Amazon’s ‘Sneaky Pete’ is Another Original Hit

“Sneaky Pete”

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For those who thought Bryan Cranston was a one trick pony, take a gander at the pilot for Amazon’s new original series, “Sneaky Pete.” Aside from his multi-award-winning role as Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” the celebrated actor has serious producing chops, as witnessed in this compelling new drama.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s be reminded of Amazon’s strategy of tossing out pilot episodes to gauge fan reaction before giving the green light. There’s little doubt “Sneaky Pete” will end up on Amazon Original’s roster, probably some time in 2016. The process may be wonky, but the results — as seen with “Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle” and the wonderful kids show “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” — can churn out some winners. If the folks behind the lens and at the keyboard can keep it going, “Pete” will be up there with Amazon’s best.

For starters, we’re looking at an all-star cast. In the title role, Giovanni Ribisi plays a slick con man Marius, who ends his prison sentences but is forced back to a life of crime as he and his brother (Michael Drayer) owe a nasty crook (played by Branston) some serious money. Marius takes on the identity of his cell mate Pete (Ethan Embry) and slips into his pal’s life as part of a family of bail bondsmen. The always brilliant Margo Martindale (“The Americans,” “Justified”) is the family matriarch who appears to have that innate feeling her grandson isn’t what he seems. And, while it sounds far fetched and in need of some belief suspension, it works.

Show writer David Shore brings a wealth of TV experience as creator of “House M.D.” and co-creator (with Vince Gilligan of “Breaking Bad”) of “Battle Creek.” Producer Seth Gordon has a great track record as executive producer for the new hit, “The Jim Gaffigan Show” and ABC’s “The Goldbergs.” Despite the somewhat traditional TV background these folks bring to the show, this isn’t your standard network drama. “Sneaky Pete” is a subtle mix of dark comedy and pathos wrapped inside an unpredictable narrative.

For fans of “That Thing You Do!” should be interested to know that Ribisi, Embry and Cranston all had roles in that 1996 Tom Hanks film. No, they do not break out into song.

“Drunk History,” Season Three

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Perhaps not my cup of video entertainment, Comedy Central’sDrunk History” returns Sept. 1 for a new season of inebriated, humorous history. As everyone who follows the show knows, the premise is built around a celebrity recounting a historical saga after imbibing on a few (or more) adult beverages. The show also attempts to break the “GoodFellas” record of f-bombs per minute (all bleeped out).

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Season three opens with a New Jersey theme where Tess Lynch, Mark Proksch and Jenny Slate slur their way through the Civil War balloon brigade, the infamous “bone wars” and the discovery of microwave noise that is an artifact of the Big Bang. Yes, they all are true stories. Celebs featured in the vignettes include Justin Long, Christopher Meloni and Greg Kinnear.

Missed seasons one and two? Fear not — “Drunk History” seasons one and two are on the Comedy Central App and at cc.com/drunk beginning Aug. 24. Episodes from season the three are available the day after air on the Comedy Central App.