Who needs prestige?! Why Netflix should only get turnt for trash
Just when we were getting concerned by the lack of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent on display at Netflix, it goes and announces a new RuPaul comedy series. The streaming colossus has given a ten episode order to AJ and the Queen which will see the iconic drag queen teaming up with former Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King to deliver the show. Starring RuPaul as a travelling drag queen who takes her RV across America with a recently orphaned 11-year-old stowaway in tow, the show sounds like exactly the sort of trashtastic series we want to be seeing more of at Netflix.
Especially because it’s becoming all the more evident that Netflix’s attempts at prestige TV are some of the weakest around right now. But you know what they are killing it at? Trash TV, honey! Netflix has some of the best available right now and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The news of RuPaul’s new Netflix Originals show arrived not long after the first salacious looking trailer for upcoming Netflix Originals drama You was released by the streaming giant. Starring Penn Badgley as a strange combination of his creepy Gossip Girl character and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) from Gone Girl alongside a strong supporting cast of trash TV alums like Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars) and Elizabeth Lail (The Blacklist), the show looks to have all the components of a classic bingewatch. Sex! Murder! Twists! Social media stalking intrigue!
So far it looks to be a veritable blend of every TV show we’ve ever faked a sick day to continue watching in bed. Will it feature the most elegant storytelling and the biggest stars? Definitely not, but it could arguably be far more entertaining than some of Netflix’s more recent attempts at “prestige” entertainment.
With a bitterly disappointing array of prestige movies from usually phenomenal indie filmmakers like Duncan Jones’s sci-fi failure Mute and Yeon Sang-ho’s superhero dark comedy Psychokinesis, Netflix has been misfiring on the movie front. But when it comes to TV, its high caliber shows on offer have also been missing the mark of late. While House of Cards started out strong, the show has also become progressively less interesting and more formulaic as it has plodded along.
Meanwhile new attempts at prestige like the abysmal Naomi Watts-starring Gypsy and the prestige-thriller-by-numbers Ozark (starring Jason Bateman) have been all dazzle and no wow. With the exception of David Fincher’s serial killer series Mindhunter, Netflix no longer feels like a SVOD service that can contend with the prestige of a network like HBO. But the streaming service also appears to finally be embracing that fact.
Take Netflix’s latest binge offering Safe, for instance. Starring Michael C. Hall (Dexter), an actor who capably straddles the strange fortress between prestige and trash, the show is a trashterpiece through and through. Full of ludicrous twists, voracious plotting, and a British accent from Hall so terrible it’s utterly captivating, the series doesn’t strive to be anything more than an entertaining watch that can be binged in one sitting.
Likewise, Netflix has also unexpectedly become home to some of the greatest reality TV shows currently airing. Between the failure-celebrating baking show Nailed It!, the stunningly heartfelt reboot of Queer Eye, and the Japanese Real World-inspired series Terrace House, Netflix is remolding what a reality show can and should look like. More importantly, it’s exquisitely bingeable – the TV equivalent of scoffing a share bag of potato chips in one sitting when you could have hit up a nice restaurant and eaten something gourmet.
There’s a place and a time for “gourmet” and lord knows we’re still living for the epic savagery of current prestige productions like Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale but we also just want to gorge ourselves on something light, easy, and frivolous. Netflix is currently delivering that better than any other SVOD service or network right now and it would do great to continue to do so. Netflix attempting prestige is like a food van on the side of the highway trying to serve up caviar alongside sloppy joes and honestly, we’re just not interested anymore. Give us TV that’s cheap and nasty, fast and dirty, and worthy of an insatiable binge session – anything beyond that is just salting the dish.