Amazon has announced that Woody Allen will write and direct a new half-hour series for its video-streaming service — news that feels a little like hearing Mad Men‘s Don Draper just founded an Internet advertising agency.
Allen, known for his old-school approach to filmmaking, may be the biggest name from Hollywood’s old studio system to step into the modern TV age. Even as film stars such as Matthew McConaughey and Kevin Spacey rack up awards and critical praise for their television work, auteurs such as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch have developed TV projects that nearly erase old boundaries between the worlds of film and television.
“I don’t know how I got into this,” reads a quote from Allen included in Amazon’s press release on the deal. “I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin.”
Amazon released few details on the series, currently named Untitled Woody Allen Project. The series will feature half-hour episodes, but Amazon hasn’t said how many it will make, when they will be released or what the series idea is.
It’s a high-profile deal for Amazon, which made news Sunday by winning its first two Golden Globe awards for the original series on a character transitioning genders, Transparent.
At a time when competitors such as Netflix are developing series with marquee names such as David Fincher (House of Cards) and Tina Fey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), the Globes win and Allen deal may help Amazon remain competitive in an increasingly crowded field.
The news also drew criticism from some on Twitter, noting Allen’s controversial personal history, including his marriage to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his former longtime girlfriend Mia Farrow.
Dylan Farrow, who was adopted by Mia Farrow and Allen, also accused the director of molesting her as a child in a column published in The New York Times; Allen wrote his own column denying the allegations.
As Allen’s name began trending on Twitter, some wondered if he would face the same public criticism — and problems with canceled projects — that befell Bill Cosby as a growing number of women have accused the comic of drugging and sexually assaulting them.
All this suggests that Amazon’s deal with Allen may offer unique challenges that reach far beyond the difficulties of translating Allen’s idea into the new medium of streaming television.