Netflix to launch ‘Lilyhammer’ in February (VIDEO)

The new year brings a new strategic path for Netflix, which announced Tuesday the launch of its first original series next month. “Lilyhammer,” a Netflix co-production with Norwegian companies Rubicon Tv AS and SevenOne International, is an eight-episode series starring Steve Van Zandt as a mobster who enters the witness-protection program. Hiding out in the Norwegian city the winter Olympics made famous, he finds himself resorting to his old ways to make a new life for himself.

From the looks of the trailer, it’s as if Van Zandt is practically revisiting his “Sopranos” character, but crossing it with the plot of that forgotten Steve Martin comedy “My Blue Heaven” and the setting of the Al Pacino drama “Insomnia.” With a thick rug of jet black hair, Van Zandt even look likes Pacino, though this is played for laughs. “Lilyhammer” will be the first of a series of originals Netflix will trot out over the next few years, including the adaptation of BBC drama “House of Cards” and the revival of the Fox comedy “Arrested Development.”

After the disastrous decisions that damaged its business in the final months of 2011, it could be just the thing Netflix needs to put some distance between that rough period and a bright, shiny future. BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield certainly thinks Netflix is moving in the right direction. In a research note (subscription required) issued Tuesday, praise of the strategy led a list of 12 trends he predicted would remake the media world in 2012: “We expect Netflix’s push into original programming to be a positive surprise for investors in 2012 and expect it to create a new form of ‘buzz’ around the Netflix brand that has been missing since the serious missteps of Q3 2011.”

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