Idiot Box: “Sneaky Pete” On Amazon

“Sneaky Pete” On Amazon

Devin D. O'Leary
4 min read
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It’s been two years since “Breaking Bad” went off the air, and yet star Bryan Cranston can’t escape his life of crime. Earlier this year, Cranston served as executive producer for a new cops-and-robbers show called “Sneaky Pete.” It was shot for CBS, but the broadcast network passed on the pilot in May. As is often the case these days, the company behind it, Sony TV, trotted it over to Amazon’s Instant Video platform, and the internet distributor has posted the pilot on its streaming website. As with all Amazon pilots, it’s now up to viewers to watch and vote on whether the show should become a series. While it’s not a shadow of “Breaking Bad,” “Sneaky Pete” has a commercial charm that could easily carry it into season 1.

The show stars Giovanni Ribisi (“Friends,”
Gone in 60 Seconds, Avatar) as Marius, a con man who’s about to be released from prison. Unfortunately, he owes some nasty people a sizable sum of money. Money he, of course, doesn’t have. His plan is to lay low for a while and actually come up with a plan. But where can he go? As it happens, Marius has spent the last three years listening to his chatty cell mate gas on about his happy childhood at his grandparents’ rural farm. Marius takes a gamble, stealing his cell mate’s identity and showing up unannounced at grandma and grandpa’s. It’s been a good 20 years since they’ve seen Pete, and our boy Marius is a talented trickster, so he might just pull this off. Having heard the family is big in the bond business, fake Pete thinks he can grab some quick cash and run. But it turns out the family isn’t in the “stocks and …” business but the “bail …” business. With nowhere else to go, “Pete” volunteers to work as a skip tracer for the family business.

The supporting cast (including Margot Martindale as the maybe-not-so-gullible granny, Ethan Embry as the real Pete and a fun cameo from our boy Cranston) is solid. But Ribisi is the highlight. Marius/Pete is noticeably more grounded and grizzled than the typical quirky sidekick roles he’s usually tasked with playing. His character is sympathetic and believable. Seth Gordon (
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and a lot of sitcom episodes) directs the pilot with a dash of flair, tossing in the occasional indie tune and some slow-mo. David Shore (“House M.D.”) keeps all his ducks in a row with the pilot’s script. It’s lightweight without being inconsequential and leaves plenty of room for future storylines.

Knowing it was originally aimed at CBS is not surprising, as the show boils down to your basic, quirky, CBS-style police procedural. Turns out Pete is good at hunting down criminals (because he is one). And having to work with his attractive, competent “cousin” (Marin Ireland from “Masters of Sex” and “Homeland”) is kind of a bonus. A little cop drama, a little humor, a dash of sexual tension—it would have fit in nicely at CBS. On the far more experimental internet, it seems a touch too conventional. Freed from the bonds of primetime TV, however, Cranston and company could take it in a much less episodic, formulaic direction. Let’s see if they can pull this off.

The pilot for “Sneaky Pete” is available now for free streaming on

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