If 2022 kicked off the Great Streaming Correction, then 2023 is when we should start to see some changes. At Netflix, it’s already started. When curbed subscriber growth and sinking stock prices forced an industry-wide reevaluation of the streaming business, the long-time Binge King reversed course and launched an ad-supported subscription tier. Company spokespeople had said for years this would never happen, but “never” can’t be taken literally when it comes to the streaming wars.
Alterations can even be spotted in each month’s batch of new releases. From big patterns — like noting a dearth of quality programs in February vs. all the Emmy-bait dropping in May — to small ones, like when new series drop on odd days (like Tuesdays or Saturdays), there’s much to be learned about the ins and outs of the ultra-secretive streaming giant. March 2023 is no different. There are a healthy batch of new shows, specials, and documentaries. Reality TV is always in season, but there are fewer acquisition titles this month — a trend that’s been ongoing for years, as rival companies move their prized programming in-house, to their own streaming platforms, leaving Netflix to bank on its library content. There’s also a fresh crop of exercise programming, as the company that once contended its greatest rival was sleep realizes the longer people live, the longer they can pay subscription fees.
What strategic maneuvers and policy hints hide behind the friendly façade of Chris Rock’s new stand-up special? Or the second half of “You” Season 4? Why is the new “Waco” docuseries launching this month, and what, exactly, is “Agent Elvis”? To the last question, I can’t really explain it — that one you may just have to watch — but for the others, I have some theories. So read on, dear readers, and let’s see what Netflix is up to three months into the new year.
“Chris Rock: Selective Outrage”
Release Date: Saturday, March 4 at 10 p.m. ET
Producer/Director: Joel Gallen
Cast: Chris Rock
Format: One hourlong special
Best Reason to Watch: Part of streaming’s immediate appeal was the freedom of watching whatever you want, whenever you want. Netflix isn’t backing away from that model, but it is learning to eventize certain kinds of television. (What a coincidence that this would happen after introducing advertisements, which demands higher fees for time-sensitive commercials.) And what’s a bigger event than Chris Rock’s first stand-up special after Will Smith slapped him during the Oscars? (OK, there are plenty of bigger events, but this is still a big one.)
On Saturday, March 4 at 10 p.m. ET, Rock was the first artist to perform a live streaming Netflix special. (Read our review here.) After its initial airing, fans can still watch like they normally would, but Netflix is building hype around the special by running pre- and post-show specials. The pre-show was hosted by Ronny Chieng with Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, and Deon Cole, and featured special messages from “some of Rock’s friends including Amy Schumer, Cedric the Entertainer, Ice-T, Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Matthew McConaughey, Sir Paul McCartney, Sarah Silverman, and Wanda Sykes.” Then David Spade and Dana Carvey handled the after-show, which was surely filled with compliments. As Netflix prepares to air the SAG Awards live, among other live events, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” will be a test of its technology as much as its ability to attract viewers on its own timeline, not theirs. Stay tuned!
“You” Season 4, Part 2
Release Date: Thursday, March 9
Creators: Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti
Cast: Penn Badgley, Tati Gabrielle, Charlotte Ritchie, Lukas Gage, Ed Speleers
Format: 5 hourlong episodes
Best Reason to Watch: …if you watched Part 1? “You” continues to garner strong reviews four seasons in, and the first half of Joe Goldberg’s latest adventure kept the streak going.
But what’s worth noting about “You’s” release, whether or not you’re going to tune in, is that its part of another major Netflix concession. The streaming giant takes pride in the binge model it helped mainstream, but despite vocally standing by its trailblazing release strategy, we’ve seen the company give ground on the schedule itself. Seasons of in-demand originals like “Ozark” and “Stranger Things” were split into two parts last year, forcing subscribers to pay two months worth of subscription fees instead of one. “You” is asking the same of its audience, and sure, viewers could simply wait until the second part drops, but the continued implementation of the two-part system indicates a reduction in subscriber churn (aka when customers add and then quickly cancel their subscriptions).
And it’s not the only method Netflix uses to replicate a traditional release model. Some shows are released weekly, like “Love Is Blind” and a few other reality programs, which drop a few episodes at a time every week. Docuseries like “Untold” released an episode each week, but framed them as individual movies housed under the same thematic banner. And episodes of hit international programs, like “The Great British Bake-Off,” also follow a weekly release model. Entertainment reporters and critics have forecasted more disruptions to the all-at-once drops in 2023, so keep an eye out for how your favorite series may be affected — and how you feel about it.
Release Date: Friday, March 17
Creators: Priscilla Presley and John Eddie
Showrunner: Mike Arnold
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Kaitlin Olson, Johnny Knoxville, Niecy Nash, Tom Kenny, Don Cheadle, with guest stars Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Christina Hendricks, Kieran Culkin, Asif Ali, Fred Armisen, Ego Nwodim, Simon Pegg, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole, and Priscilla Presley
Format: 10 half-hour episodes
Best Reason to Watch: Matthew McConaughey playing Elvis, even when it’s just his voice, is pretty tempting on its own, and Netflix clearly flooded the zone with star power in the hopes that one or all the above names would be enough to attract viewers. We’ll see. Co-created by The King’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley (who also voices a character), the series marks the first adult-animation program from Sony Pictures Animation and follows Elvis after he’s recruited to a secret government spy agency. The trailer makes “Agent Elvis” look like a mix between “Archer” and the “Archer” knock-offs Netflix has trotted out in the five years since FX’s spy spoof moved to Hulu, and having a review embargo set for premiere day doesn’t exactly bode well. But hey, we’ll all find out together if “Agent Elvis” can match its most evident inspiration — or if it turns out to be something else altogether.
Release Date: Thursday, March 30
Creators: Rob Lowe, John Owen Lowe, Victor Fresco
Cast: Rob Lowe, John Owen Lowe, Sian Clifford, Rachel Marsh, Emma Ferreira, Aaron Branch
Format: 8 half-hour episodes
Best Reason to Watch: Rob Lowe has been intent on turning his children into immediately recognizable nepo babies for years now, and his youngest, John Owen Lowe, is very much on the cusp. After supporting roles next to his dad in the (great) Fox comedy “The Grinder,” (bad) Netflix Christmas romance “Holiday in the Wild,” and four-episode unscripted series “The Lowe Files” (where Rob, John Owen, and Edward Matthew investigated unsolved mysteries!), John moved over to story editor and staff writer on Rob’s Fox procedural, “911: Lone Star.”
With all that experience under his belt, John Owen Lowe can now graduate to co-creator and executive producer of his own Netflix original series, “Unstable.” The eight-episode first season follows Ellis Dragon (Rob Lowe), a beloved biotech entrepreneur who’s striving to make the world a better place while dealing with emotional burnout. So, to protect the company and his father — from greedy board members eager to oust him — Jackson Dragon (John Owen Lowe) steps in to help his struggling papa and, just maybe, help himself in the process. (The official Netflix synopsis asks if Ellis can “salvage their estranged relationship while also (…) escaping the shadow of his larger-than-life father” — but that felt a little too on-the-nose.)
“Shadow and Bone” Season 2
Release Date: Thursday, March 16
Co-Showrunners: Eric Heisserer and Daegan Fryklind
Cast: Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Danielle Galligan, Daisy Head, Calahan Skogman, Lewis Tan, Anna Leong Brophy, Ben Barnes
Format: 8 hourlong episodes
Best Reason to Watch: With all due respect to Ben Barnes (and IndieWire’s own Steve Greene), I simply do not have time to sort this dark-and-gritty fantasy drama from all of Netflix’s other dark-and-gritty fantasy dramas. Is Eric Heisserer’s version different from or perhaps better than “Locke and Key,” “The Sandman,” “Lockwood & Co,” “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” “Cursed,” “The School of Good & Evil,” “October Faction,” and/or “The Letter for the King”? Maybe. Maybe not. But I will never know, for I have been burned one too many times.
“Waco: American Apocalypse”
Release Date: Wednesday, March 22
Director: Tiller Russell
Format: Three hourlong episodes
Best Reason To Watch: Back in January 2018, there was no Paramount+. There was only Paramount Network — and this was a Paramount Network before “Yellowstone” came along and changed the brand forever. Instead, “Waco,” a limited series starring Taylor Kitsch, helped the network transition from its past as Spike TV toward its future atop Paramount Mountain, and, as can be expected when you try to launch a cable network in 2018 without an established streaming platform attached, very few people tuned in. “Waco” averaged just over 1 million viewers per episode (which, really, is pretty good), but two years later, when it premiered on Netflix, the series got the oft-touted Netflix bump. Suddenly, people were talking about Taylor Kitsch in good terms again (no more “John Carter” noise!).
So it only makes sense that three years later, as true crime documentaries continue to surge and the almighty algorithm continues to call its own shots, Netflix has its own “Waco” series: a three-part retelling of what happened 30 years ago in Waco, TX, when David Koresh forced a stand-off with the federal government over 51 terrifying days. Is it a coincidence that Showtime, now part of the Paramount+ hub, is airing a sequel to its scripted “Waco” series — “Waco: The Aftermath” — just three weeks after Netflix drops their doc? Perhaps. But I doubt it. It’s all part of the streaming wars, and Netflix just keeps finding ways to win.
“Sky High: The Series”
Release Date: Friday, March 17
Director: Daniel Calparsoro
Writer: Jorge Guerricaechevarria
Cast: Asia Ortega, Luis Tosar, Alvaro Rico, Richard Holmes, Fernando Cayo, Patricia Vico, Ayax Pedrosa, Dollar Selmouni
Best Reason to Watch: Apparently this is not a sequel to Disney’s 2005 family-superhero film “Sky High,” but a sequel to the 2020 Spanish crime thriller of the same name. I… can’t hide my disappointment (even if I can hide the 150 words I wrote and deleted about a caped Kurt Russell’s welcome return), but hey, if Daniel Calparsoro’s movie earned a sequel series, odds are it has its fans. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you’re about to be. All I know is I have a pitch for Disney+, if they want to hear it.
The Rest of Incoming TV
“I Am Georgina” Season 2 (available in March)
“Cheat” (available March 1)
“Wrong Side of the Tracks” Season 2 (available March 1)
“Framed! A Sicilian Murder Myster” Season 2 (available March 2)
“Masameer County” Season 2 (available March 2)
“Sex/Life” Season 2 (available March 2)
“Next in Fashion” Season 2 (available March 3)
“Divorce Attorney Shin” (available March 4)
“Ridley Jones” Season 5 (available March 6)
“The Glory” Part 2 (available March 10)
“Outlast” (available March 10)
“Rana Naidu” (available March 10)
“Ariyoshi Assists” (available March 14)
“The Law of the Jungle” (available March 15)
“Dance 100” (available March 17)
“Maestro in Blue” (available March 17)
“Gabby’s Dollhouse” Season 7 (available March 20)
“Invisible City” Season 2 (available March 22)
“The Kingdom” Season 2 (available March 22)
“The Night Agent” (available March 23)
“Love Is Blind” Season 4 (available March 24)
“Unseen” (available March 29)
“Wellmania” (available March 29)
“From Me To You: Kimi ni Todoke” (available March 30)
“Copycat Killer” (available March 31)
“Henry Danger” Seasons 4-5 (available March 31)
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Season 2 (available March 31)
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