Netflix Originals Are Just Bad Enough to Destroy It
Mediocre shows won’t cut it as the world’s biggest streaming company faces more competition
Last year, in August, I settled in with a smile to watch Disenchantment, Netflix’s satirical fantasy sitcom from Simpsons creator Matt Groening. I imagined it would skewer the popular fantasy genre as a hilarious satire of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings sword-and-sorcery tropes, with characters every bit as memorable as Marge Simpson and Krusty the Clown.
And so I spent the morning on Netflix, watching the first few episodes, expecting greatness. I chuckled a few times during the pilot, mostly at an elf character named Shocko (the joke is that he’s always shocked). But as I made it through each episode, a half-hour each with no commercials to pad out their running time, I laughed less and less. I glanced at my watch and fidgeted with my iPhone. By the middle of the first season’s initial run of 10 episodes, I began to wonder if I was going to be able to finish the show at all. It just wasn’t funny. The characters weren’t that interesting; they come across as whiny and lacking in personality, despite the voice talents of Abbi Jacobson, Eric Andre, and John DiMaggio.
Disenchantment improved a bit, but not enough to make it must-watch TV. The second half of the first season was released this year. It’s not much better. On paper, this show sounded fantastic. But actually watching 20 episodes of it is punishing; you want it to be so much better, and it never fully delivers.
If you watch a lot of Netflix, this is probably a familiar story. For every Netflix series that wins awards and excites critics, say Russian Doll, there are at least three or four that fail to live up to their potential, or that register so little they quickly disappear.
There are series that were added to Netflix only a year or two ago that now sound completely made up. Remember the 2017 Naomi Watts psychotherapy drama Gypsy? That forgotten 10 episodes of television had the unfortunate tagline, “Who are you when no one is watching?” We still don’t know.
Netflix isn’t in a position to settle for so-so much longer. It needs to invest in shows…