Over the past few years, satellite and cable providers have been taking a hit when it comes to attracting new customers and retaining old ones. It turns out a lot of consumers are tired of spending hundreds of dollars per month to watch the handful of channels they actually like. Constant channel lineup changes and fee hikes, supposedly to improve our television experience, don’t add up. The result, consumers are leaving the satellite and cable providers in droves as they opt for ever improving programming accessible on an ever improving internet. Ask any cable service tech, they’ll tell you annual installations are down when it comes to home television service. Today, reports have almost 1 in 5 Americans living without cable or satellite tv. That figure is likely to grow as internet speeds and reliability only gets better with each passing month.
Depending on how you look at it, internet-television and movie provider Netflix is either one of the causes and/or beneficiaries of this swing in television viewing. Established in 1997, the California based company is now a giant in the subscription based digital distribution business. Starting out as a predominately DVD rental business, Netflix has grown into a major provider of streamed content. Currently, more than 50 million people subscribe to Netflix and stream a variety of shows and movies for a relatively low monthly fee. Sure, you don’t get a lot of live sports and news channels which you find on the satellite and cable lineups. However, that doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people as the ‘cost vs content’ equation pushes them into Netflix’s corner.
So is it just money that makes people switch to providers like Netflix? Not really. Cost is certainly a huge motivator for people to start thinking about leaving the ‘traditional’ television providers. However, what Netflix offers, among many types of shows, are their Original Series. These are programs which are made just for Netflix and act as a foundation for the company’s entertainment offerings. This list looks at 10 of the best and most successful Netflix Originals which come out over the last few seasons. You may not be familiar with all of these shows, but in all likelihood you’ve heard of a few of them and know they can more than hold their own in any competition with the traditional network programs.
10. BoJack Horseman
This animated Netflix series follows the life of BoJack, a washed up celebrity of the 1990s who is attempting to gain back some fame by writing a memoir. Of course, there is the usual army of supporting characters, each with their own bizarre background or characteristics. Giving voice to the animated characters are a bunch of actors you are probably familiar with, including Will Arnett, Patton Oswalt and Kristen Schaal. Those familiar with the animated series Archer will probably like this series which has been renewed for a second season. Like Archer, critics are mixed on this one and it seems to be one of those ‘hate it or love it’ types of shows. But we love it.
Created by, written by, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais, Derek is a British comedy-drama which was picked up by Netflix in 2013. The show follows Derek Noakes, a 50-year-old who is a care worker in an elderly home. Often described as autistic, Gervais’ character is honest, kind-spirited, yet awkward around certain people or in certain situations. The mockumentary style of Derek will remind many of another Gervais show – The Office. That said, this Netflix show is not the same type of comedy as that British/American hit so don’t expect the same type of humor. Its two seasons did well although a third is not expected.
8. Hemlock Grove
Emmy-nominated Hemlock Grove is based on the novel of the same name by author Brian McGreevy. If you’re not into teenaged werewolves and vampires, scroll on to the next show on this list. For the rest of you who made it through the endless run of Twilight films, this Netflix Original series may be for you. That said, this is not just a Twilight copy. Horror film director-producer Eli Roth definitely gives this show an edge and actors like Famke Janssen provide the on-screen presence. Critics may not have been overly kind to the show, but interest is clearly strong given it has been renewed for a third, and reportedly final season.
7. Turbo F.A.S.T
The 2013 computer-animated film Turbo was a success for DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox and brought in over $280 million at the box-office worldwide. While the film was expensive to make, DreamWorks saw a strong future (and profits) in continuing the storyline in a television series format. To keep costs down, the new series is developed using Flash animation. It continues the story of Turbo by picking up right where the movie left off. Premiering at the end of 2013, Turbo F.A.S.T (Fast Action Stunt Team) episodes are released in five-episode bundles with 20 episodes released so far. The show continues to be popular with people who liked the movie and all indications are that DreamWorks and Netflix will be working together for the foreseeable future.
6. Arrested Development (Season 4)
Arrested Development aired on FOX from 2003 to 2006. While viewership numbers were generally low and often cited by FOX as the reason it was cancelled, Arrested Development developed a massive cult following in the years after it was terminated. Its popularity remained so high that a fourth season was released in 2013 on Netflix. Despite receiving generally positive accolades, the new season split the opinions of fans as the format of the show changed so as to focus on one of the main characters at a time. This was largely inevitable given the fact that many of the cast members had become popular as a result of the original run and were involved in many other projects, thus limiting their availabilities for taping. Nevertheless, the fourth season was a success and has been rumored to be the platform for an Arrested Development movie.
5. The Problem Solverz
If you’ve watched this animated show you either hate it or love it. The Problem Solverz was originally an adult-humored show meant for Adult Swim. That didn’t pan out and the Cartoon Network agreed to take on the project but only after it was toned down and made more appropriate for audiences. The show follows the exploits of Alfe, Horace and Roba as they solve problems which trouble their town of Farboro. After the first season aired, CN opted not to show the second season and Netflix stepped in – so it’s not totally correct to call this an original series. The Problem Solverz has been criticized for being more weird than cutting-edge with its strange storylines and ‘basic’ animation style. Watch an episode and you’ll see.
4. Bad Samaritans
With its first, and so far only, season released in 2013, this is definitely a show fans hope doesn’t pull a 2006 Arrested Development and vanish before the majority of viewers see how entertaining it is. Made up of largely unknown cast members, Bad Samaritans is the story of an ex-couple who have to enter 2000 hours of community service for starting a huge fire. During this time they run into a very diverse group of fellow felons which includes a stoner, ex-biker, socialite and parole officer. Only five episodes make up the first season and it would be a shame if Fox/Netflix deemed it anything but worthy of a second season.
Remember The Sopranos? That was a pretty good show even though it left more than one fan upset or confused by the sudden ending. The Netflix Original series Lilyhammer isn’t The Sopranos but it does have some links. Steven Van Zandt, in addition to being an E Street Band member, trades in his gangster role of Silvio Dante for a new mobster character – Frank Tagliano. In Lilyhammer, Tagliano goes into witness protection from the mob and ends up in Lillehammer, Norway. There he makes new friends, does a few illegal things and makes some ‘business’ deals as his mobster side comes through. What makes this so appealing to fans and brought about a second season renewal is the mix of crime, drama and comedy. Not a massive hit in the USA, in all likelihood Lilyhammer will gain more attention with its second season.
2. House of Cards
Even if you haven’t seen this show, you likely know it stars Kevin Spacey and has been nominated for a bunch of Golden Globes and Emmy awards – winning a 2013 Golden Globe for Best Actress. While it is classified as a Netflix Original, House of Cards is in fact based on the massively popular British series of the same name. In the Netflix version, Democratic politician Frank Underwood (played by Spacey) initiates a plan to grab more power in Washington with the help of his wife, played by Robin Wright. It’s everything you’d expect from a political thriller, with less filibuster and more power-grabbing and manipulation. With two seasons out, this fan favorite has been renewed for a third season.
1. Orange is the New Black
Yes, this is a show about women in prison, but it’s not what you think. Picture Oz (a prison series of the early 2000s if you don’t know it) take out all the killing and suspense and add in a lot of comedy and some lesbian scenes. The series is based on the real-life story of Piper Kerman, a writer who spent time in prison for felony money-laundering. In addition to the comedic aspect, Orange is the New Black has a cast made up of stars from others shows you’ve likely watched over the past few years. It all comes together to make a very entertaining show which, having been renewed for a third season, looks set to remain one of Netflix’s biggest draws.