Netflix has to do a a lot to make up for their earlier, very public blunders in the handling of splitting the streaming and DVD by mail aspects of their business. Not only that, they’re facing rising content costs and rivalries from other companies such as the recently announce Verizon/Redbox deal, HBOGo, and other media companies trying come up with their own streaming business to deliver their content online. Netflix is countering these by producing their own original content. Coming down the pipeline are House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, and a new, fourth season of cult favorite TV comedy Arrested Development. The first out the gate is Lillyhammer with all eight episodes available up front, right now.
The 45 minute, Norwegian co-produced series stars Steven Van Zandt aka Silvio Dante from The Sopranos or Little Steven from the E Street Band. Van Zandt is a mafia underboss who, after surviving an assassination attempt by his new boss, decides to make a deal with the feds. His main stipulation is that he’s put into protective services outside the US, where it’s safe. After falling in love with the rural Norwegian town during the 1994 Winter Olympics, Frank Tagliano, Van Zandt’s character, chooses Lillehammer (mispronouncing it Lillyhammer, hence the show’s title). From there it’s a simple ‘fish out of water’ storyline. After having watched the first episode, I see nothing particularly interesting or different about this show. Van Zandt pulls off the same performance he did in The Sopranos. The story has so far moved along exactly as you would expect it would with all the expected ‘unexpected’ twists. “Hey, look, it’s a Wise Guy still trying to be a Wise Guy where there are no Wise Guys.” Johnny, as he likes to now be called in his new identity, tries all his old tricks against an uber PC/bureaucratic system. I generally like to give shows three or four episodes before fully making my decision. A first episode is generally slowed down by having to introduce the concept and could find its footing later or fall flat on its face. With Netflix having everything at once makes it easier to watch in my own time and form a decision without rushing it. The service’s major strong point is being able to experiment with content.