Why 'Lilyhammer' Mattered to Netflix Even Though No One Watched It

The canary in the content coal mine bites the dust.


Lilyhammer, Netflix’s first original series, has been cancelled after three seasons, joining The Killing and Hemlock Grove in the tiny club of axed originals. The show, which followed Steven Van Zandt’s exploits in Scandinavia, was a profoundly significant show, despite being essentially unloved, because it helped launch and define a new paradigm. While the show never truly caught on like the streaming service’s second original program, House of Cards, it still taught the now-all-powerful Netflix some valuable lessons:

  • The length of any show’s season should be defined by the story arc.
  • Making all episodes of a series available at once is the best means of creating buzz and making viewers happy.
  • Take risks on creative people.
  • High production costs attract new subscribers.
  • Create programming that caters to specific interests.

Lilyhammer wasn’t a massive business or creative success, but it did provide an affordable proof of concept — and for that it deserves some recognition. It will live on in Netflix recommended queues and in the New York Subway system, which is still full of posters from three years ago.

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