By Sarah Perez
Following last month’s news of Netflix’s (NFLX) second original scripted series, “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix has confirmed that yet another original show, a horror series called “Hemlock Grove,” will begin airing on its streaming service in early 2013.
Netflix has exclusive rights to the 13-episode series, which tells the tale of a young girl’s murder set in a ravaged Pennsylvania steel town, and whose killer could be any one of several odd and frightening people…or creatures.
The show’s possible bad guys include a Gypsy kid who may be a werewolf, an escapee from a nearby biotech facility, and, perhaps the most frightening of all, the arrogant son whose family ran the steel mill business and now controls the town. Sounds like good stuff, if you’re into that gothic mystery genre, I suppose.
“Hemlock Grove,” which is based on a novel by Brian McGreevy, stars Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard and is being produced by Gaumont International Television. Eli Roth, who performed in “Inglourious Basterds” and created the “Hostel” franchise (yeah…thanks for that), is credited as both the director and exec producer on the new series.
Also exec producing the series are the book’s author McGreevy, Lee Shipman, Eric Newman (“The last Exorcism,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “Children of Men”) and Michael Connolly (“How to Train Your Dragon,” “Battlestar Gallatica”).
It’s notable that in terms of the executive producers at least, if not the actors, Netflix’s shows are not coming from newcomers and unknowns, but rather those who have previous experience in the industry. These are not “wannabes,” so to speak, they’re just among the first to bet big on this disruptive, over-the-top, streaming format for delivering a new way to watch television.
Netflix has been moving rapidly to expand into content creation, making deals which have also included the above-mentioned “Orange is the New Black,” the Steven Van Zandt vehicle “Lilyhammer,” as well as new episodes of “Arrested Development,” and an adaptation of the British miniseries “House of Cards,” which is set to arrive in the U.S. and Canada by late 2012. Rumors have been circling, too, that Netflix may pick up the recently cancelled sci-fi show from Fox “Terra Nova,” and today word comes that it’s also eying ABC’s “The River,” also facing cancellation.
By the middle of 2013, the company confirms it will have at least five original shows available for streaming.
Network TV is safe despite Netflix’s moves (at least for now), since it reaches a broad audience, including those who don’t pay for cable, but who rely on over-the-air transmission. However, Netflix has the potential to shake up the cable industry, especially premium cable TV, if the company decides to take it head on…and doesn’t end up getting into bed with them instead. While today, potential premium cable customers are frustrated with their inability to subscribe to the quality programs on pay cable channels via a la carte options (see, for example, MG’s ongoing complaints regarding HBO’s lockdown on “Game of Thrones”), it’s possible that in the not-so-distant future we’ll have a wide variety of quality TV found outside of premium cable to choose from.
And by quality, of course, I mean critically acclaimed, adult-targeted programming – the shows that couldn’t make it on ABC, NBC or CBS where the entire American TV-viewing audience is the demographic they hope to attract. There’s a reason why harmless, but brain-rotting reality competitions and laugh-tracked filled sitcoms starring attractive 20-year olds are among the country’s top shows in Nielsen ratings – they don’t offend anyone.
Except those viewers who expect more from the TV format, of course.
To compete with what will hopefully be a growing audience who ditches HBO (or Showtime, Cinemax, etc.) for Netflix’s streaming service in the coming months, real battles will begin: for actors, for scripts, for directors and producers, and of course, for viewers. Netflix may even be able to force the pay channels’ hand in the matter, if enough of the audience resorts to pirating their content, while paying for Netflix. It may be too late for today’s “Game of Thrones,” but by the time another show of that caliber rolls around, it might not be on cable.