Today Netflix put their first original program Lilyhammer up on the internet for everyone who pays a subscription fee to watch. This is the future of television! Too bad the show isn't that great.
Lilyhammer, which Netflix bought from Norwegian television, is about a New York mobster who enters the witness protection program and asks to be relocated to Lillehammer, the Norwegian home of the 1994 winter Olympics. Of course, when he gets there it's like Northern Exposure meets The Sopranos. The comparison is quite apt because the gangster is played by Steve Van Zandt, the Springsteen bandmember who played Silvio Dante on the HBO mafia drama.
The show is cute enough, but it drags a bit and the situations are more than a bit predictable. Van Zandt is basically playing Silvio all over again, but somehow his new character, Johnny, isn't quite as likeable. You enjoy that he's mean to some punks on the train, but when he shows excessive force against a county worker who is causing him some annoyance, he just comes off as mean. That's the problem with Lilyhammer, it still hasn't found the balance between action, comedy, drama, and romance that would make it a frothy, if wacky, TV hit.
That said, it's a lot better than we hoped for Netflix original series. In terms of production value it reminds me of a USA network show—it looks pretty good, but you know it was made on the cheap. Some time in the near future, everything will be on demand and meted out to us in ways that the corporations that dole out our entertainment byproducts haven't even dreamed up yet. The idea of a television "season" is practically extinct, and soon the idea of airing shows weekly or creating content just for one medium will be as quaint as reruns of Mr. Ed. Right now you can watch all eight episodes of Lilyhammer's first season (which aired in Norway last month). What television network would let you do that? And without commercials, to boot.
Since it is the bellweather of the future of all entertainment, Lilyhammer is a good start. Hopefully Netflix will invest some money on some more original premises and more experimental narratives, but as far as its first original show goes, it could have done a lot worse—it could have paid for Whitney.