In 2016, Netflix took a huge swing and declared its intention to eventually have half of its entire catalog be original films and TV shows, a concept that seemed enormously optimistic at a time when Netflix’s originals were mostly high-profile projects like House Of Cards and the then-new Stranger Things phenomenon. In the years since, though, Netflix has easily achieved that goal by gradually gutting its lineup of non-originals and greenlighting a bunch of high-profile plays for prestige that are largely supported by more crowd-pleasing mainstream fare that isn’t challenging or interesting or off-putting in any way. The idea is that you’ll sign up to watch Roma or whatever, but after that you’ll binge every Adam Sandler movie over and over again while Ted Sarandos cashes your increasingly big subscription fee checks.
Unfortunately, after failing to win any Best Picture Oscars and falling short of subscriber goals, that system has proven to be untenable. In a report from The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week about Netflix’s attempt to cut some costs, “one person” suggested that Netflix’s old strategy of doing “anything to attract talent and giving them carte blanche” is “going away.”
Or, as THR puts it, “the era of expensive vanity projects at Netflix” is over, with the story specifically citing the $175 million price tag of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman as an example of the kind of thing that will probably never happen again—or at least not a several times a year, as has been the case for a while now.
But the other half of the system, the part where Netflix craps out weird trash that everyone watches out of morbid curiosity and then realizes is actually kind of fun and popular, is still going strong. If you’re already printing money, why use that money to make art when you can just… keep the money? Another season of quar-hit Floor Is Lava is on the way, and today Netflix announced that it has renewed completely bizarre cooking competition Is It Cake? for another season as well.
Now, Is It Cake? is fun, and there’s something to be said about the commitment to making an actual TV show that sounds like a joke TV show, but it is just the perfect distillation of 2022 Netflix to have someone say “no more movies where we give a director a blank check” one day and “we’re doing the stupid cake show again” the next day.