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Amazon fills its video cart with 2 new comedies

In this photo released by Amazon Studios, from left, Karan Soni, Charlie Saxton, Joe Dinicol, Maya Erskine and Jon Daly, star in Amazon’s original series “Betas,” which debuts Nov. 22, 2013, on Amazon.com. (AP Photo/Amazon Studios, Erica Parise)

In this photo released by Amazon Studios, from left, Karan Soni, Charlie Saxton, Joe Dinicol, Maya Erskine and Jon Daly, star in Amazon’s original series “Betas,” which debuts Nov. 22, 2013, on Amazon.com. (AP Photo/Amazon Studios, Erica Parise)

There’s a new kid on the block at Culver Studios.

Inside a towering soundstage, just around the corner from where such television comedies as TBS’s Cougar Town and Showtime’s Episodes have been filmed, another production is in full swing. A set depicting a high-tech, two-story office is hosting a boozy party scene for Betas, a comedy about a quirky crew of app creators in Silicon Valley.

But unlike its neighboring productions, the new series will likely never air on TVs. Instead, it will stream on them, in addition to many other devices. Betas is one of the first original series from Amazon, the online retail giant that’s taking a cue from Netflix and Hulu by producing its own shows that will only be available on Amazon Instant Video, a content service for paying members.

“In the old days, I remember if you were a film actor, you didn’t do TV,” said Ed Begley Jr., who stars in Betas as a goofy, patriarchal investor. “That wall came down many years ago. Now, I think the same thing is happening on the web. This isn’t just someone with a Handycam filming something that looks like public access TV. This is a real show.”

Amazon’s move into content creation is another click in the evolution of online video, legitimized earlier this year by the success of House of Cards, the political drama from online streaming service Netflix Inc. starring Kevin Spacey. That show was nominated for a best drama Emmy.

Over the past year, Amazon.com Inc. has bolstered its streaming video library beyond typical movies and TV shows by locking down the exclusive streaming rights to such buzzed-about series as Downton Abbey and Falling Skies. The Seattle-based company is hoping to now build hype with its own shows.

Amazon’s foray into original programming kicks off with the political comedy Alpha House, featuring Mark Consuelos, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and John Goodman as senators who live together.

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