Lessons I've Learned From T.V.: The year of online originals
We saw a lot of great television in 2013.
"Breaking Bad" surpassed "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" with its epic conclusion to become the greatest serial drama of all time. "American Horror Story" continued with an entertaining third season whose only real fault, besides its unnecessary growing need for gratuitous shock value, is that it cannot stand up in its predecessor's shadows. "The Walking Dead" began to resemble one of its zombie antagonists until the fourth season gave it a much needed revival. "Parks and Recreation" and "The League" continued to be the funniest shows on television, despite their underappreciation. "How I Met Your Mother" began to overstay its welcome as the show dragged into an unnecessary last season, but provided enough laughs to excuse its uninteresting plot. All things considered, 2013 was a good year for television.
While a lot of great things happened on television in 2013, the big surprise was how much great television seemed to happen on the internet.
Netflix has been trying to develop original shows and materials for some time now. The first one I can recall was "Lilyhammer" back in 2012. I cannot say I have personally watched the show, but I have heard nothing but negative comments about it.
2013 started off well for Netflix with their introduction of the David Fincher produced "House of Cards," the story of a corrupt sociopathic senator plotting an elaborate, vengeful and vicious path to the presidency. With the involvement of Fincher and stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, I had high hopes, but was naturally skeptical at first. "House of Cards" managed to exceed my expectations and become one of the best shows of 2013, earning universal acclaim from both critics and audiences as well as numerous accolades.
Netflix must have known they had something big on their hands with "House of Cards" because shortly after we saw many more original programs appear in 2013. Given the time and money it takes to prepare these things, they must have known the gamble would pay off.
Shortly after "House of Cards" came "Hemlock Grove." I watched the trailer and had no interest in what appeared to be another generic werewolf genre show aimed at a young teen girl audience. After the negative reviews came in, I no longer even debated giving the pilot a chance.
Shortly after "Hemlock Grove," Netflix introduced "Orange is the New Black." Given the obvious aim for a female audience, I immediately overlooked it. At this point, I also felt Netflix may have had a one hit wonder with "House of Cards." After the rave reviews and universal acclaim from audiences began to come in for "Orange is the New Black," I decided to give it a try.
I was expecting "The Carrie Diaries," but was delighted instead to find a show as funny as "The Office," but as dark as "Oz." "Orange is the New Black" stands beside "House of Cards" as one of the best shows of 2013 and also earned universal acclaim and numerous accolades. Both are highly anticipated for their return in 2014.
So what does this all mean for Netflix and the future of television programming? Netflix content obviously matters and reaches an audience large enough to be relevant. While not every program they have created has been successful, they produced two of the most popular shows of 2013. They also have begun to produce their own documentaries and stand-up routines with comedians as big as Aziz Anzari. At this rate, I think it is safe to say that we will see more Netflix original content appear and the quality should only increase with more actors, writers, directors and producers willing to invest more time and money into material they may have previously been skeptical about. For the time being, Netflix has shown us they matter and if they continue to produce high quality material, they should continue to do so.
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