Way back a long time ago--something around 9 months ago--we learned that Netflix had outbid everyone for the rights to a new series called House Of Cards. Starring Kevin Spacy, House Of Cards is an American remake of a successful British show. Nearly every major suitor was involved in the bidding--if HBO wants to buy a show then you know it's a promising show. But it ultimately won't end up being the first original series from Netflix. That honor will instead go to Lilyhammer.
Watch The Trailer For The First Original Netflix Series, Lilyhammer
I was just talking with one of our writers over the weekend about how badly I wanted to see something from House of Cards. So imagine my surprise when I saw a headline this morning on Gizmodo that reads, "The Trailer for the First Netflix Original Series is Really Good." I got giddy.
Unfortunately, it wasn't House of Cards--apparently no trailer ready for that one. Instead, we get Lilyhammer, a new original Netflix series I had never heard of at all. It stars Steve Van Zandt--you either know him from the Sopranos or from being in Bruce Springsteen's band... or both--as a former criminal setting out on a new life in witness protection. He chooses to go to Lilyhammer, because he has fond memories of how bucolic the setting was during the 1994 Olympics he watched on television.
Of course, not all is as he remembered it. Lilyhammer looks to be traddling the line between comedy and drama, and seems to be doing a good job of it. Check it out:
I imagine the pitch was something like this: "It's Northern Exposure... but with gangsters!!" (That actually sounds like a decent pitch, actually, and could easily have been how this show was born).
I have several random reactions and thoughts about this trailer... in no particular order:
-Are they tweaking HBO with their opening title card that reads "A Netflix Original Series." (Didn't HBO original shows at least used to start with a simple "An HBO Original Series" title card, or am I remembering that wrong?).
-I'll be curious to see if Van Zandt can carry an entire show on his own--or at least... who they fill in around him as supporting characters.
-While I would have preferred to see the trailer for House Of Cards, I'm nonetheless impressed by the production value here. The trailer for Lilyhammer feels like one I could easily have seen for a new show on HBO or Showtime, and bodes well for anyone that might have been worried about Netflix's ability to put out a product similar to the big boys.
Don't forget... it didn't take HBO too very long to go from novice production company to "the channel with the best shows on TV," and I'm sure Netflix is aiming for a similar quick transition. We'll obviously have to wait and watch the show before we can judge if Lilyhammer is any good--it could be terrible.
But this is what excites me about online video... all the shifts and changes to the system. Imagine an Emmy awards show (or an awards show by another name) in the near future, where someone from an HBO show is up for an acting award against someone from a Netflix show as well as someone from a YouTube show.
Lilyhammer premieres on Netflix exclusively--obviously--on February 6, 2012--that's just about a month away. In a somewhat odd move... 8 episodes for the series will go online all at the same time--as though Netflix has no interest in the old-school one-episode-per-week television model... just "Here it is... here's the whole thing." As a viewer, that's incredible... because if you get hooked you can watch it all right then and there.
I can't wait to check it out. As we reported recently, Netflix users spend twice as much time with the service as Hulu users do--suggesting that those customers who did not leave in anger over the price hike are using and enjoying the service more than ever. And top-quality exclusive series content is the next logical step to keeping those viewers loyal and grabbing a few new ones along the way.