There’s no doubt about it – television has changed forever. This may seem like a bold statement but more and more consumers now prefer to watch their TV shows in big, boxset sized marathons rather than episodic chunks and they want everything all at once. Not only that – they also want their content anytime and anywhere. These things were once wishful thinking but online streaming giant Netflix has proven that this new trend may be the key to the future of the medium. ‘Netflix Originals’ is the company’s attempts to produce all new TV shows for its online audience (as well as picking up new seasons of existing shows) and they have already shown that they can produce programming which can rival the quality of network cable.
10. Turbo FAST
Admittedly, Turbo FAST was one of Netflix’s less auspicious offerings. Based on Dreamworks’ animation movie Turbo, the original series picks up where the cinematic story left off and follows the ongoing adventures of the team of racing snails. Unlike the release of their other TV shows, Turbo FAST has appeared online in batches of 5 to 6 episodes rather than all at once – but this is to keep up with the different demands of animation production. Although the show is firmly focused on its young audience and the original movie had disappointing commercial success, Turbo FAST is the first series to come out of Netflix’s deal with Dreamworks to produce 300 hours of exclusive programming from the studio’s popular cinematic franchises. Upcoming projects based on characters from Madagascar (‘All Hail King Julien’) and Shrek (‘Puss in Boots’) hint at much bigger things to come from Netflix’s animation offerings.
9. Bojack Horseman
Thankfully, Netflix isn’t just concerned with family-friendly animation. Seemingly taking inspiration from the weirdness of late-night Adult Swim cartoons, Bojack Horseman is a surreal comedy centred on a washed-up former sitcom star who is sick of the industry and pretty much everyone he has to deal with in life. He also happens to be a talking horse. Will Arnett offers up his comedy chops for the voice of the titular character and he is accompanied by a pretty stellar supporting cast and guest star cameos. After the shaky first few episodes the surprisingly character-driven animation really comes into its own and hits its stride with a balance of tragedy and over-the-top humour. Bojack Horseman proved to be an instant hit for Netflix and the company was quick to renew it for a second season.
It may seem preemptive to include a show that is currently still filming on a list like this, but it’s hard not be optimistic about Netflix’s deal with Marvel Comics. In October 2013, Netflix secured the rights to produce four shows based on the characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Not only will these shows tie-in with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they will all also lead up to the big crossover miniseries The Defenders. It’s certainly an ambitious project, but Disney isn’t skimping on the production costs (they’ve apparently put up $200 million to finance the shows) and these small-scale superhero efforts are sure to thrive in the creative, risk-taking atmosphere of Netflix Originals.
7. The Killing (Season 4)
Netflix has quickly emerged as a possible place for network television shows to live on after they have been cancelled. Although Netflix has only produced five new series for existing shows so far, it seems as if the company is keen to integrate this ‘continuing’ series model into their original programming plans. One of Netflix’s notable TV show pick ups was AMC’s crime drama The Killing. Shortly after the network cancelled the show because of declining ratings, it was announced that a final season would be produced and streamed online. Many shows aren’t given the opportunity to finish up on their own terms so the short, six episode final season offered sweet closure to fans of the Killing.
Netflix recently partnered up with Ricky Gervais for his latest comedy offering Derek (Channel 4 still owns exclusive rights to the show in the UK because it originally commissioned the comedy, but Netflix received a co-production credit for the latest series). Written, directed by and starring Gervais, Derek is set in a nursing home and follows the kind-hearted but dim-witted titular character as he works as a care worker for the elderly. Although Gervais can’t quite balance the drama and comedy like he used to in The Office and Extras, Derek stills manages to bring the laughs while hitting the sentimental beats and features a hilarious supporting turn by Gervais’ old pal (and punching bag) Karl Pilkington.
5. Hemlock Grove
Netflix really proved that it was willing to push its creative risks when it commissioned an adaption of gothic horror novel Hemlock Grove. The weird supernatural mystery contained pretty much everything you’d want from the genre including werewolves, vampires, crazy scientists, cultists and sex and violence. Despite a very mixed reception from critics who couldn’t quite get into the show’s nutty, weird style, Hemlock Grove attracted a cult following of fans and Netflix has announced that it will be sending the show off in style with a third and final season.
Although it lacks the mainstream recognition and award accolades of some of its more high-profile shows, Lilyhammer was Netflix’s first exclusive online content and it has enjoyed massive international success. The dark comedy stars Sopranos regular and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band member Steve Van Zandt as a former mobster turned informant who is put into witness protection in rural Norway. Lilyhammer is an enjoyable ‘fish out of water’ show which riffs on typical gangster setups and makes full use of its quirky concept and setting.
3. Arrested Development (Season 4)
Arrested Development was one of the smartest and sharpest ensemble comedies in recent years. However, despite a fiercely loyal fanbase the show struggled with ratings before it was finally cancelled by FOX after its third season in 2006. Creator Mitchell Hurwitz teased for years that he was trying to get a movie off the ground, but fans were treated to a surprise development in 2012 when Netflix announced they were bringing the show back for fifteen new episodes. Hurwitz changed the format of the fourth season by focusing each episode on a different member of the Bluth family during the same period of time. It was a bold step and one that changed the tone of the show too much for some fans, but the ambitious premise fit perfectly with the binge-watch nature of Netflix and showed that the new season wasn’t going to squander the opportunity to do something different while still providing a very welcome return to the hilarious antics of the Bluths.
2. Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black may have debuted with less fanfare than other Netflix Originals, but the show built up steady buzz in the months following its 2013 release. After the second series was premiered in 2014, the show had established a rabid fanbase and many critics were scrambling to laud it with (slightly delayed) acclaim. Adapted from a best-selling book by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, the female centric prison-based drama feels like a breath of fresh air and completely unlike anything else on network television. Perfectly balancing moments of dark comedy with realistic characters and emotional storylines, the launch of the third season of Orange is the New Black in 2015 is guaranteed to be true ‘event’ television.
1. House of Cards
House of Cards proved that Netflix really wasn’t messing around when it came to its attempt at launching a new ‘prestigious’ online drama series. An adaptation of the BBC series of the same name, House of Cards is a political thriller executive produced by director David Fincher (who also directed the first two episodes) and starring Kevin Spacey as the manipulative, power-hungry antihero Frank Underwood. The high production values proved that this was a show which could rival the offerings provided by subscription cable networks like HBO or Showtime, and the cunning drama was an addictive, unmissable take on the seedy side of politics. Scoring nine Emmy nominations for its first season and thirteen for its second (it was the first Internet-based TV show to receive major awards notice), House of Cards established Netflix as a major player – and rival – in the television industry.