NEW YORK (AFP) – Oscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen is going back to his TV roots in a deal with online giant Amazon to write and direct his own series that will premiere next year.
The news comes as the world’s biggest online retailer celebrates its first Golden Globes for its transgender-themed sitcom “Transparent” – a breakthrough in its efforts to catch up with streaming pioneer Netflix.
Amazon said the “Untitled Woody Allen Project” will 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,” the 79-year-old Allen said in a statement from Amazon Studios, the company’s TV content arm.
“My guess is that (Amazon Studios chief) Roy Price will regret this,” he added in his trademark wry humour.
The project is a coup for Amazon’s on-demand Internet video streaming service, which alongside Netflix is upending the traditional broadcast television business model.
Amazon said the show would be the first TV series to be written and directed by Allen – but it’s by no means his first experience with the small screen.
In the mid-1950s, as television took centre stage in America’s living rooms, Allen found lucrative work as a gag writer for comedian Sid Caesar and variety show host Garry Moore.
He wrote and appeared in some episodes of “Candid Camera”, turned up as a guest panelist on “What’s My Line?” and recorded a one-off stand-up comedy special for British television in 1965, “The Woody Allen Show”.
For American public television, Allen in 1971 directed and starred in a mock documentary, “Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story”, lampooning then-president Richard Nixon.
Its biting satire proved too much for television executives who nixed the flick at the last minute, fearing Nixon might retaliate with a funding cut. “Men of Crisis” endures on video websites.
The same year, Allen also did a turn as guest host of NBC television’s “The Tonight Show” – a venerable late-night programme that he also wrote for in his youth.
More recently, in 2001, Allen wrote and directed a three-minute television comedy short called “Sounds from a Town I Love” about his beloved hometown New York in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Amazon said Allen would 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 honour 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.”