Grace Moretz, editing together a mashup of Hitchcock’s Psycho and Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, executive producing a TV series based on his 2009 indie film The Girlfriend Experience for Starz—and, now, overseeing another TV show, this time for Amazon.

The retail giant announced today that it has added a fifth and final series to its third pilot season: the ’80s-set coming-of-age comedy Red Oaks, executive produced by Soderbergh and directed by David Gordon Green (of Eastbound & Down and Pineapple Express fame).

Red Oaks follows a college student (Craig Roberts, Submarine) who meets a cast of colorful characters during his summer job at the eponymous country club. Those characters include a “corporate raider” played by Mad About You‘s Paul Reiser and his daughter, an “alluring” art student (Alexandra Socha, Royal Pains). Richard Kind (A Serious Man), Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), and Oliver Cooper (Californication) also star in the pilot.

Like the rest of Amazon’s productions, Red Oaks will debut on Prime Instant Video later this year; customer feedback will determine which pilots are picked up and developed into full series.

Amazon announces another pilot: 'Hysteria,' starring Mena Suvari

An American Beauty is coming to the small screen.

Weeks after revealing its plans to debut the Sarah Chalke comedy Really during its upcoming third pilot season, Amazon has announced another pilot: Hysteria, an hourlong dramatic thriller from singer-turned-TV-multihyphenate Shaun Cassidy starring Mena Suvari.

According to Amazon’s official description, “Hysteria takes viewers to Austin where members of a girls’ competitive dance team are stricken with a strange, psycho-physiological illness that manifests in violent fits and spasms. Neurologist Logan Harlen (Suvari) is called back to her hometown to investigate the cause. Fighting her own demons (and the growing manipulation of a brother on death row), Logan develops an uneasy suspicion that the hysteria surrounding the girls might actually be linked to social media and her own tragic past.”

Though it’s not mentioned in the release, the story seems inspired by a twitching epidemic that affected a group of teenage girls in Le Roy, New York, in 2012—an incident that also served as the basis for Megan Abbott’s recent novel The Fever.

The pilot will be directed by BAFTA winner Otto Bathurst, late of the U.K. series Peaky Blinders. It will also star James McDaniel (NYPD Blue), Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds), Adan Canto (Mixology), Laura San Giacomo (Saving Grace), and T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy). Just like the rest of Amazon’s productions, Hysteria will debut on Prime Instant Video later this year; customer feedback will determine which pilots are picked up and developed into full series.

Melora Hardin joins cast of Amazon's 'Transparent'

Melora Hardin, who many may recognize as Michael’s quirky on-again off-again girlfriend Jan from The Office, is set to join the cast of Amazon’s Transparenta representative confirmed to EW.

READ FULL STORY

HBO makes huge Amazon Prime deal: See which shows are going online

Big news for HBO fans: You can now watch many shows from the pay cable service without actually paying for cable, or buying the DVDs (or pirating the shows).

HBO has made a major deal with Amazon that gives Amazon Prime members unlimited streaming access to past seasons of shows like The Sopranos and Deadwood, as well as select seasons of current series such as True Blood and Boardwalk Empire. (See the full list below.) This is HBO’s first deal licensing its content to a streaming service. On average, the deal covers content that is at least three years old. For newer seasons, sorry — HBO still requires you get a subscription with a cable or satellite provider.

The network has previously licensed some content to basic cable networks, a move that’s actually keeping a few shows off Amazon Prime for the time being since they’re tied up in other deals (namely, Sex and the City, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm). READ FULL STORY

Amazon greenlights new pilot 'The Cosmopolitans,' starring Adam Brody and Chloe Sevigny

Amazon Studios continues to curate original programming featuring big-name stars with the announcement that it has greenlit two new pilots: the half-hour dramatic comedy The Cosmopolitans and the hour-long drama Hand of God. READ FULL STORY

Amazon unveils Fire TV, a streaming device to rival Apple TV and Chromecast

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Amazon wants its consumers to keep their media streaming all in the family.

The online behemoth unveiled Fire TV on Wednesday, the company’s own device set to rival Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku in the online streaming game. That’s right — you can now watch an Amazon original series, exclusive to Amazon Prime Instant Video, via Amazon hardware.

Fire TV retails for $99, the same cost as Apple TV (Chromecast, meanwhile, is $35, while Roku starts at $49.99). For the price tag, you get access to Amazon’s catalog of more than 200,000 movies and TV shows, with even more titles available to Prime members (who pay a soon-to-be $99 annual subscription fee). Fire TV owners can also access other subscription streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, on the device. READ FULL STORY

Amazon picks up six pilots, second season of 'Alpha House'

The Amazon original Alpha House garnered over 6,000 five-star reviews during its first season, and it’s not stopping now: Amazon announced today that the political comedy is getting a second season.

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Dana Delany cast in Amazon's drama pilot 'Hand of God'

Two-time Emmy winner and former Body of Proof star Dana Delany has been cast in a leading role as Crystal Harris in Amazon Studio’s drama pilot Hand of God.

The studio’s description of the pilot: Hand of God centers on the powerful Judge Pernell (Ron Perlman, Sons of Anarchy) a hard-living, law-bending married man (to protective wife Crystal Harris) with a high-end call girl on the side, who has a religious awakening. He begins having visions and hearing voices through his ventilator-bound son that could be God speaking to him.

The script is by Ben Watkins (Burn Notice) and will be directed by Marc Forster (World War Z) — both will also serve as executive producers, alongside Perlman and Brian Wilkins.

Lawsuits claim Amazon Prime gouged customers on items with free shipping

That “free shipping” perk of your Amazon Prime membership might not be such a great deal after all. Two separate lawsuits recently filed against Amazon claim the “world’s largest online retailer” encourages sellers to inflate prices on some products in order to cover shipping costs.

A $79 Amazon Prime membership (soon to cost $99)  is advertised as providing customers with free two-day shipping on “millions” of items. Alabama resident Marcia Burke accused Amazon of encouraging third-party vendors to “conceal the shipping charges in the price of the product,” according to her lawsuit filed last Friday in federal court in Seattle.

The suit gives this example: If an item regularly sells for $10 with $3.99 shipping, Amazon suggests a vendor selling that product to a Prime member — someone who is getting “free shipping” — should charge $13.99 or higher. Prime-eligible products are highlighted on the website, and the suit claims, “[Amazon] provides these vendors priority by showing their items first in the Prime member’s product search results,” essentially duping those customers.

READ FULL STORY

Amazon Prime hikes price

For the first time, Amazon is raising the price of its Prime free-shipping program for U.S. members — which includes access to the unlimited Prime Instant Video service. The cost is increasing from $79 to $99 per year. Current members will be charged $79 if their membership renews before April 17 and $99 if their membership renews on or after that date.

Announcing the change in a notice on their website, the company also noted that Amazon Student members can get Prime for $49. It added that the fee for Prime Fresh membership will remain unchanged at $299.

Though Amazon declined to give a reason for the prince increase, an influx of Prime Instant Video content would seem to be partially responsible. In addition to an increasing volume of original shows, the Prime library also includes exclusive streaming rights for programs like Downtown Abbey and Veronica Mars.

'The After': First look at the upcoming apocalypse pilot from 'The X-Files' creator Chris Carter

Call it the Apopcalypse: Pop culture’s continuing fascination with the end of the world as we know it. The latest work of epic eschatology is The After, a new mid-apocalyptic pilot from Chris Carter, the man behind shows like The X-Files and Millennium. The show will debut as part of Amazon Studios’ second-ever pilot season—with an exact premiere date still TBA—and viewers will get to decide whether they want a full season to find out what brought human civilization to a grinding halt. It looks a bit Lost-y in how it keeps most of its plot points in a mystery box, as eight (possibly connected) strangers are trapped together following an unexplained event. Check out the trailer below. READ FULL STORY

Amazon denies plans to launch live-TV streaming service -- UPDATED

UPDATE: Amazon has denied reports that it is in the very early stages of developing a service that would enable paid subscribers to stream live TV channels that are currently offered through cable and satellite providers.

“We continue to build selection for Prime Instant Video and create original shows at Amazon Studios, but we are not planning to license television channels or offer a pay-TV service,” a spokesperson for Amazon said in a statement to EW.

Earlier, a report by the Wall Street Journal claimed that Amazon had already met with three major entertainment companies about licensing the television channels they offer.

Even though Amazon is apparently out of this particular quest, others — like Sony and Google Inc. — continue to publicly explore the opportunity to bring live TV to the streaming audience. But, WSJ pointed out, all face an uphill battle as carrier fees are a major moneymaker for big media companies who license their channels.

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