Cocked: A title that refers to firearms and nothing else, Cocked stars True Blood’s Sam Trammell as a family man who returns to rural Virginia to help run his family’s gun business after 20 years spent in the big city—sort of a fish-out-of-water-returns-to-water story. His older brother Grady (Jason Lee) is none too happy to see him, and his liberal wife and opinionated children are horrified by their new surroundings, presumably leading to many jokes about how city people go like this, while country people go like this. Brian Dennehy stars as Trammell’s father.
Down Dog: This comedy revolves around thirtysomething California slacker Logan Wood, whose surname refers to his European ancestry and nothing else. Logan teaches yoga at a studio owned by his girlfriend, Amanda (Paget Brewster of Criminal Minds). After the two break up, life becomes more complicated. Where, for example, is Logan supposed to chillax now? Down Dog will also star venerated musician and Dolphin Tale 2 featured player Kris Kristofferson.
Mad Dogs: Sticking with the dog theme, this dark comedy is about a group of fortysomething friends who reunite at a beautiful villa in Belize. Once there, old wounds are reopened, long-forgotten grudges resurface, someone dies, and everything is bad. Based on a U.K. series of the same name, Mad Dogs pairs Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield, with people like Charles McDougall, an executive producer on The Mindy Project. Both of them serve as executive producers here. Hopefully, the yoking together of different kinds of talent will result in an off-kilter tone that helps this series stand out.
The Man In The High Castle: Based off a Hugo Award-winning novel by Philip K. Dick, The Man In The High Castle aims to answer the question every middle school history student feared to ask: What would the world be like if the Allies had lost World War II? According to Dick, Germany and Japan would have carved up chunks of the United States to rule, and the land would be lousy with people forced to hide their true identities. Rufus Sewell will play one of several characters scattered across this fictionalized country. Ridley Scott, who has long been trying to turn The Man In The High Castle into a TV series, will executive produce alongside former X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz, who will write the script.
The New Yorker Presents: The only non-narrative pilot on this list, The New Yorker Presents will be a TV version of The New Yorker magazine. The pilot includes a short film starring Alan Cumming based on a story by Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich; a documentary about biologist Tyrone Hayes directed by Jonathan Demme; an interview with performance artist Marina Abramović; and some other high-minded things. It remains to be seen whether watching a show based on The New Yorker can bestow the same badge of cultural sophistication that comes from reading The New Yorker, especially since it’ll be harder for fans of the magazine to ostentatiously watch the show while riding the bus.
Point Of Honor: This historical drama will take Amazon subscribers to Virginia at the start of the Civil War, where a slave-owning family elects to fight for the Confederacy, even as it frees all of its slaves. The head of the family (True Blood’s Nathan Parsons) leaves his sisters to run the plantation without the assistance of slave labor and heads off to fight the Yankees, which will bring him into direct conflict with his best friend and brother-in-law. The pilot was written by Carlton Cuse and directed by Randall Wallace, the screenwriter behind Braveheart. It sounds like there’s potential for a lot of lofty wartime drama here—not to mention horrific violence—so maybe this is Amazon’s attempt to mash American history together with Game Of Thrones.
Salem Rogers: The final show on the list brings some series comedy firepower. The pilot was directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls), executive produced by Will Graham (The Onion News Network), and stars dependable comic actors like Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit, and Jane Kaczmarek. It will revolve around an ex-supermodel, the eponymous Rogers, who emerges from a 10-year stint at a plush rehab center eager to return to her high-flying lifestyle. She looks up her former assistant (Dratch), and the two get to rebuilding her career—or they try and fail miserably. It’s probably funnier that way.