With the mountainous amount of quality TV available on Netflix, HBO, AMC, & FX, I keep putting off watching any Amazon original shows even though I've heard many good things about some of them. I had to watch the pilot for The Last Tycoon, however. I tend to dislike modern film industry-themed narratives, but make it a good period piece, and I'm in.
The Last Tycoon was the novel that F. Scott Fitzgerald was working on when he died. It was loosely based on the life of Irving G. Thalberg, the Universal & MGM wunderkind who defined what a Hollywood super-producer should be. The novel was unfinished and unpolished upon Fitzgerald's death, and I was not going to read something in a not-meant-to-be-read condition from such an iconic author. However, when it was announced that Sony was making it into a series to be aired on HBO, I was excited. It fell apart at HBO, like so many projects do, but Amazon swooped in to pick it up. I'm glad they did.
Amazon has pilot-offs, where pilots go against each other in competition, and then the winner gets picked up. The Last Tycoon pilot won the previous competition, so it's going into production now. They're leaving the pilot up for us to watch to get a taste of what's coming.
It's well-produced. The casting is solid. Kelsey Grammer and Lilly Collins might be the biggest named stars, but seasoned actor Matt Bomer more than holds his own. The sets are terrific and effectively put one back into 1930's Hollywood. Amazon is certainly spending some money on some of their shows.
Most of the ratings for the pilot were in the 8.5/B+ range. I think that's pretty accurate. Since I love that era so much, I'd probably even rate it a bit higher. It did what a pilot should do: efficiently set up the characters and setting, put up some obstacles, and leave us hanging so we want more.
I'm not sure when the full first season will be released. I'm guessing not for awhile. But if you're looking for a good, old school, 1930's Hollywood story, definitely check out the pilot on your Amazon Prime.
Jon David Rosten, author of
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