Pop quiz (no points will be awarded if you read the headline of this article): What was Netflix’s first original series? There have been so many over the years, some good, some Cowboy Bebop, but what was the first one? If you said House Of Cards or remembered the name of the one about werewolves with Famke Janssen, you are wrong. It was actually Lilyhammer, the show where Steven Van Zandt from the E Street Band played a mobster who moved to Norway as part of the Witness Protection Program.
Before you chime in and say “no, that’s not true,” though, we should point out that, no, it’s not totally true. Lilyhammer was the first original series to debut exclusively on Netflix in the U.S., but its first season was made by (and aired on) Norwegian TV network NRK1 before it arrived on our digital shores—which happened after Netflix had picked up House Of Cards, its first original series made in-house and therefore, arguably, its actual first original series.
But nobody wants to talk about House Of Cards, least of all Netflix, so we’re all going to agree to this slight fiction and accept that Lilyhammer is definitely the streamer’s first original series, especially now that it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary. Yes, 10 years ago today, Netflix began to completely shift its business model toward exclusively throwing money at anything and everything it can make in hopes of maybe 10 percent of it turning into a massive hit.
To mark this totally legitimate anniversary that requires no asterisks, Netflix boss Ted Sarandos has released both a blog post about this decade of originals (which, full disclosure, also starts with a “what was Netflix’s first original series?” gag) and a video in which he chats with Van Zandt about Lilyhammer and the show’s surprising historical relevance. Netflix was already making House Of Cards, so it’s not like Stranger Things or whatever wouldn’t have happened without Lilyhammer, but it was still technically the first and it’s weird to remember what Netflix was like before Lilyhammer came along. So sure, happy birthday to Lilyhammer.