A Peek at Woody Allen’s First TV Series, About a 1960s Suburban American Family

The comic series 'Crisis in Six Scenes' debuts on Amazon on September 30. It centers on an American family whose life is turned upside down by a surprise visitor

Woody Allen at Cannes Film Festival news conference, May 15, 2015.
Reuters

After five decades as a feature filmmaker, Woody Allen has written and directed his first-ever television series. Allen, who began his Hollywood career as a writer for late-night talk shows, and won his first Emmy in 1957, created the new series for Amazon’s streaming service, home to other acclaimed original series like “Transparent” and “The Man in the High Castle.”

At a panel yesterday at a convention for television critics, Amazon showed the first clip from the new show, called “Crisis in Six Scenes.” The series, comprised of six half-hour episodes, centers on a middle-class suburban family in the Sixties, whose quiet life is shaken up by an unexpected visitor.

The series debuts on September 30. In addition to Allen, who stars as Sidney Muntzinger, the cast includes singer and actress Miley Cyrus, Rachel Brosnahan (“House of Cards”), Becky Ann Baker (“Girls”), David Harbour (the sheriff in “Stranger Things”), comedian, director and actress Elaine May (“A New Leaf”) and John Magaro (“Not Fade Away”).

Technophobe

The collaboration between Allen and Amazon’s streaming service is a bit ironic given the director’s general aversion to new technologies. In interviews, Allen has said that he doesn’t own a computer, that he has never sent or received an email or watched a show online.

Before production started, Allen said he was sorry he agreed to the project and grumbled to journalists about how much he was suffering because of it. “I don’t know how I got into this,” he said in January of last year when the project was announced. “I don’t have any ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. I bet [Amazon Studios chief] Roy Price is going to regret this.”

In an interview with Deadline.com at the Cannes Film Festival in the spring of 2015, Allen was still ruing his decision to create the series. In a lengthy monologue, he wailed, “I don’t even know what a streaming service is; that’s the interesting thing. When you said streaming service, it was the first time I’ve heard that term connected with the Amazon thing. I never knew what Amazon was. I’ve never seen any of those series, even on cable. I’ve never seen ‘The Sopranos,’ or ‘Mad Men.’ I’m out every night and when I come home, I watch the end of the baseball or basketball game, and there’s Charlie Rose and I go to sleep.

“Amazon kept coming to me and saying, please do this, whatever you want. I kept saying I have no ideas for it, that I never watch television. I don’t know the first thing about it. Well, this went on for a year and a half, and they kept making a better deal and a better deal. Finally they said look, we’ll do anything that you want, just give us six half hours. They can be black and white, they can take place in Paris, in New York and California, they can be about a family, they can be comedy, you can be in them, they can be tragic. We don’t have to know anything, just come in with six half hours. And they offered a lot of money and everybody around me was pressuring me, go ahead and do it, what do you have to lose?”

‘I’ve earned every penny’

And Allen wasn’t done there. He went on: “And I have regretted every second since I said OK. It’s been so hard for me. I had the cocky confidence, well, I’ll do it like I do a movie it’ll be a movie in six parts. Turns out, it’s not. For me, it has been very, very difficult It’s not a piece of cake; it’s a tough thing and I’m earning every penny that they’re giving me and I just hope that they don’t feel, My God, we gave him a very substantial amount of money and freedom and this is what he gives us?”  

Asked if this was all just due to his typically neurotic nature, Allen replied, “I hope it’s just the anxiety again, but this is hard. I’m like a fish out of water. Movies I’ve been doing for decades, and even the stage stuff, I know the stage and have seen a million plays. But this, how to begin something and end it after a half an hour and then come back the next time. It’s not me, I haven’t had a pleasurable moment since I undertook it.”

We’ll have to wait until the end of September to find out if this was all part of Allen’s creative process or if the show was really doomed from the start. In any event, Allen has already told The Hollywood Reporter that he does not intend to do a second season.