Friday, February 21, 2014

Amazon REBELS From Good Content

Article first published as Amazon REBELS From Good Content on TheTVKing.

One of Amazon's new comedy pilots is The Rebels. Julie Levine's (Natalie Zea, Justified, The Following) husband dies and she inherits a football team called The Rebels. Unfortunately, she knows little to nothing about the sport, complaining about the team's "costumes," but after a few sad words from her son, Chris (Aidan Potter, Playing for Keeps), decides to keep them, much to the dismay of other owners. Now if she can only figure out how to turn the losing team around...

Right out of the box it seems a little odd that Julie's husband is so beloved for having a team with such a poor record. He must have really been one special person in order for everyone to forgive him for his lack of wins. So the premise is a little off.

The team itself is ridiculously cartoonish. After Julie appoints her inherited bumbling assistant, Danny (Josh Peck, Drake & Josh), to General Manager, something that could or should never happen, we see him go through the roster of inept players, including Lamont (Affion Crockett, This Means War), who avoids getting let go through tears. It's a Bad News Bears-esque situation, a bunch of misfits who were somehow hired to play professional football, but surely don't act like the athletes we're familiar with.

Because of rights issues, The Rebels can't mention the NFL. Instead, they choose other letters, even though they seem to keep the same sportscasters, cameoing as themselves. I know this is an unavoidable logistics issue, the same reason a fake team is chosen, but it's distracting and will confused some viewers, who will likely assume the team is not in the national league.

This series is also set in L.A. Why L.A.? It's not like they're known for their football, so I guess perhaps that's why the writers think they can get away with putting a terrible team there, if there was any thinking behind the decision at all. But it's a setting I've recently complained in other reviews has been done to death, and it sucks they're using it again. The only benefit of being in L.A. is that it makes the drug parties and monkey with a gun seem just a tad more realistic, as that is about the only city in the country such shindigs would take place in without anyone blinking an eye.

The male romantic lead introduced in The Rebels is Rick Massella (Hayes MacArthur, Go On, Perfect Couples). He's a washed-up player whom Danny approaches to play quarterback after the ego of their draft pick, referred to as "Jesus" (Alan Ritchson, Blue Mountain State), proves a bad fit for the group chemistry. But of course Rick has already had a bad run-in with Julie, making his plot as rote as it is predictable, and setting the two up for an eventually messy relationship.

And that's really the whole problem with The Rebels. As much as I like Zea, Peck, and MacArthur as actors, and they lend as much authenticity as possible under the circumstances to the roles, the story is a familiar movie formula from last century, and there's little originality to be found. The Rebels may be enjoyable, certainly better than the similar freshman baseball sitcom Back in the Game, but far from anything groundbreaking.

Halfway through Amazon's current batch of pilots, I'm disturbed by the lack of freshness in this round. After a great initial launch last year, one might assume Amazon aimed to compete with the premium and cable channels willing to take chances in their offerings and do something different. The Rebels is not a good step in that direction.

The Rebels "Pilot" is available now for free streaming on Amazon.

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