This summer, streaming services Netflix and Hulu are back in the spotlight again, releasing more self-produced television shows that are on par with — and in some cases above the level of traditional cable television series.
Dropped by AMC after three seasons, gritty crime drama “The Killing” was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season — said to the be show’s last.
The show, which features Mireille Enos, an actress virtually unknown before her Emmy-nominated run as Seattle detective Sarah Linden in “The Killing,” along with Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman (this year’s “Robocop” remake), is an exercise in episodic television.
As each season is essentially a long movie, rather than a series of individual episodes, “The Killing” seems tailor-made for Netflix, where shows are released a whole season at a time and binge-watching is the norm.
When it debuted on AMC in 2011, the pilot episode drew 2.7 million viewers — making it the No. 2 AMC debut behind “The Walking Dead.” However, the show drew the fire of critics and fans alike when it didn’t reveal the killer at the end of the first season. Numbers dropped off, as did ratings in the second season, and AMC cancelled the show after Season 2. However, negotiations with Netflix and Fox Television Studios helped bring the show back for a reasonably well-accepted third season.
But, the numbers just weren’t solid enough for a cable network show, and “The Killing” was killed again. Netflix came to the rescue, ordering a round of six episodes to give the show a final season and a chance to round out the storylines of its characters.
This kind of thing has become more and more common, but so has the advent of streaming services as international content distributors.
In the earlier days of cable television, the best shows produced overseas might eventually make their way to the U.S. by way of late-night syndication or by making an appearance on the long-running PBS show “Masterpiece Mystery.”
Shows like BBC’s “Prime Suspect,” starring Helen Mirren, and a number of shows featuring Agatha Christie’s famous sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, as well as the outstanding “Foyle’s War,” starring Michael Kitchen, could only be found via PBS. Then, as the number of cable networks began to swell, more syndication deals became available, and more shows were visible to viewers — at least those who could sift through the myriad channels at the right time to find them.
Then came on-demand, and then streaming services to save the day. To the growing frustration of the cable monopolies, no longer do we have to sift through hundreds of often irrelevant television channels to find something interesting. Now, we can search by category, country of origin, or even by an actor we’re interested in.
To that end, I recommend you check out the following shows:
Netflix released a second season of neo-gothic horror series “Hemlock Grove,” penned by Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman — a pair of writers from the Austin area.
“The Fall” is an Irish police drama starring Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”). The first five-episode season is available on Netflix, and a second season just recently wrapped filming. If you’re wondering about Gillian Anderson with an accent, don’t. She’s of Irish descent, and a BBC regular who grew up in London.
Timely and engrossing, Hulu’s “The Promise” gives some historical perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as a young woman learns about her grandfather’s involvement in the final years of Palestine under British rule in the 1940s.
If you haven’t seen “Lilyhammer,” starring Steven Van Zandt (“The Sopranos”), it’s a must-watch. This irreverant series was the first-ever Netflix original and one of its best.