Somewhere on the walls of Netflix HQ I like to imagine there is a checklist — a sort of manifesto for their programming decisions to follow. It looks something like this:
- Will it piss off HBO? Let’s do it.
- Will it be too expensive? Don’t care. People keep giving us more of it anyway. Let’s burn it all.
- Will this really stick it to the big movie studios AND network TV? Booyah!
- Will this out-cable the cable channels at their own game? Duh.
- Will this help us win ALL of the Emmys? No, like, literally ALL of them? Only one way to find out…
- But seriously, fuck HBO. Right in the ear.
This isn’t to say that they don’t have “standards” or “care about their audience” or whatever. It’s just that sometimes their decisions seem very calculated. And also I like inventing drama where there is none. I missed out on the good ol’ days of contractually-bound talent in the Hollywood studio system, or when Jack Kirby would leave Marvel for DC Comics, only to come back again a few years later. These days deals are made to be broken. Nobody is exclusive. And yet, in the free market that is Hollywood, talent seems to keep landing on Netflix’s doorstep.
Anyway, we’ve already heard that Netflix has stolen the prolific Shonda Rhimes away from ABC. They launch their own exclusive movies, from stars like Brad Pitt (War Machine) and creators like Bong Joon-Ho (Okja). Their line-up of comedy specials rivals the golden days of Comedy Central or HBO offerings (neither of whom seem to make nearly as many stand-up specials as they used to). But it’s the latest news from Netflix that has finally convinced me that they have HBO in their crosshairs, and everything else (studios, networks, etc.) is just collateral damage.
Maniac, a U.S. adaptation of a Norwegian series, has landed a straight-to-series order from the streaming giant. And it’s no wonder, because the talent on this thing is HUGE. The 10-episode series will star Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. And considering Emma is now the highest paid actress in Hollywood, that would seem to be more of a knock against the movie studios — except the hits don’t stop there, because two major HBO players are also involved: Cary Fukunaga and Justin Theroux.
Fukunaga, the man who helped make the first season of True Detective the juggernaut it was, will be directing and exec producing the series (and presumably will not be available to help HBO with True Detective season 3). And Theroux, fresh from The Leftovers, has just signed on for a reoccurring part in the show. No word yet on whether he’ll be bringing his sweatpants with him.
The series will be written by Patrick Somerville (who also wrote episodes of The Leftovers), centers on a man in a psychiatric ward who escapes reality to live in a fantasy world of his own making.
But before we all start high-fiving Netflix for knocking HBO down another peg, let’s just remember one thing: they stole Finn Jones from Game of Thrones and made him the Immortal Iron Fist, and we all saw how THAT turned out. If you need a reminder, you can see him in The Defenders starting today.