MaHB / TV: Get Ready For More Surprises

Esquire Malaysia, March 2016

Mozart In The Jungle

Get Ready For More Surprises
The likes of Amazon Video are showing they have what it takes to play with the big boys.

By Sophia Goh

At this year’s Golden Globe Awards, when the nominees for Best Actor in a Television Comedy were called, Aziz Ansari sacrificed his three seconds of the spotlight to hide behind a book titled Losing to Jeffrey Tambor With Dignity. (Props to Ansari, not just for a joke well played, but also for his very well received Netflix series Master of None.)

But, as we quickly found out, early favourite and last year’s winner Tambor didn’t nab the trophy for his undoubtedly brilliant turn in Transparent. Instead, a guy named Gael García Bernal did. You may have heard of him, he’s a Mexican actor best known for the movies The Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mamá También, and for dating Natalie Portman a long, long time ago.

Bernal won for his role as the eccentric and charming orchestra conductor Rodrigo de Souza in the Amazon Video series Mozart in the Jungle, and I surely wasn’t the only person who went, Mozart what?

Mozart in the Jungle would go on to win Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy, topping the likes of Orange Is the New Black from Netflix, Silicon Valley from HBO, Veep from HBO, and defending champion Transparent, also from Amazon Video. I, meanwhile, would go on to look up the show. (I really liked it.)

I mention the networks that these shows are on because, well, this is the TV world that we live in now – where a scripted series on Amazon Video can win big-ticket awards like Best Actor and Best Comedy at the Golden Globes, not just once but two years in a row. And I thought Amazon was only good for midnight impulse buys and maybe drone-based delivery systems sometime in the future.

Never mind that not everyone liked Mozart in the Jungle or understood why the show was nominated – you can’t please everyone. Never mind that Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais had suggested in his opening monologue that the Globes were all “paid for” by the studios anyway – although if there’s one thing Amazon has a lot of, it’s money.

With first Transparent and now Mozart in the Jungle, Amazon Video is out to prove that they have what it takes to produce great TV content and become a serious award contender. That it also develops TV shows, movies and comics via online submissions and crowd-sourced feedback is both noteworthy and, I believe, a sign of things to come.

Suddenly, award-winning TV is no longer the exclusive domain of major networks – the next hit show could come from anywhere. When Transparent won Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy last year, Amazon Video went down in history as the first online streaming service to take home a Golden Globe for a best TV series category. Not even Netflix superstar House of Cards has done that, and the win pretty much justified the untold millions that Amazon Studios, the company’s production house, had spent since it was started in 2010. This year, they did it again with Mozart in the Jungle. Anything the major networks can do…

This is good news of course, both for the growth of the industry and for us, the viewers. Competition will hopefully make everyone better, and diversity is always a wonderful, if not absolutely necessary, thing. (Now if only those folks over at the Oscars would learn that.) As for Amazon Video, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already set their sights on an Emmy, or perhaps even an Oscar someday.