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<p>The cast of Amazon's &quot;Zombieland&quot;&nbsp;pilot.</p>

The cast of Amazon's "Zombieland" pilot.

Credit: Amazon

From 'Alpha House' to 'Zombieland': Will Amazon's crowd-sourced pilot experiment work?

Will this method be any more successful than the way the networks develop new shows?

Of the many dysfunctional, outdated aspects of the network TV business, the pilot process may be the most broken. Every year, dozens of very expensive pilots are produced in a short, identical window, with everyone fighting over the same tiny pool of actors, decisions being made in a rush based on limited data, often just on the gut instincts of a handful of people. Only a small handful will ever air, and only an even smaller handful of those will make it to a second season. It's an inefficient process in virtually every way.

Why do the network do it this way? Because, like so many other aspects of the business, this is how it's always been done, and it's hard to steer around this particular iceberg. The networks pay lip service to the idea of doing year-round development, for instance, to avoid the casting crunch, but it happens only in isolated cases.

One potential fix in the age of Hulu, iTunes, etc., would be to make all of the pilots available online for viewers to sample and offer feedback on. It's not an ideal solution — it would be a self-selecting sample that, by its very nature, would probably be more likely to watch shows online (where the networks don't make remotely as much money) than on TV — but it would still provide far more feedback than the networks get now, and possibly more useful feedback than the traditional network testing that inevitably give high marks to terrible shows featuring recognizable stars. But the networks can't or won't do that, because there are too many entities involved with too many egos to potentially bruise. Some pilots are so terrible they should never see the light of day, and no executive wants to be second-guessed if one of their pet shows gets lower marks than one they passed on.

Because Amazon hasn't spent decades making shows, it's not bound by tradition or unwritten rules. For some reason, Amazon chose to produce eight comedy pilots (six live-action, two animated, plus another six children's shows I won't be talking about here) at roughly the same time as the networks, and therefore had to draw on the same diluted talent pool. But once they were made, Amazon decided to open up the process to their potential audience, and crowd-source reaction to these pilots. You can watch all of them at, and then rate them and/or take a more detailed survey about what you liked and didn't like about each, which include:

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Listen: Beyonce premieres new 'Sun' song in H&M ad

Listen: Beyonce premieres new 'Sun' song in H&M ad

Will we get a new album or just new commercials?

Maybe Beyonce won’t actually release a new album after all, she’ll just introduce each new song via its placement in a commercial.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: AP Photo

Cops find drugs on Justin Bieber's tour bus

Manager says Bieber is writing 'one to two songs a day' on the road

Justin Bieber has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy on the road. He’s writing “one to two songs a day for the entire tour,” his manager Scooter Braun tells MTV. “He actually labels them by the city he writes them in.” Are you ready to hear songs called  “Berlin?” “Oslo?” “Madrid?”

Bieber hinted that something was afoot created the hashtag #musicjournals. They are apparently the repository for his current creative flow.

Braun was mum on any details about a new album, however. “We’re talking about what should come next musically,” he says. “And I think creatively, he just wants to share all his thoughts through music.”  We smell a new album called “Music Journals.”

Speaking of smells, The Daily Mail is reporting that cops in Stockholm searched Bieber’s  empty tour bus last night after smelling pot. The police found a small amount of narcotics and a stun gun, according to the report, but will not press charges.


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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime

Listen: CulturePop No. 11 - Ryan Lochte, 'Project Runway,' Kardashians

Guest host Valerie Alexander joins in to discuss 'Duck Dynasty' and more

Melinda Newman was on the road this week, so lawyer-turned-screenwriter Valerie Alexander (whose book, "Happiness as a Second Language" comes out next week) dropped by to fill in. We talked about lots and lots of stuff, and here's the rundown:

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<p>Wednesday's &quot;Survivor: Caramoan&quot;</p>

Wednesday's "Survivor: Caramoan"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Caramoan' - 'Come Over to the Dark Side'

The 'Survivor' auction leads to brains and peanut butter and a clue
Pre-credit Sequence. How will things change in the aftermath of the elimination of The Fun Sponge? Will fun magically reign? There's a bat in the trees and the Alphas are gloating. "With the execution of The Specialist Phillip Sheppard, I think Stealth R Us hopefully is going to fracture," Malcolm says. "If those six people stick together, I don't have a chance in this game," Malcolm adds. "The stability has been rocked out of the game," Erik says, relieved that he's finally allowed to talk to people Phillip didn't want him talking to. Erik figures that he has the ability to switch to whatever alliance he wants to. He's got options! And if there's anything more exciting that Erik deliberating on his options, I can't wait to see it.
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"It's A Brad, Brad World"

 "It's A Brad, Brad World"

Credit: Bravo

'It's A Brad, Brad World' season finale: It's world, so do you want to live in it?

It's a low key finale, but that may just be okay

It may just be Brad Goreski's world, but that may be okay with me. I may not always love the clothes or his poindexter chic personal look, but in many ways Goreski seems perfect for reality TV. While Rachel Zoe may have made him, she could stand to turn the tables and take a few pointers from her former assistant stylist. In the second season of his show, Goreski is funny and personable where Zoe is cold and focused. I may want to hire the ever-precise Zoe as my stylist, but I'd prefer to hang out with Goreski. In the realm of reality TV, that seems like the bigger win. 

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<p>The Man of Bronze might be headed to theater screens sooner rather than later.</p>

The Man of Bronze might be headed to theater screens sooner rather than later.

Credit: Bantam Books

Shane Black hints that 'Doc Savage' could be next for him to direct

Could the legendary pulp character finally get done right on the bigscreen?

It seems fitting that we start looking forward to what might be next for Shane Black now that his "Iron Man 3" has started to screen for delighted critics. Black has just given himself a huge boost in trying to get pretty much anything made, because he nailed what had to be a fairly intimidating gig. Stepping into a franchise after two films by the director who kickstarted the whole things and a team-up movie that was one of the biggest films of all time can't be easy, and Black had never directed anything like this.

I've had a chance to read at least one draft of the live-action "Death Note" that Black wants to make, based on a property that's already been a manga, an anime, and a Japanese live-action film, and it's a pretty solid piece of writing. It didn't knock me out, but I'm willing to bet he'd milk it for all it's worth.

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<p>Martha (Alison Wright)&nbsp;and &quot;Clark&quot;&nbsp;(Matthew Rhys)&nbsp;in &quot;The Americans.&quot;</p>

Martha (Alison Wright) and "Clark" (Matthew Rhys) in "The Americans."

Credit: FX

Review: 'The Americans' - 'The Oath'

Philip has a question for Martha, and Nina has one for Stan

A review of tonight's "The Americans" coming up just as soon as I like the maze part and the eating without eating part...

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"The Rachel Zoe Project"

 "The Rachel Zoe Project"

Credit: Bravo

'The Rachel Zoe Project' season finale: Is playing dress-up enough?

The prickly stylist-turned-designer is talented, but not much fun

Even after five seasons of "The Rachel Zoe Project," I'm still not sure what to make of Rachel Zoe.

On the one hand, I admire the fact that she's a self-made woman, someone who has built a legitimate brand for herself as a stylist (quick, name another stylist. Well, except Brad Goreski, I guess). She's carved out a reality TV niche without a sex tape (cough, Kardashians, cough) or by screaming hysterically on another reality TV show. She clearly has a passion for what she does, and an exceptional eye for detail. In creating her own fashion line, she's been able to immediately assess what's wrong (or right) with an outfit, although sometimes she changes her mind again. And again. And then, back again. Still, every decision she makes is in the pursuit of perfection, or at least perfection in how she defines it.

That being said, I would never want to be stuck in an elevator with this woman. 

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<p>Jeff Newburg and Will Butler</p>

Jeff Newburg and Will Butler

Arcade Fire's Will Butler scoring poetic new short film 'Home Burial'

Exclusive: Actor/director Jeff Newburg takes on Robert Frost

On the same day where Zach Braff launches a Kickstarter to raise $2 million for his film project, $10,000 sounds like a modest sum. That's the number actor/director Jeff Newburg's set for his short film "Home Burial," and with it comes a new score from Arcade Fire's Will Butler.

According to Newburg, the AF multi-instrumentalist will contribute "synth, keyboard-heavy" compositions to the Indiegogo crowd-funded "Home Burial," which is based on the Robert Frost poem of the same name.

"We both have a poetry background," Newburg told me of working with Butler, who performs in Arcade Fire alongside his brother Win. "Both in the band collectively and Will as an individual have been doing more film world stuff... [Will's] a huge film fan, so it's pretty natural for him and Win to want to bring in musical elements into film. Arcade Fire's already a pretty orchestral band. Will, with poetry, wanted to make some very personal music."

The full text of "Home Burial" can be read here.

In the Indiegogo description, Newburg describes his initial fascination with the story from his high school and college years, leading up to his adult life today. "As a husband, and now, a father (I swear that second part came after I had written this; I’m not so morose as to write such material when I’ve just had my first child), I’m looking forward to this particular exploration of marriage, life and grief."

Butler writes that, "The music for the short film will hopefully evoke Robert Frost--formal but conversational; embedded in the early 20th century but still relevant. Darker than you might expect. Bartok meets John Carpenter."

(Sample a demo of Butler's music for the film above.)

During our interview, Newburg called his friend Butler's own work apart from his band as "very much an exploration," as well.

"I would be surprised if suddenly there were a solo record. Mostly, it's up to this point very much an exploration for him, I think. It's like training. I've watched the influence of the stuff he does on his own on what the band's done over the last few years." (Arcade Fire is currently working on their fourth studio album.)

Should the film complete its funding to satisfaction, the shoot with co-director Matt Litwiller ("Telescope") begins early this summer. Butler will arrange the music around the shoot. The funds raised through Indiegogo won't go to the filmmakers, composer and actors; rather, to fees, insurance, period props and costumes, rentals and other logistics. They play on submitting the film to festivals.

"Short film and poetry," Newburg laughed. "Synergistically, I couldn't have found a more commercially viable product, right?"

You can contribute to the project on the "Home Burial" Indiegogo page.

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<p>Stark Sands, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake in &quot;Inside Llewyn Davis.&quot;</p>

Stark Sands, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake in "Inside Llewyn Davis."

Credit: CBS Films

Cannes Check 2013: Joel and Ethan Coen's 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

Continuing our cheat sheet for the Cannes Competition

(Welcome to Cannes Check, your annual guide through the 19 films in Competition at next month's Cannes Film Festival, which kicks off on May 15. Taking on a different selection every day, we'll be examining what they're about, who's involved and what their chances are of snagging an award from Steven Spielberg's jury. We're going through the list by director and in alphabetical order -- next up, Joel and Ethan Coen with "Inside Llewyn Davis.")

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<p>&quot;American Idol&quot; Top 4</p>

"American Idol" Top 4

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Top 4: One Hit Wonders and Personal Choice Night

Amber, Angie, Candice and Kree are getting closer to the end

We're down to four on "American Idol" - Amber Holcomb, Angie Miller, Candice Glover and Kree Harrison.

I don't have a clue what that means in terms of the upcoming elimination schedule. It confuses me. It's the sort of thing that would keep me up nights, were insomnia not already doing the job.

Wednesday (April 24) night's show will apparently feature a pair of themes -- One Hit Wonders and Personal Choice -- as well as a pair of duets. 

Click through and follow along as the magic happens.

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