One of the more enjoyable industry spectator sports of the past year or so has been watching Woody Allen, in seemingly every interview where the subject comes up, express his deep regret at agreeing to do a six-episode television series for Amazon. Now that deep regret has a teaser trailer, a title, and a release date.
To be fair, Allen famously dislikes pretty much everything he’s ever done (he’s claimed to hate Manhattan so much that, on the eve of its release, he offered to make United Artists another movie for free if they’d bury that one); of even his best work, he’ll merely say, “I think I’ve made some decent movies and a large number of okay movies, but I’ve never made a great movie.”
But last spring, he told Deadline, “I have regretted every second since I said OK,” admitting, “it has been very, very difficult. I’ve been struggling and struggling and struggling. I only hope that when I finally do it — I have until the end of 2016 — they’re not crushed with disappointment because they’re nice people and I don’t want to disappoint them. I am doing my best… I am not as good at it as I fantasized I might be.”
Turns out, we’ll get to decide that sooner than the end of 2016. In Amazon’s panel at the Television Critics Association yesterday, they announced the title of Allen’s six-episode limited series (he reliably does not title his work until it’s all but completed, using working titles like “Woody Allen Fall Project”), its plot and release date. Per Vulture, Crisis in Six Scenes will debut on the streaming service on September 30; it is set in the 1960s, “during turbulent times in the United States, when a middle-class suburban family is visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down.”
Oh, and here’s that teaser:
At 92 seconds, it’s tough to make much of a call on the overall quality we’re looking at here – this dialogue isn’t exactly Annie Hall-caliber, but it’s quite a bit funnier and more relaxed than, say, Magic in the Moonlight. Part of that relaxation may be the presence of Mr. Allen himself, who doesn’t act much in his own work these days – he’s only appeared in two of his films in the past decade – but displays a good deal more comfort with the mannerisms of his dialogue than, say, a Joaquin Phoenix or Jesse Eisenberg.
And the befuddled, aging father vibe is one he’s done pretty well, in Manhattan Murder Mystery, To Rome With Love, and the 1994 TV movie adaptation of his play Don’t Drink the Water – his last work for a medium outside the cinema. Plus, who knows, maybe working in a different format will shake loose some of the atrophy that has burdened his most recent films. But the problems of those films are real, and not easily detached – plus, Mr. Allen (who wasn’t even engaged with the scene when he lived through it) doing a take on the social struggles of the ‘60s could easily fall flat on its face.
We’ll find out here in a couple of months, when Crisis in Six Scenes debuts on Amazon Prime.