I kind of feel like Netflix is giving us everything and the kitchen sink with Lillyhammer: it’s The Sopranos! And a little bit of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Scandanavia! With a good dose of fish out of water stuff a la You Kill Me! And a sheep! And a girl band! And a bit of Uncanny Valley in that opening sequence that makes the characters look more like Grand Theft Auto avatars than actual humans!
That said, I do quite like semi-goofy gangster stories and Steve Van Zandt, so I’ll definitely check this out.
But I think the show, and the other originals Netflix has signed up for, including an Arrested Development continuation and a House of Cards remake point to a larger challenge for the service as it tries to develop a brand identity. What’s been great about Netflix as a streaming and DVD delivery service has been its breadth. Whether your thing is violent motorcycle gang soap operas, workout videos, or great sitcoms of the ’80s, it had you covered. It would likely be easier for Netflix to dig in and develop a couple of great sitcoms, or one or two great dramas, or to decide it’s going to do a couple of anti-hero shows across formats, effectively deciding that it’s going to court a niche audience for its originals business, or at least one niche at a time. But it’s a harder thing to develop consistently excellent programming across a wide variety of genres, tones, and subject-matter tranches. I can understand why the company would prefer to try for that, though: after causing a lot of confusion and doing itself a lot of damage, I’d want a master-stroke to bring in new or disaffected former customers, and to make a lot of my audience very excited. I’m just not entirely sure how it’ll pan out.