Woody Allen returns to TV roots with Amazon series
NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
Amazon.com Inc said it signed Allen to write and direct a new TV series for its video streaming service. REUTERS PhotoOscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen is going back to his TV roots in a deal with online giant Amazon to write and direct his own series that will premiere next year.
The news comes as the world's biggest online retailer celebrates its first Golden Globes for its transgender-themed sitcom "Transparent" -- a breakthrough in its efforts to catch up with streaming pioneer Netflix.
Amazon said the "Untitled Woody Allen Project" will run sometime next year on its growing Amazon Prime Instant Video service.
"I don't know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I'm not sure where to begin," the 79-year-old Allen said in a statement from Amazon Studios, the company's TV content arm.
"My guess is that (Amazon Studios chief) Roy Price will regret this," he added in his trademark wry humor.
The project is a coup for Amazon's on-demand Internet video streaming service, which alongside Netflix is upending the traditional broadcast television business model.
Amazon said the show would be the first TV series to be written and directed by Allen -- but it's by no means his first experience with the small screen.
In the mid-1950s, as television took center stage in America's living rooms, Allen found lucrative work as a gag writer for comedian Sid Caesar and variety show host Garry Moore.
He wrote and appeared in some episodes of "Candid Camera," turned up as a guest panelist on "What's My Line?" and recorded a one-off stand-up comedy special for British television in 1965, "The Woody Allen Show."
For American public television, Allen in 1971 directed and starred in a mock documentary, "Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story," lampooning then-president Richard Nixon.
Its biting satire proved too much for television executives who nixed the flick at the last minute, fearing Nixon might retaliate with a funding cut. "Men of Crisis" endures on video websites.
The same year, Allen also did a turn as guest host of NBC television's "The Tonight Show" -- a venerable late-night program that he also wrote for in his youth.
More recently, in 2001, Allen wrote and directed a three-minute television comedy short called "Sounds from a Town I Love" about his beloved hometown New York in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Amazon said Allen would deliver "a full season" of half-hour episodes that subscribers to its Prime Instant Video service will be able to see in the United States, Britain and Germany.
"Additional details, including casting information, will be made available in the future," it said.
A season of original TV programming for the Internet typically runs about a dozen episodes, released simultaneously.
"Woody Allen is a visionary creator who has made some of the greatest films of all-time, and it's an honor to be working with him on his first television series," Price said.
"From 'Annie Hall' to 'Blue Jasmine,' Woody has been at the creative forefront of American cinema, and we couldn't be more excited to premiere his first TV series exclusively on Prime Instant Video next year."
Allen has won four Oscars -- three for best screenplay for "Annie Hall," "Hannah and her Sisters," and "Midnight in Paris," and a best director statuette for "Annie Hall."
News of his Amazon deal comes nearly a year after his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow alleged he molested her when she was seven years ago in the early 1990s -- a claim that he strongly denied.
Irish technology and pop culture writer Mic Wright, on the TNW.com tech news website, said Amazon, by signing up Allen, was delivering "a smack in the face" to child abuse survivors.
In November, Netflix postponed a comedy special with another US entertainment icon, Bill Cosby, as several women came forward with allegations of sexual assault, which he denies.