2012: The year original programming took over the Internet.

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

“Lilyhammer.” “House Of Cards.” “The Failure Club.” “A Day In The Life.” “Battleground.” “Up To Speed.” And of course, “Electric City.”

These are the things that will (hopefully) make 2012 an interesting year. Why is that, you ask? Well, disembodied voice, these are just a few of the first wave of Internet-specific television programs set to invade a machine near you within the next couple months. From Jake Coyle at The Associated Press …

“Over the next few months, YouTube, Netflix and Hulu will roll out their most ambitious original programming yet — a digital push into a traditional television business that has money, a bevy of stars and a bold attitude of reinvention,” he wrote Thursday night. “The long-predicted collision between Internet video and broadcast television is finally under way. No one is suggesting that the quality on the Internet is close to that of broadcast TV, but it’s becoming easy to imagine a day when it will be.”

Indeed.

We’ll begin with Netflix’s foray into original programming, “Lilyhammer.” Set to begin Feb. 6 (or, for those of you who keep track of days, not this coming Monday, but the next), the show stars Steve Van Zandt (whom you might recognize from “The Sopraons,” or, well, the resident Other Guy on stage with Bruce Springsteen) as a mobster in a witness protection program in Norway. Riveting, I know.

From there, the Red-Envelope-That-Could will offer up the highly anticipated “House Of Cards,” a series we already tackled some months back on this here blog (yes, I’ll spare you from all the Kevin Spacey affection I’d love to bestow upon you right now). And if that’s not enough from Netflix, let’s not forget about the “Arrested Development” reboot slated for next year.

That said — and contrary to popular belief — there indeed are other outlets for such programming, and for that, we’ll collectively turn our animatronic heads toward Hulu, a site that has its eyes set on February for an original release of its own. “Battleground,” described as a “mock political documentary” will set sail Feb. 14, or as some of you well-adjusted people out there may say, Valentine’s Day. That will accompany the Website’s “Up To Speed,” a six part documentary on Richard Linklater, which is promised for later this year. And finally, for good measure, Hulu’s “A Day In The Life” is set to follow someone’s life for … you guessed it … 24 hours. Yes, that neon-green-fonted video-streaming site does still matter. Just ask the 30 million users it gets a month.

Then, of course, there is Yahoo and “Electric City,” which I believe has already been discussed on the FNP’s blogtastic blogosphere elsewhere. That animated series has none other than “Larry Crowne” star (sorry, Tom — we still love you!) Tom Hanks as the series’ brainchild. “The Failure Club,” on the other hand, has McDonalds’ least favorite person, Morgan Spurlock, at the head of what seems to be a reality series aimed at helping people do things they have always feared doing (or, as some might call it, “Fear Factor” without the money, worms or Joe Rogan). Don’t believe me? You can have a look here.

It all adds up to one big ball of expectation that might begin to shed light on the answer to the following age-old question: Can original television programming survive online?

“You can think of us as a cable-TV network, but we like to think we are at the center,” Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, told Coyle. “We are an Internet TV network, and then they (cable television networks) are going to become like us. But it’s the same thing, really. We are becoming more like them in doing some originals, starting that journey, and they are becoming more like us in creating an on-demand interface.”

Yahoo’s original programming head Erin McPherson then added fuel to that fire by recently proclaiming Yahoo as “the fifth network.” “The time is right,” she told Coyle. “We’re finally here.”

And so it goes. One month into 2012, and we already have the stage set for a pretty intriguing year from an Internet television standpoint. Will this be the year you cut the chord? Will “Arrested Development” actually shoot new episodes in the summer, like the people behind it promise? Will “House Of Cards” not stink? Can Netflix buy its way back into the hearts of the many people whose hearts were lost in 2011? Do you like the new packaging Wendy’s offers for their hamburgers? (Man, I hope not. What an awful idea!)

In any case, it may have taken 26 days, but it finally feels like the new year is here. And while most of your gym memberships have fallen by the wayside and you’ve finally finished those left-overs from the crazy New Year’s Eve party you hosted, it’s become clear that there are a few Websites that are going to do their best to make sure 2012 will go down as a year to remember.

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