The Netflix Files: February 9, 2012

Although you may not have known about it, this past Monday, Netflix released its initial venture into original programming to American subscribers. The entire eight-episode first season of Lilyhammer, a fish-out-of-water dramedy about a mafioso trudging his way through snow-coated Lillehammer, Norway, is now available at the click of a button. But is it worth watching?

Norway seems to think so. One million Norwegians tuned in to watch the pilot of Lilyhammer when it premiered there last month. That’s roughly one-fifth of their total population.

It’s also a very, very weird show.

Steven Van Zandt, the star, co-writer and executive producer of the series, is perhaps better known for his role as “Little Steven,” the guitarist and backing vocalist for Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band. He is also recognizable to American audiences for his first and only acting role prior to Lilyhammer as consigliere Silvio Dante on HBO’s The Sopranos. Continue Reading

The Netflix Files: February 2, 2012

For Netflix, 2011 was a pivotal year in determining the company’s sustainability in the face of a flagging home video market and the push toward streamed content. The near-fatal price hike announced in July lost Netflix 800,000 subscribers, and CEO Reed Hastings’ seemingly endless flow of apology emails (as well as one particularly stubborn pothead on Twitter) continued to diminish brand loyalty. In the midst of this, Netflix examined new ways to stay relevant, initiating its unprecedented foray into original content with Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards and the highly-anticipated Arrested Development mini-season. The year culminated on an optimistic note, as stock began to recuperate and Netflix regained 610,000 subscribers.

In light of this, let’s reflect on the significance of 2011 by taking a look at Netflix’s streaming selection of films released last year: the good, the bad and the direct-to-the-bargain-bin-at-Tedeschi shit Nicolas Cage churned out so he wouldn’t have to sell another home. Continue Reading

The Netflix Files: December 8, 2011

Everyone in the whole world agrees that Arrested Development was a brilliant show cancelled before its time. Those very same people are now up in arms about the fate of Community, which was recently put on hiatus midseason by NBC.

Vulture takes a rational look at the announcement and deduces that there’s a 70-30 chance that the show will see a Season 4. But if it does, will we demand that an even unlikelier Season 5 come next year (or, more accurately, six-seasons-and-a-movie)? Don’t get me wrong, I think Community is one of the funniest, smartest, bestest comedies on television, but when the study group graduates, where do they go next? Do they resort to teaching, like Dr. Cox and Turk in that last season of Scrubs we’d all like to pretend doesn’t exist? Does Ed Helms eventually take over and pretend no one notices that he’s pulling the exact same schtick as the last guy? Will anyone still give a fuck who the mother is?

I’m firmly in the camp that Community should be granted the four years necessary for a Greenvale diploma, but after that it might be time to call it quits. A show overextending its welcome is far worse than being prematurely cancelled. The entire basis of Community, as showrunner Dan Harmon conceived of it, warrants four years and nothing more (except maybe an awesome post-series movie).

Party Down (2009-2010) is widely considered another brilliant-show-cancelled-before-its-time. It aired on Starz, where it received almost no attention, and it’s known mainly for featuring a pre-Glee Jane Lynch, who ditched the show when Fox came calling. It follows the antics of a catering crew that works various absurd events, ranging from Pepper McMasters Single Seminar to the Stennheiser-Pong Wedding Reception. Party Down was smart, witty and endearing – it also ends on the perfect note, after two seasons and twenty episodes total. Continue Reading

The Netflix Files: December 1, 2011

This past Tuesday, comedian Patrice O’Neal died at age 41 following complications from a stroke suffered in October. O’Neal, well-known in the stand-up community, received what was likely his highest exposure only a month earlier when he participated in Comedy Central’s Roast of Charlie Sheen. The overweight funnyman arguably stole the show, taking earnest-toned shots at fellow roasters Mike Tyson and Steve-O. After a night of being consistently made fun of for his age, career and purported senility, an astonished William Shatner proclaimed that O’Neal, of all the comedians present, was “telling it like it is.”

Even during the roast, O’Neal made references to his impending death. As the crowd reacted to his unflinchingly honest insults, he responded, “How the @#$% can I be too mean after this shit? I can’t believe it. I’m dying of diabetes and you mother@#$%ers are like, ‘Oh, that evil fat @#$%.”

O’Neal made very few appearances as an actor, but his guest spots on television were always memorable. He appeared in the second episode of “Arrested Development” as T-Bone, George Sr.’s prison buddy who briefly works at the banana stand (and unabashedly burns down the family storage unit). He also recurred on “The Office” as Lonny, the warehouse employee deemed “Sea Monster” by Kelly Kapoor. Continue Reading

F*ck Yeah: Netflix picks up Arrested Development for 2013

Well, it’s official. New episodes of Arrested Development are confirmed, to be streamed exclusively on Watch Instantly.

Bluths Saved.

After all the recent controversy (and the slew of pathetic emails from CEO Reed Hastings), Netflix and Qwickster are is automatically absolved of all sins. Now let’s get Community on there too.

Image via.

The Netflix Files: November 17, 2011

Steve Coogan, one of Britain’s most well-known comedians (primarily for giving career life to Alan Partridge, who I hadn’t heard of), never managed to make waves in the United States. His foray into Hollywood was a noble experiment, and you’ve probably seen him around in several high-profile supporting roles – as the Roman general figurine in Night At the Museum, the doomed director in Tropic Thunder and the corporate villain in The Other Guys. He even headlined two highly-marketed films, Around the World in 80 Days (which lost $70 million+ for Disney) and Hamlet 2 (an under-seen Sundance darling). Ultimately, Coogan failed to make an impact with American audiences. So, after hitting the bottom of the barrel with Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Marmaduke, he went back across the pond and made The Trip.

The Trip originally aired as a six-part series on BBC Two in 2010 and was later edited into a two-hour film for its U.S. release (and subsequent availability on Netflix Watch Instantly). It’s supposedly a sequel of sorts to Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (whatever the fuck that is), following fictionalized versions of Coogan and his friend Rob Brydon as they embark on a foodie tour of England. It was very well-reviewed, with a 97% among the Top Critics on RottenTomatoes.

The film operates without a script, relying on improvised banter and bickering between Coogan and Brydon. It’s dry, quiet and real, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. Further, it functions as a surprisingly honest account of Coogan’s own insecurities, both personal and professional. As an added bonus, Ben Stiller makes a welcomed cameo in Coogan’s dream (is it just me, or is he better in Britain too these days?).

This popular scene, in which Coogan and Brydon compete for the best Michael Caine impersonation, might just sell you: