Netflix’s transformation of the television industry has long been debated as being either a blessing or bane for the old gogglebox. With the streaming giant’s latest string of original programming, that debate has now zeroed in on one specific genre: late night.
Talk shows have been around forever, but Netflix seems to be trying to work its magic to bring new dynamics to the tried and true late night formula.
Bill Nye’s Bill Nye Saves the World cuts to enough celebrity segments to give it the feel of a talk show, but it primarily focuses on zany experimentation and palatable scientific explanations. Chelsea Handler’s now-canceled Chelsea eschewed the traditional monologue in favour of longer interviews, more cinematic and comedic segments, and even ‘remote’ dinner parties featuring multiple guests.
One of Netflix’s latest ventures, The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, exposes its viewers to a wide range of content, some drawn from the internet. It harkens back to not only McHale’s previous show on E!, The Soup, but another clip show of old: Ray William Johnson’s Equals Three.
Elsewhere, Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman have managed to make the simple art of conversation exciting again with Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, not to mention Jim Rash’s talk show lite take on behind-the-scenes footage with Beyond Stranger Things.
With these exciting, fresh takes on a classic genre, Netflix is cleverly combining its own pedigree with the individual star power of big-name celebrities to usher in a new age of late night — the same kind of new age it brought with its other originals. The revolution is truly being televised.
No revolution is without its opponents, however. Netflix has been blamed for significantly impacting traditional cable viewership with its à la carte nature and quality original programming.
Netflix boasts a slew of high-profile shows with large fanbases under its Netflix Original label. Stranger Things, for example, has had such a cultural impact that it warranted a coveted Super Bowl halftime trailer for its second season.
The influence of the Netflix special has even made its way into comedy. The service has begun to offer many comedians, seemingly regardless of their mainstream popularity, the chance to film their own hour.
Late night is only the latest foray Netflix has made into original programming, and it might have only just begun. The Daily Show alum Michelle Wolf, a standup comedian and long-time contributor to the satirical news show, recently announced her own talk show venture with the streaming giant. Fellow Daily Show alums Jessica Williams and Hasan Minhaj have also contributed to the Netflix catalogue, and Minhaj also recently secured his own deal with Netflix for a talk show.
The talk show correspondents and hosts who have attracted Netflix’s attention prove that the streaming service has an eye for talent and is willing to expend its resources to lure them away from traditional broadcasting.
The great prestige attached to its original work and the unprecedented access it provides to an ever-expanding library of network TV shows have firmly established Netflix as not only a part of the industry, but of the cultural zeitgeist.
Such a force cannot exist without challenge or something to challenge. Netflix very much seems to be gearing up to actively compete with traditional cable television. Be it in late night, standup, or scripted shows, the Netflix Original is undeniably on the rise.