The success of Netflix’s latest drama compounds its problem with quality control

Let’s get one thing straight: Anatomy of a Scandal is a ridiculous series.

The first of many upcoming Netflix projects from Big Little Lies writer David E. Kelley, the series is a star-studded adaptation of Sarah Vaughan’s bestselling novel and tells the story of a Westminster politician (Rupert Friend) accused of raping his aide (Naomi Scott). The man’s wife (Sienna Miller) is utterly convinced of his innocence, though her resolve is tested by a stubborn prosecutor (Michelle Dockery) determined to prove otherwise.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the synopsis reads like standard contemporary drama fare, and Kelley’s latest show – adapted for the screen with co-writer Melissa James Gibson (House of Cards) – didn’t conquer. reviews with any semblance of noticeable style or substance.

TechRadar’s own entertainment editor, Tom Goodwyn, described Anatomy of a Scandal as little more than “about six hours of Sienna Miller sighs,” which is one of the most forgiving ratings you’ll find on Internet if you are looking.

It’s a wonder, then, that the series skyrocketed to the top of Netflix. weekly popularity charts. With over 75 million hours of viewing in the past seven days, Anatomy of a Scandal has become the first Netflix show hit Bridgerton season 2 from its perch, and looks set to stay in the front row for several weeks to come.

Except that his success is not at all a marvel. In recent years, Netflix has perfected the art of trickster TV – series that attract audiences, like moths, with big names and moody marketing, only to leave them dissatisfied but equally unwilling to bail. their time investment halfway through.

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GQ’s Ben Allen recently made the same point in his description of “Prestige Imposter,” a type of show that, in his words, “has all the trappings of your shiny HBO favorites — huge stars, silly budgets, big-money writers – but comes close to EastEnders in depth and quality, a Trojan horse full of human excrement.

Okay, maybe Anatomy of a Scandal isn’t enough so bad, but it certainly doesn’t warrant more viewers than any other TV show streaming right now.

Rupert Friend in Anatomy of a Scandal

Rupert Friend stars as a politician accused of sexual assault in Anatomy of a Scandal (Image credit: Netflix)

Of the myriad streaming services available to customers in 2022, Netflix is ​​the biggest offender when it comes to peddling below-average series in such large quantities. Don’t get me wrong, the platform still has the ability to produce award-worthy television – stranger things and Sex Education rank among the best in recent memory – but its often lazy production has begun to annoy subscribers who toy with the idea that their money could be better spent elsewhere.

Netflix bosses know this. In response to the news the streamer has bleeding 200,000 paying customers since the start of 2022, CEO Reed Hastings has told investors that the company plans to “re-accelerate viewing and revenue growth by continuing to improve all aspects of Netflix – in particular, the quality of [its] programming.”

Like Apple TV Plus – whose recent projects CODA and Severance have proven the value of investing in truly unique original programming – Netflix must now trust its viewers’ willingness to embrace the unknown, and also to give those original series that To do break the mold time to breathe before condemn them to scrap.

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But that doesn’t help the cause when shows like Anatomy of a Scandal challenge their quality to become – in the eyes of Netflix’s statisticians – blockbuster productions. When these safe, shallow series rack up 75 million watch hours in a single week, their success may justify the streamer’s decision to cancel other really interesting projects (like those previously in development within its animation department) that would immeasurably improve the quality of the service as a whole.

So there is an awkward contradiction at play that raises several questions that are difficult to answer. If these so-called “prestige imposters” are still popular, should Netflix continue to order them in an effort to regain subscriber momentum? Netflix customers – who have so openly criticized the streamer and its recent content – do they really care about the quality of the shows they watch? Or does Anatomy of a Scandal only rank among the most popular on Netflix because the options are so limited?

To be clear: Netflix subscribers aren’t at fault here. Logic simply suggests that the company will seek to replicate its big wins by doing just that – churning out seamless series that garner big viewership numbers at the expense of critical disdain. Perhaps, however, the acclaim is overrated – if the audience are genuinely enjoying Anatomy of a Scandal and not just holding out until the end and then more power for Netflix.

Still, for our money, the streamer needs to focus on quality over quantity going forward if they hope to fend off increasingly fierce competition from rival platforms like Disney+ and HBO Max. Business is imminent crackdown on password sharing and the likely introduction of a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier will help mitigate its losses, but as Netflix well knows: content is, and always will be, king.

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