Words by Rachel Campbell
In 2013, we have numerous ways of getting our television entertainment. You can watch it on just that – a television – live, pre-recorded via DVR or purchased in the form of a DVD box set. You can also stream those shows originally aired on TV on subscription services like Netflix or Hulu on your computer, smartphone or again, on your TV.
Some of the newly launched TV shows that you can only get on Netflix are raising some questions in the entertainment industry. Are they even actually “TV shows”? You could be watching these cable or network shows on your TV, but that’s not the medium they originally began in, so why are they making waves in places like the Primetime Emmy Awards?
Who needs network television when you can binge-watch a show just as good in one sitting?
Netflix has been launching items exclusive to their subscription service since 2009, but more so during the past year. “Splatter” was a horror webisode that allowed viewers to vote on which characters would survive, and it hit Netflix in October 2009 as the first series whose production was paid for by the company. “Lilyhammer,” a Norwegian crime drama series starring and executively produced by Steven Van Zandt (“The Sopranos”), was next in February 2012 after premiering exclusively via Netflix in North America. Several stand-up comedy specials by comedians such as Craig Ferguson and John Hodgman have also joined the ranks of exclusives since late 2012, but it was not until early 2013 that the streaming service’s originals really sprung into the forefront of attention.
“HOUSE OF CARDS”
David Fincher (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network”) jumped on independent studio the Media Rights Capital (MRC) revamp of BBC’s House of Cards in 2008. MRC pitched the idea to several networks such as HBO and AMC, but all of them were outbid by Netflix with a $100 million deal for 26 episodes of the series in March 2011. Netflix had originally been approached by MRC to secure a contract to play the show after it had aired on one of the other interested networks, but they clearly had other plans. Ted Sarandos, head of content at Netflix, stated that the amount of data they have showing viewers interest in Fincher, lead actor Kevin Spacey and political thrillers proved a show like “House of Cards” would prosper, and it definitely did.
Although Netflix won’t release any ratings numbers following the show’s February 2013 premiere, it compared them to that of the show “The Walking Dead,” which pulled in 12.5 million zombie lovers for the third season finale alone. Because of this, it’s no surprise that “House of Cards” snagged nine Primetime Emmy Award nominations including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress and Actor in a Drama Series, Outstanding Director for a Drama Series and more. “House of Cards” has already signed on for a second season, which may not include Fincher in the equation because of conflicting projects.
Gaumont International Television pitched horror-thriller “Hemlock Grove” directly to Netflix who signed the deal in December 2011 bringing on Eli Roth (“Hostel” series, “Cabin Fever”) as director of the pilot episode and executive producer overall. The series launched on April 19, and according to Netflix, it pulled in more viewers on its first weekend than “House of Cards.” Despite that, the series only landed only two Emmy nods in comparison to nine for “House of Cards,” which include Outstanding Visual Effects and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. Roth will be returning with a second season at a future date.
Unlike the other shows mentioned, “Arrested Development” originally aired on a network – FOX to be exact – from 2003 to 2006. Showtime offered to continue the show after FOX canceled it, but creator Mitch Hurwitz declined their offer. Fast-forward to 2011, and Showtime returned to the ring to battle Netflix in the fight to air the show. Showtime lost (again), and Netflix approached their win with interesting marketing tactics including a real-life Bluth’s banana stand, a Tobias Funke “insert me anywhere” public relations stunt and internal easter eggs like banana ratings instead of stars.
Netflix revealed a May 26, 2013 release date as bait for the show’s long-time fans. As of July, the numbers showed that the show had a “small but noticeable hump” in subscribers that caused them to hit 30 million overall. Like “House of Cards” and “Hemlock Grove,” “Arrested Development” has also received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (for Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth), Outstanding Music Composition for a Series and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series. Although the fourth season received mixed reviews, Hurwitz has already stirred the pot on more “Arrested Development,” which could be anything from a movie to a fifth season.
“ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK”
Weeds creator Jenji Kohan apparently has an interest in females in jail because just like Nancy Botwin, her latest show, “Orange Is the New Black,” has main character Piper Chapman spending some time in the slammer. Unlike Weeds, which only brushes past Botwin’s sentence and back into everyday life, “Orange Is the New Black” is set around Chapman’s prison blues sans fiancé portrayed by Jason Biggs (“American Pie”).
“Orange Is the New Black” is based on a memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, and was picked up by Netflix in November 2011, one month prior to “Hemlock Grove.” Although “Orange is the New Black” is the only Netflix original on this list to not receive Emmy nominations, it still surpassed any other Netflix original in terms of viewership, making it the most watched of the bunch. Although the show has already begun filming its second season, it might be without lead Laura Prepon (“That ‘70s Show”), even though she thinks it’s “so cool what Netflix is doing.”
Other than continuing several of its already launched original series, Netflix has a new series lined up in the form of “Derek,” which stars Ricky Gervais (of the original BBC version of “The Office”) as the title character. The streaming company has also signed a deal with DreamWorks to provide 300 hours of original programming. Of those 300 hours, some will be dedicated to “Turbo: F.A.S.T.,” a spin-off of the animated children’s movie about a speed-hungry snail that came out in July. The December release will be the first original program geared toward kids.
Several other new shows are rumored to debut throughout 2014. “Marco Polo,” a series about the famed 13th century explorer, was dropped by Starz in early August and is now being thrown back and forth between a Netflix original and a Weinstein Company film. Another possible addition is “Narcos,” a series about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, that was pitched by the studio that produced “Hemlock Grove,” Gaumont International Television. Finally, Andy and Lana Wachowski who directed, wrote and produced “The Matrix” and “V for Vendetta,” and J. Michael Straczynski (“The Changeling,” “Thor”) are in talks with Netflix about a sci-fi series, “Sense8“, which would premiere late next year.