Last month Netflix announced that it was aiming to release 700 pieces of original content in 2018. If this sounds like an absurd number to you, that’s because it is. It’s certainly doable, as the streaming giant released 54 new original TV shows/films in March alone, but I think this is a good time to bring out that respected saying — Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
When Netflix first started producing original content back in 2013 (House of Cards was their first), it was a massive hit. House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos were among their first major successes, followed by programming such as The Crown, Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, and BoJack Horseman. Today the Netflix Original panel is much more diverse, ranging from scripted dramas to documentaries to reality television to late night talk shows and loads in between. Netflix set the standard for streaming services early on, and promised that with your subscription not only would you get all of the great shows and movies that you’ve been meaning to watch, but you’ll also get content you can’t get anywhere else.
For a while there, a “Netflix Original” stamp on a show or movie meant it was going to be the best of the best — fantastic story, strong script, exceptional acting, and striking visuals. It would also guarantee that anyone who’s anyone would be watching, and social media would soon be flooded with talks of Netflix’s next big thing.
But recently I’ve noticed a trend. While there has been a major influx of more and more Netflix original content, it’s been less and less … good. Many of their recent products have felt rushed, sloppy, and generally unimpassioned. Most of the stories lack any memorable qualities, and that’s assuming that people even get to them, as so much of the original content put out today isn’t advertised at all. Now, every other show is a Netflix Original, but there’s hardly a meritable distinction to be made between them and an average cable show.
Perhaps part of the problem is that original content used to be about exclusivity. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black were amazing when they came out because it was clear how much time, effort, and care Netflix had put into making them the best they could possibly be. The early seasons of both of these shows are some of the tightest and cleverest television writing I’ve seen to date, and the production value was just a bonus. Now it feels that if Netflix has a few extra bucks laying around they’ll give it to any pitch that walks in the door, and the high production value seeks to mask the fact that there isn’t much substance. And maybe they are still making shows and films with substance, but people aren’t seeing them because they’re buried under the volume of filler material.
What good are all of these shows that no one is watching? What good is a film if it doesn’t evoke any emotional response and people forget about it an hour later?
Of course Netflix is still making great stuff. I will continue to look to them for new quality television and film. But perhaps they need to slow down, commission fewer projects, and really take their time with the ones they choose to produce.
We don’t need more content, we need better content.
Tell Us: What’s your favorite Netflix Original? Do you think they’re getting better or worse?