Bryan Cranston Pilot to Get Second Life on Amazon

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Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Streaming networks such as Netflix and Hulu have been a boon to fans of low-rated shows: From Arrested Development to The Mindy Project, being ditched by a broadcaster no longer spells certain doom. But now, Amazon is ready to up the stakes in the Save Our Show movement, by giving life to a project killed before it even had a chance to be seen by audiences. The streaming network has made a deal with producer Sony Pictures Television to post a reworked version of the Bryan Cranston–produced drama pilot Sneaky Pete, Vulture has learned. Variety reported last month that conversations about such a deal had begun, but our sources say it is now done and that Pete — rejected by CBS— will debut on Amazon in August, possibly as part of the service’s semiannual pilot season event. While reps for Amazon couldn’t be reached, Cranston himself pretty much let the cat out of the bag on Thursday when he tweeted news of a promotional stunt for Pete taking place today at Comic-Con.

The Breaking Bad star sent out a picture of a man dressed in prison garb, telling his followers, “This ‘con’ is here at Comic Con. If you see him, yell out Sneaky Pete! Help catch this thief & be rewarded.” Cranston and Sony didn’t just hire an actor to dress as the title character from their pilot (which was co-written by Cranston and House vet David Shore): Comic-Con attendees who spot the faux Pete will be given a gift card— from Amazon, natch. While this bit of guerrilla marketing by itself won’t cause much of a ripple — particularly at Comic-Con, which has turned into one four-day festival of stunts and promotions — the partnership between Amazon and Sony actually could turn into a pretty significant development, at least down the line. 

Studios and networks regularly waste tens of millions of dollars each year filming pilots that never get an audience beyond a few Hollywood screening rooms. Back in the 1970s and '80s, networks would often burn off these pilots over the summer, at least giving viewers a chance to sample the (supposedly) damaged goods. And every once in a while — most famously with Seinfeld, in 1989, and Barney Miller, in 1974 — those pilots would spark enough of an audience reaction to get a second chance. In recent years, however, networks have largely opted to simply bury their rejected pilots. 

But with the advent of online streaming, there are some signs a revival in the notion of letting audiences weigh in on busted pilots may be in the offing. Two years ago, CBS put the Greg Garcia pilot Super Clyde online after rejecting it for a series pickup. The response was favorable enough to convince the network to make a second version of the show this spring — only to once again pass. In the case of Pete, Sony executives, apparently perplexed by CBS’s call, opted not to simply accept the Eye network’s decision to kill the project. While the studio could have put Pete on its own online platform — the streaming network Crackle — striking a deal with Amazon will allow a much broader audience to see the project (particularly if it runs as part of Amazon Pilot Season). Sony has even decided to spend some extra coin, reshooting a few scenes this week in Los Angeles. There’s no guarantee, of course, that audiences will rate Pete highly, or that Amazon will ultimately decide to order the project to series. But Pete at least now has a shot. If this all works out, don’t be surprised if more “failed” pilots end up getting a second chance on a digital platform.