Netflix today releases its latest original show, an eight-episode prequel to Wet Hot American Summer (2001). The original film was poorly reviewed when it came out but now has a cult following. Early critical feedback on the TV show, though, has been much more positive. The cast list is astonishing: Poehler, Rudd, Hamm, Schwartzman, Wiig, Cera, Schiff, Peele, Slattery; and that’s barely half of it. But that isn’t really the point of this PSA, because as things stand I don’t intend to watch it, not having seen the film.
My point, and I do have one, is this. In February 2013, Netflix took its first tentative steps into the world of original programming when it released House Of Cards, itself a remake of a British show. In fact, I suppose you could argue that its only truly original dramas in 2013 were Hemlock Grove and Orange Is The New Black. Next year, including new and renewed shows, it plans to release somewhere north of 35 – thirty-five – of its own shows. Plus, in all likelihood, some films.
Now, no-one knows how many viewers Netflix’s shows get. (Well, presumably someone at Netflix knows, but they aren’t saying. In any event, right up until the point where Netflix goes out of business, it’s irrelevant: it’s the total number of subscribers which matters.) But if we’re talking about creators/broadcasters/distributors of TV, let’s add Amazon Prime to Netflix. Then let’s add the American cable channels, which only a few years ago had something close to a monopoly on quality TV drama. Then the American networks. Then – why not? – the BBC, Channel 4, Canal +, DR… How many hundreds of shows is that? How many of them are going to be truly unmissable? (Very few of them.) How many of them are going to be, at least, rather good? (Quite a lot of them.)
I can’t believe that the market for TV is infinitely elastic. My TV-watching time certainly isn’t. But clearly someone thinks there’s scope for more. I have literally no idea where this is all going to end up.