Netflix made its first foray into original content today with the streaming of Lilyhammer, an eight-episode series that follows a mobster's undercover adventures in Norway. Its trailer was promising! The actual show? Less so.
It's the first original, scripted Netflix series, and part of the company's move to win subscribers despite losing high-profile content from Starz.
People who loved everything about The Sopranos except the Soprano family itself, New Jersey, and realistic/engrossing plot points.
Mobster Steve Van Zandt testifies against his former boss, and requests to be witness relocated to Norway because he enjoyed watching the '94 Lillehammer Olympics. Shenanigans ensue.
Netflix has smartly put all eight episodes of this season up for streaming on the first day, although many viewers might not make it past the first. Much of the 45 minute pilot consists of Van Zandt bribing and shooting and broadly stereotyping his way through town, while the locals say things like: "You seem to know a lot about guns… and pistols, for a restaurant guy." Because he is a mobster. There are many subtitles.
There have never been this many gainfully employed Norwegian actors.
It's hackneyed, it's forced, it's silly. But the bad news for Netflix is that it's meh. Lilyhammer is perfectly watchable, but not something that you'll keep coming back to.
Van Zandt's request to be relocated to Norway feels distinctly like someone throwing darts at a culture board to create the Van Zaniest fish out of water scenario possible. There are hints that the underlying motivation will be explained further as the show goes on, but... but... no. Not buying it.
If you're already a Netflix subscriber, sure! Watch an episode, it's only 45 minutes out of your day, and maybe your suspension of disbelief and love of snowscapes are stronger than mine.
But that's not the real question. What Netflix wants to know is: will you subscribe, or keep subscribing, because of this (and its upcoming companion, the Kevin Spacey-driven House of Cards), the way that Game of Thrones keeps you coming back to HBO. And the answer to that is probably not, unless you have oodles of disposable income or uncontrollable Norway lust.
• Netflix Instant Watch
• Episodes: 8
• Starring: Steven Van Zandt, Several Norwegians
• Price: Included in $8/month Netflix Subscription
• Giz Rank: 2.5 stars