Pop Culture

Two More Netflix Success Stories: Bridgerton and Cobra Kai

Two more in the win column for Netflix
Two more in the win column for Netflix Screenshot

The ability for Netflix to randomly churn out a hit original series still surprises. Netflix can also grab shows that had huge followings that were canceled or on failing platforms and put them in front of millions of viewers ready to binge. The top two series on Netflix the past few weeks are textbook Netflix success stories. Bridgerton and Cobra Kai are the most recent examples of Netflix being able to put out quality and binge-able series that can blow up in popularity overnight.

Bridgerton is an adaptation of a romance book series by Julia Quinn created for TV by Chris Van Dusen (Scandal) and produced by Shonda Rhimes (Greys Anatomy, Scandal.) Bridgerton is a period drama set in 19th century England. It follows the courting season of British nobles focusing mainly on Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) who is the oldest daughter of the Bridgerton family and her rise and struggles in the noble matchmaking game. She eventually gets involved with Simon (Regé-Jean Page,) a Duke who refuses to get married and is also navigating this crazy aristocratic dating gauntlet. Their mutual needs result in (surprise) a budding romance.

Bridgerton's appeal is obvious. It’s a romantic comedy in period costumes. It has an attractive and diverse cast with a lot of subplots going on throughout the main narrative. It aims to not so much reinvent the genre but to shake up how things are done. Anchoring the show are the performances and on-screen chemistry of the two leads Page and Dynevor. With all the subplots and the different relationships going on they are the central focus and the main reason for the obsession fans have developed for the show.

Search Bridgerton and you’ll see rumors and gossip columns like the characters and the actors playing the roles are one and the same. Having a cast of characters and actors that fans can obsess over is mission accomplished for Bridgerton.

Bridgerton isn’t necessarily setting out to make a point or say something profound in its storytelling. It sports a diverse cast which is interesting to see in a period piece about nobles in the early 19th century. The series looks at the period it’s set in with rose-tinted glasses. Having any sense of history you might have to ignore obvious problems the show has. Even if it’s naive in its context of history Bridgerton is still really entertaining. From someone who is not really into costume dramas, it was a surprisingly fun watch and its appeal is undeniable, and if its popularity is any indication (and the facts that there are several books in the series) it will be a flagship Netflix show for years to come.

Cobra Kai is the latest Netflix series that originally wasn’t a Netflix series. Picked up from YouTube TV, which is getting out of the streaming game, Cobra Kai Season 3 and its previous two seasons are now front and center on Netflix. The series is a sequel to the beloved Karate Kid movie series. Instead of focusing on the hero of the original movies Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio), the series focuses on the “villain” of the first movie Johnny Lawerence (William Zabka.) Johnnys life hasn’t exactly worked out. He’s a deadbeat dad who lives in a dirty apartment and has a drinking problem. His highschool rival, Larusso, is a successful businessman and has a beautiful family. Through a couple of run-ins with Larusso Johnny ends up starting up his old dojo Cobra Kai.

Cobra Kai is a great sequel to the original movies because it focuses on the rivalry that made the first movie a classic. The Larusso-Lawerence feud didn’t end with the crane kick at the end of the first Karate Kid and all it took for it to kick back up again was a chance meeting 30 years later. Johnny was the bully 30 years ago and the series explores what drew him to Cobra Kai, why he became the alpha dog bully, and why he hated Larusso so much.

There’s a scene where Johnny is explaining what happened in the first Karate Kid from Johnny’s perspective to his new student Miguel (Xolo Maridueña). With flashbacks to the first film and Johnny’s version of events, Larusso was kind of the initiator of the beef and it’s easy to see why he hated Larusso so much. The focus on Johnny and the toxic history of what Cobra Kai used to represent make the renewed feud and new generation of high school kids sucked into the world of All Valley karate compelling.

The series looks at how bullies are made and how hard fighting back can be. The Cobra Kai dojo used to be the haven for the alpha male bullies that fought dirty and terrorized kids at school. Johnny’s first student in the new series is one of those kids who gets terrorized every day by bullies. Cobra Kai flips the script in interesting ways and gives depth to a character (and actor) who has been the poster child for the '80s bully archetype. There is a balance to Cobra Kai between the older generation of the original films' fans and a new crop of high school kids  caught up in the Cobra Kai Miyagi-do Karate feud.

The success of Bridgerton and Cobra Kai showcases Netflix’s roster strengths. They can have a show with wide appeal that grows an audience out of a great cast and beloved genre that becomes one of its most important TV series going forward. They can also take a show that had a dedicated but smaller audience elsewhere (Emmy Award-winning powerhouse Schitt's Creek for example) and make it one of its most popular series as a result of now being in front of millions of more viewers than it’s ever been

Netflix throws a lot of content out and they are okay when shows don’t work because the next one or two in the queue might blow up big time.

Bridgerton and Cobra Kai are streaming now on Netflix
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Contributor Jamil David is a native Houstonian and Texas Southern University alumnus. He is interested in TV, sports and pop culture. @JMLJMLD
Contact: Jamil David