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Netflix’s first original series, ‘Lilyhammer,’ is available now

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Lilyhammer, the first original series from streaming giant Netflix, is now available for Watch Instantly customers in the US, Canada and Latin America. Wisely, Netflix has released all eight episodes of the show, which stars Steve Van Zandt’s of Sopranos and E Street Band fame, simultaneously. This means all you marathon series watchers out there (and we know there are a lot of you) can get your TV fix in as little or high a dosage as you desire — just as you can with any other TV series on Netflix.

In Lilyhammer, Van Zandt plays the role of Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, a New York City gangster who must flee to Lillehammer, Norway, (the location of the 1994 Winter Olympics) under the watchful eye of the US witness protection program. Netflix describes the show as a “fish out of water” story, and supplies the various culture-shocked antics one would assume from the show’s premise.

Much rides on the success of Lilyhammer and its soon-to-debut, Netflix-exclusive brethren. These include a new season of Arrested Development, and the much-anticipated series House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey. After last year’s debacle with its price hike and failed launch of the Qwikster, Netflix has only just begun to build back its customer base, and stop its free fall on the stock market. Unfortunately, it looks as though Verizon and Redbox will soon launch their own competing service, as will Amazon. And the company is already in a direct fight with HBO, which is what prompted it to take the original series route in the first place.

We haven’t yet had a chance to check out Lilyhammer ourselves. (Check back for that shortly.) And, oddly, Netflix doesn’t seem to be promoting it much on their site; we had to search for it to add it to our que. According to some early reviews, however, the show seems not bad — but not amazing, either. The Los Angeles Times says that Van Zandt’s performance is “charming, semi-sweet,” and adds that it’s “less work than you might imagine to accept him as a leading man.” The New York Times describes the show as “odd mostly.” Yikes…

It’s easy to demonize Netflix for for its PR flaps. But we must admit that we that have a soft spot in our hearts for the company that ushered in the streaming era, and changed the industry for the better by doing so. Obviously, much work remains to fix the entertainment distribution system, which seems to be becoming even more fragmented and dysfunctional than ever.

Whether or not Lilyhammer or the rest of the Netflix original lineup helps Netflix maintain its market-leading spot, it’s impossible to say. So for now, the fingers stay crossed.

Watch the trailer for Lilyhammer below:

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