Monday Morning Critic –Narcos, Stranger Things, The Get Down, Adam Sandler and The Quietly Emerging Creative Empire of Netflix


The biggest news this week was that of Gene Wilder’s passing, and the requisite tributes en masse to him. It would’ve been easier to write something on him, like a Top 10 Films that couldn’t be made in today’s modern environment, but that would be too easy. Hollywood has a long and storied history of being wildly out of touch in retrospect, over-correcting many years later, and pointing that out for the hundredth time isn’t all that interesting to right about.

Plus …. Well … everyone has figured out that films like Blazing Saddles will eventually get remade as PG-13 comedies that take all the bite out of their comedy. If someone can re-imagine Oliver Twist as a female crime fighter than its only time that Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and the Happy Madison gang will do a Direct to Netflix remake of the Wilder classic. Kevin James as Mongo, a klutz who loves fart jokes, is almost a near certainty to be lighting up the Netflix view charts by the end of 2020, I think.

Sandler is doing well enough on the pay service that anything is possible these days. Their deal with Sandler was something that was viewed much differently than it is now, of course, and through the macro level of Netflix as a whole something amazing is happening. The three biggest entertainment things a lot of people have been discussing as “the best to watch right now” are some combination of The Get Down, Narcos and Stranger Things.

All three are Netflix properties, produced as original content for the series, and join House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bojack Horseman and F is for Family (among others) as original content developed by the service over the past 3-4 years that has gotten critical acclaim. We can discuss how much good programming is still being made for television networks proper, from terrestrial to all 800 levels of pay cable, but the sheer volume of quality programming going direct to Netflix is absurdly good.

Everything they’re touching is quality to a much higher degree than anyone else these days.

Netflix is wildly fascinating on the whole because it’s slowly but surely going from being a pay service that allows one to watch hours of streaming video for days at a time to a weird conglomeration of a television studio, film production house and creative super power. Netflix, which started as a glorified mail order DVD service, has killed the video rental industry in one fell swoop and is now looking at establishing themselves as more than just a middle man for entertainment.

They’re arguably the most consistently good purveyor of programming out there with no peer in sight. I remember writing on this two years ago and Netflix has begun to transform itself into something bigger.

The Sandler deal was something that many people looked at sideways, mainly because Sandler is still a big enough star that having a direct deal with them seems like an admission of his diminishing star power, but so far it’s paid dividends to both sides. Sandler’s fan base has been responsive, driving his numbers on the network to unprecedented levels, and Sandler has been able to make films that would’ve flopped in theaters (or gone direct to DVD) and instead has found a way to establish himself in a much better position than many stars have found themselves in over the past couple years.

It’s amazing that in a couple years Netflix has taken the addition of Sandler and a number of strong additions to position itself in arguably the best position possible. It has a built in audience, and revenue stream, so that it doesn’t need to worry about making its money back on a project via multiple revenue streams (and partners). All Netflix has to do is look for quality programming that’ll appeal to its membership.

It’s how three such wildly different shows as Narcos, Stranger Things, The Get Down can find its way onto the service in the same quarter. When you don’t have to worry about making your money back, and appealing to as many audience types as possible in as many ways as possible, you can focus on making good products first and foremost.

Show me and Mike Noyes some love by subscribing to the “Confessions of a Superhero” channel right here. We’ll have a giveaway for our 100th subscriber of some swag from the set!

Scott Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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