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Netflix Bows Original ‘Lilyhammer’ Series

6 Feb, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix has launched its first original scripted TV series, “Lilyhammer,” an off-beat comedy starring Steven Van Zandt (“The Sopranos”).

The series, which debuted Feb. 5 in the United States (with a red carpet Feb. 2 in New York), Canada and Latin America, finds Van Zandt playing a New York mobster who enters federal witness protection and decides to relocate to Lillehammer, Norway — host city of the 1994 Winter Olympics with a population of just 26,639 people.

Van Zandt’s character knows little about the country or the language — a comedic quirk that Netflix purposely sought out. So while Van Zandt speaks in English, the folks and characters he meets speak mostly in their native tongue with subtitles. All eight episodes of the series can be viewed in their entirety, and are fully subtitled in local languages in Latin America.

“It is highly unusual for a single programmer to debut shows in multiple territories,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer wrote in a blog post.

Sarandos said he expects Netflix to take the diversity of programming cable brought to television to the next level. Netflix currently is producing a reboot of 1990 British crime series, “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). It also plans to re-launch critically acclaimed comedy “Arrested Development” in 2013.

“Lilyhammer” also is airing on Norwegian TV and is in its third episode, with more than 1.2 million of the country’s 5 million people watching weekly, according to Sarandos.

“It’s the most-watched TV show in Norwegian history,” he wrote. “It is our hope that we can help to bridge language barriers to bring the world's content to an increasingly global audience.”

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