Amazon signs Woody Allen for his first TV series


New York (AFP) - Amazon said Tuesday it has signed a deal with Woody Allen that will see the prolific 79-year-old American filmmaker write and direct his first-ever television series.

In a statement, the world's biggest online retailer said the "Untitled Woody Allen Project" would 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," said Allen in a statement from Amazon Studios, the company's TV content arm.

"My guess is that (Amazon Studios chief) Roy Price will regret this."

The project is a coup for Amazon's on-demand Internet video streaming service, which alongside rival Netflix is upending the traditional broadcast television business model.

On Sunday, it celebrated its first Golden Globe victory with its transgender-themed comedy "Transparent."

Amazon said Allen is to 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."

- Roots in television -

Allen got his start in television in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a writer for comedy legend Sid Caesar, among others. He also wrote and appeared in some episodes of "Candid Camera."

In 1971, Allen directed a mock documentary, "Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story," lampooning then-president Richard Nixon, for broadcast on American public television.

TV executives nixed the short at the last minute, fearing that Nixon might retaliate with a funding cut, but it endures today on online video streaming websites.

Then in 2001, Allen wrote and directed a three-minute TV comedy short called "Sounds from a Town I Love" about his beloved hometown New York in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

But the Amazon project marks the first time that the four-time Academy Award winner -- who has directed nearly 50 movies over six decades -- will helm his own TV series.

Nearly a year ago, he denied in a New York Times op-ed that he molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old, as she alleged in an open letter to the newspaper.

The unseemly row harked back to 1992 when Allen, then in a relationship with actress Mia Farrow, began an affair with her teenaged adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, who now is his wife.

Irish technology and pop culture writer Mic Wright, on the tech news website, said Amazon 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.

- Netflix in the lead -

Netflix dominates the emerging field of original programming for Internet broadcast with such critically acclaimed hits as "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black."

Amazon has taken a novel approach to program development. It invites ideas to be submitted online, then crowd-sourcing the decision on what to put money into.

But it was unclear Tuesday whether Allen's project went through this process, or whether it was the result of a more conventional one-on-one deal between artist and studio.

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