Netflix is the online streaming Mother that’s getting all the love, after all they have many very popular shows under their belt and a solid collection of Film and TV titles that people love. Amazon Prime is the dorky cousin that you rarely see, its array of Films being poor at best (with exceptions), but with a strong backbone of TV highlights, namely shows that you won’t see in other places, such as HBO’s best.
Yet Prime is also moving in on the production of shows, but in a far safer way. Its commitment to the pilot show format, producing a single pilot and then getting viewers to vote on the ones they want to be commissioned, is a fantastic idea, that really gets viewers involved and engaged. Earlier on in the year, their most popular pilot, ‘The Man in the High Castle’, got sent to series based off of the idea.
Now, we’re getting another batch of pilots, and this time, the one I watched, was Sneaky Pete. The conceit of the show is a simple but exciting one, Giovanni Ribisi plays Marius, a con-man recently released from prison and hiding from some ‘mobsters’ he owes $100,000 to. He uses his confidence man tricks to trick the relatives of his ex bunk mate into thinking that he is their, estranged grandson of 20 years, Pete.
Amongst the lying and the deception, ‘Pete’ goes to work with cousin Julia, who runs the families bail bond business and proceeds to use his smarts to catch out criminals, in a seemingly weekly procedural type plot. Coming from ‘House’ creator, David Shore and ‘Breaking Bad’ star, Bryan Cranston, the show has real potential evident in one episode.
Whereas TV shows on Networks can offer take a while to get going, shows created on these streaming sites seem to get the juices flowing straight away. ‘Sneaky Pete’ sets up its world, characters, themes and situations during its 47 minute running time, and leaves you hoping that it gets commissioned for a full order.
It’s a really fantastic pilot that is brimming with potential and is indebted to the creative minds that helped make two of TVs best shows. The script is sharp and exciting, the direction sleek but, for a test pilot, not showy and the cast all excellent. For me though the real joy was Ribisi, an actor who you usually see as the comedic sidekick or the oddball character, but here proves that he is without a doubt strong leading man material.
His grizzled sardonic expression encapsulates the character perfectly, and the delivery of his lines buzzes with wit and intrigue. He plays the character as quick witted and very clever, he manages to wiggle into or out of situations with carefully placed words or ploys that can be funny, but mostly leaves you feeling impressed. The episode mostly sticks to the partnership of Pete and Julia, with the latter joining him in certain ploys to get the job done.
These moments are where the joys of the show lie, the funny, often exciting scenes in which they work together, playing other people and providing the show with its heart. Its clear this is inspired by the quick witted diagnosis of Dr House. Around the con of the week element is the drama that Pete is running from, a brother back in the city who is under duress from the villains, and an exciting lead mobster who will provide the show its moustachio twirling villain.
Overall, this is a fantastic pilot with a lot of real promise if it gets sent to series. Its proof that Netflix aren’t the only ones who can make good TV online, there’s strong competition coming their way.
Rating: A- 9/10