There was a time when it looked as though Netflix was poised to become the streaming world's answer to HBO.
Like the network that brought you The Sopranos and Deadwood, Netflix created its own niche, and at first, the streaming giant seemed to be focused on supplementing its movie library with a wide array of prestige original series.
But in recent years, the OG streamer abandoned that strategy in favor of an approach that's less ambitious and -- well, more depressing.
These days, there's a pervasive feeling that Netflix is more TBS than HBO.
The platform that delivered Orange Is the New Black, The Crown, BoJack Horseman, and Narcos is now churning out far more pedestrian fare -- basically, the sort of stuff you'd find on basic cable.
The list of series recently renewed by the famously cancel-happy streamer includes:
There's nothing wrong with any of those shows, of course, and execs are wise to greenlight relatively low-budget series that are able to draw an audience without relying on expensive special effects or big-name stars.
But the shift from experimental, adventurous projects to safe, soapy teen dramas comes as a disappointment to subscribers who hoped that Netflix would continue to focus on prestige content.
The fact is, if you're over 25, there's a good chance that you've never heard of most of the shows returning to Netflix this year.
And that's a problem, as most of the folks shelling out those monthly subscription fees are well past the target age demo for Heartbreak High.
With Stranger Things coming to an end in 2024, Netflix execs will soon find themselves scrambling for something with the broad appeal necessary to become their next cultural phenomenon.
From what we're seeing thus far, it seems like the streamer is taking a scattershot approach to the problem.
Netflix confirmed its 2024 slate of original films and series today with a sizzle reel that's as confounding as it is exciting.
There's a lot for investors to smile about, including new seasons of Cobra Kai, Emily In Paris, Bridgerton, and Squid Game.
Smaller, promising series like The Diplomat and Ryan Murphy's Monsters will also be returning.
(The first season drew acclaim for its chilling portrayal of the life of Jeffrey Dahmer. Season 2 will focus on the Menendez brothers.)
And Netflix has doubled down on generating some mid-winter buzz by announcing today that it's developing a limited series called Death By Lightning.
Based on Candace Millard's nonfiction bestseller Destiny of the Republic, the series will feature Michael Shannon and Succession's Matthew McFadyen in a fictionalized take on the life of President James Garfield.
Yes! Now, that's the kind of unexpected announcement that brings us back to the era of Peak TV!
Of course, the news that Netflix will be taking such a leap is tempered by the reminder that these execs love going back to the same wells -- even the ones that have already proven dry.
For example, the streamer's partnership with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will continue in 2024 -- despite the collaboration having yielded very mixed results thus far.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex delivered decent ratings with their imaginatively titled 2022 limited series Harry & Meghan, but they were conspicuously shut out come Emmy time.
Harry followed that up with another docu-series, this one about the Invictus Games, an annual athletic competition for disabled veterans that the prince co-founded in 2014.
That's the sort of passion project that you hope will make a big splash, but unfortunately, it came and went with barely a ripple.
This time, the Sussexes will be attaching their names to fictional fare, with Netflix chief content officer Bela Bejaria explaining this week that "they have a movie in development [and] a [scripted] series that they’re working on."
It's a bit surprising, as neither Harry nor Meghan have any experience producing scripted fare, and the couple's attempts at launching media careers seem to be sputtering out elsewhere.
(Meghan's Spotify podcast was recently canceled after a single season.)
But Netflix is all-in on this royal deal.
Maybe this is their way of repaying the Windsor clan for allowing The Crown to film in all those old palaces in whatnot.
Now, it wouldn't be a year at Netflix without a cancelation, and we have the sad duty to report that the aptly named Obliterated is the first series to be booted off the platform in 2024.
The show only lasted a single season, but it did receive a smattering of praise.
Despite the annoying persistence of streaming execs' refusal to allow new shows some time to find their footing, this remains one of the most encouraging slates that Netflix has announced in years.
They're attempting a little bit of everything, but they're also leaning more heavily in the direction of prestige fare, as opposed to the ambient or "laundry-folding" TV that's been their bread and butter since the start of this decade.
Emily In Paris might not be sweeping the Emmys anytime soon, but if it helps provide Netflix with the financial cushioning necessary to justify expenditures on riskier fare -- well, that's something even the biggest content snobs can support.
Anything to get us more of what sweet James Garfield content!
Tyler Johnson is an Associate Editor for TV Fanatic and the other Mediavine O&O sites. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking, and, of course, watching TV. You can Follow him on X and email him here at TV Fanatic.