The Amazon Prime instant streaming service unveiled their Pilot Season promotion recently, posting prototype episodes for several new series – eight comedies and six children’s shows — that will see their futures decided by the viewers. Hopefully, the two science-based series for children will fare well, but we’ve already half-warned you about the lackluster Zombieland pilot. Luckily, the above pilot for Dark Minions stands an Ant Guy head above the gory zombie showing.
Watch now for free at Amazon right now, but be warned that the often foul language makes this NSFW.
While The Big Bang Theory creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady are no strangers to science fiction, recurring guest stars Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie show off their own geeked-out storytelling through stop-motion. Dark Minions follows two hapless twenty-somethings, Mel (Bowie) and Andy (Sussman), aboard the Galactic Conglomerate Spaceport, headed by the domineering, bloodthirsty, and somewhat imbecilic Drebnor (Clancy Brown), and his right-hand man Feldenbaum (Richard Kind). They want to control the galaxy, and though Mel and Andy don’t buy into their takeover-the-universe plans, becoming a faceless drone for the GCS was about the only option left.
Because this wasn’t a sure thing, there was no reason for director Ross Shuman — who is directing the wicked-looking upcoming stop-motion comedy Hell & Back — to get his creative team to animate the entire thing, so much of the episode is just animatic stills beneath the dialogue. Understanding those limitations, I wasn’t bothered by it, though I wonder how much it would have saved a few of the jokes that fell flattest.
The plot sends Hal and Andy down to the planet Kavnicia for a recon mission, a job that doesn’t serve much of a purpose seeing as now Drebnor wants to destroy the planet immediately after having a conversation about naming it. But it allows Mel to meet and soon become wooed by Carly, the cutesy revolutionary living on Kavnicia. Lance Supernova (Andrew Daly) is Carly’s partner in anti-GCS activity. Marijuana is involved. And then Mel and Andy have to save the planet from getting destroyed by the…well, by the still-nameless doomsday device.
This is the kind of comedy Dark Minions immediately sets out to be: the sci-fi workplace comedy that has conversations about hypothetical names for a doomsday device, since the one they chose was too similar to another one and could have led to legal action. (The “End of Days Helper” option was my favorite.) There’s nothing wrong with this approach, as it’s milked well on several levels, but the writing could have been tighter. I’m all for marijuana humor most of the time, but it felt tacked on here, as a way of…hold on a second…
…as a way of expressing a character’s laziness. Unless it’s a one-off joke or the plot specifically revolves around it, it’s just…whatever that word is. A lot of the one-off jokes worked well, such as a man getting taken into custody for his recycling habits, and Phil LaMarr makes an odd appearance and delivers a nice Hank Williams joke as radio’s DJ Wormhole. But there was something about the episode as a whole that made the show feel like a Syfy or USA Network production, and I was hoping Amazon would nail their original programming like Netflix has, for the most part.
If you’ve made it this far without watching it yet, please give Dark Minions your time, as it’s definitely worth the laughs and your vote, probably. I admit I haven’t watched all the pilots yet so I have no basis of comparison, though I’d probably vote for this just for the sci-fi angle. Space rules!