Netflix's First Original Series, Lilyhammer, Leaves The Service In November

The end of an era is upon us. The first Netflix Original series, which paved the way for the streamer's continued success, is saying farewell. Thinking back to the earlier days of this streaming service, it's probably zeitgeisty titles like "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" that come to mind, and while both debuted nearly a decade ago, quickly garnered popularity and won lots of new subscribers for the fledgling streamer, neither holds the title of first Netflix Original. That honor goes to "Lilyhammer," the Norwegian mob comedy that first arrived in February 2012.

Back in those days, Netflix had around 23 million paid subscribers. Now, it boasts upwards of 223 million, and its expansive library of original series plays a huge role in that number. But none of that ever would have happened without "Lilyhammer" coming first. Netflix 2.0 officially kicked off when the streamer made the leap into debuting original content. But despite being the first series with the title of Netflix Original, "Lilyhammer" isn't actually a Netflix-produced show. It was licensed from the Norwegian broadcast channel TV NRK, which is also the reason that it's now leaving the service.

According to a report from IndieWire, Netflix's 10-year license to stream the show in the U.S. expires in November and the deal is not being extended. The first hints of this news came from the star of the show himself Steve Van Zandt, who tweeted that the show is set for removal on November 20.

The first Netflix Original isn't the first to go

This might be the kind of news that we should simply get used to hearing, especially after the great HBO purge of 2022. But what's happening with Netflix is a very different situation. /Film previously broke the news that Netflix was removing Hemlock Grove, one of the streamer's first original series that no longer lives on the service. While it was a shock at the time, "Hemlock Grove" and "Lilyhammer" are not the first instances of this happening: over the past few years, dozens of titles dubbed "Netflix Originals" have left the streamer. Shows like "The Killing," "Chewing Gum" and "Daredevil" now have new streaming homes because though they were originally produced exclusively for Netflix, those deals also included a fixed period of time. Now that everyone has their own streaming service, once those contracts expire, many of these shows will move elsewhere.

If "Lilyhammer" has a new home lined up, it has yet to be announced. The details of the Netflix licensing deal have not been revealed, but the streamer did take time to honor the show's place in its history, including a celebration this past February in honor of the "Lilyhammer" 10-year anniversary.

Lilyhammer will go down in Netflix history

In a February 6, 2022 blog post, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos also paid homage to the Netflix series that started it all. His post started by noting that "A seminal moment in Netflix history began in a recording studio by the North Sea Bergen." This is where Norwegian creators first Eilif Skodvin and Anne Bjørnstad approached Stevie Van Zandt about a show they'd written. After getting him onboard, they learned of Netflix's interest in original series and Zandt reached out to Sarandos:

"I asked if we could read the scripts and Stevie said "Scripts? I can send you the whole season." We watched it and we loved it. I thought it was a classic fish-out-of-water story, with Stevie playing a role loved by audiences, and the interplay between his no-nonsense hitman Frank Tagliano and the gentle community around him made for some great comedy. It was a character that was so familiar in a culture that few audiences had seen."

The darkly comedic crime-drama follows a New York mobster who goes into hiding in rural Lillehammer, Norway after testifying against his former associates. When the series debuted with all eight episodes at once (after first airing on a Norweigan broadcast network) it was groundbreaking.

Lilyhammer helped shape the next 10 years of Netflix

Per Sarandos, it wasn't just that this was a rare new show available all at once, "Lilyhammer" was also the first time Netflix streamed a show across multiple countries and languages. It was a rousing success.

"Looking back, Lilyhammer was perhaps an unorthodox choice for our first show. But it worked because it was a deeply local story that we could share with the world. The jokes and references worked locally and the more universal themes of the shows traveled perfectly."

Sarandos concluded the post by writing:

"Thank you 'Lilyhammer' and Stevie Van Zandt for starting this incredible ten-year journey. It's always hard to predict what's to come in the next ten but one thing is certain: we'll have many more great stories from anywhere that can be loved everywhere."

Sadly, Lilyhammer won't be one of those stories for very much longer. With a few weeks left, before its departure, it might be time to get back to our Netflix binge-watching roots. If you've yet to see the series, then all 24 episodes are still available until November 20, 2022. Happy binging!