Stream­ing’s great­est hits: monar­chy, Man City and a horse with de­pres­sion

The Observer - - Business - Lanre Bakare

Net­flix and Ama­zon have in­vested bil­lions of dol­lars in pro­duc­ing orig­i­nal con­tent for their stream­ing plat­forms. Here are some of their most no­table shows.


House of Cards

A re­make of a Bri­tish clas­sic, the stream­ing site’s first orig­i­nal showed its com­peti­tors that it meant busi­ness. The ac­cu­sa­tions sur­round­ing Kevin Spacey’s al­leged be­hav­iour on set saw him fired from the show and leave its fi­nal sea­son – which starts on 2 Novem­ber – in the hands of his costar Robin Wright.

Stranger Things

The Duf­fer Broth­ers pas­ticheathon was a mas­sive sleeper hit for Net­flix. Re­leased in the sum­mer of 2016 to lit­tle fan­fare, it be­came a smash thanks to its 1980s-tinged nos­tal­gia and straight­for­ward sto­ry­line of kids in peril, which had nods to ev­ery­thing from The Goonies and Cujo to Car­rie and Stand By Me.

The Crown

Net­flix’s ex­pen­sive royal drama stands out as one of its most ac­com­plished orig­i­nals. Lav­ish but not self-in­dul­gent, bril­liantly cast and del­i­cately han­dled by cre­ator Peter Mor­gan, it gave Net­flix a bona fide top-drawer of­fer­ing. Af­ter two sea­sons the roy­als have been re­cast, and with Olivia Col­man and He­lena Bon­ham-Carter tak­ing the lead roles, its best days are prob­a­bly still to come.

BoJack Horse­man

An an­i­mated show about a de­pressed C-list celebrity horse (pic­tured) try­ing to re­vive his ca­reer and life in Hol­ly­wood sounds far too odd to work. But Raphael BobWaks­berg’s idio­syn­cratic show, now in its fifth sea­son, has be­come a crit­i­cal dar­ling, praised for its pre­sen­ta­tion of men­tal ill­ness, abusive re­la­tion­ships and the way it care­fully cri­tiqued #MeToo.

Orange is the New Black

One of the first batch of Net­flix orig­i­nals, Jenji Ko­han’s prison dram­edy, with its heav­ily black and Latina cast, was qui­etly rev­o­lu­tion­ary. View­ers quickly found that the most in­ter­est­ing thing about the show wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily its os­ten­si­ble lead char­ac­ter. In­stead, Ko­han made crit­i­cally adored tele­vi­sion by delv­ing into the back­grounds of the prison’s in­mates. It has lost mo­men­tum more re­cently as the se­ries com­petes for at­ten­tion with other, big­ger-bud­get Net­flix shows, but OITNB showed early on that the stream­ing site was go­ing to do things dif­fer­ently.



Jill Soloway’s semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal story, about an LA fam­ily whose pa­tri­arch tran­si­tions, is Ama­zon’s best-known and most con­tro­ver­sial orig­i­nal. Crit­i­cally adored (eight Em­mys and two Golden Globes), the show gave Jeff Be­zos’s TV team what they needed: a re­spected pres­tige show. But al­le­ga­tions of on-set sex­ual as­sault by lead ac­tor Jef­frey Tam­bor have made a fifth se­ries in­creas­ingly un­likely.

All or Noth­ing: Man City

Ama­zon fol­lowed Net­flix’s lurch into Eu­ro­pean foot­ball af­ter its com­peti­tor re­leased the fluffy First Team: Ju­ven­tus. All or Noth­ing started life as a warts-and-all NFL docu-se­ries, and Man City gave ac­cess which showed the highly strung man­age­ment style and ap­proach of Pep Guardi­ola and his back­room staff. Re­leased af­ter the team’s record­break­ing 2017-8 sea­son, it was a suc­cess for Ama­zon and Man City.

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Few would have pre­dicted seven Em­mys this year for a se­ries about a Jewish house­wife who starts an al­ter­na­tive life as a standup comic, by Gil­more Girls showrun­ner Amy Sher­man-Pal­ladino. But the tight writ­ing and com­pelling cen­tral per­for­mance from Rachel Bros­na­han gave Ama­zon’s easy-to-over­look com­edy a ded­i­cated au­di­ence. The sec­ond sea­son is due in Novem­ber.

The Grand Tour

The vastly lu­cra­tive ve­hi­cle for Jeremy Clark­son and co was seen as a cru­cial part of Ama­zon’s TV – and over­all – strat­egy. How do you get mid­dle-aged men who don’t re­ally watch TV to sign up for Prime? Give them a show that’s tai­lor-made to their de­mo­graphic. Brash and laddy to a fault, The Grand Tour isn’t for every­one, but that’s the point.

The Ro­manoffs

Matt Weiner was one of the big­name di­rec­tors lured to stream­ing with the of­fer of lots of money and lit­tle cre­ative re­straint. The re­sult is a hit-and-miss fol­low-up to Mad Men, a glo­be­trot­ting set of in­di­vid­ual films ten­u­ously linked to the Ro­manov fam­ily. Ama­zon will call it a cre­ative tri­umph, but the truth is that even the most tal­ented need to be reined in at times.

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