I never thought I’d see the day. After weeks atop Netflix’s top 10 list, and moving up the service’s all-time most viewed series list, Dahmer has finally been unseated by a new show. And it’s Ryan Murphy being replaced with…another Ryan Murphy show.
Dahmer was co-created by Ryan Murphy, who has a pricey overall deal with Netflix, and the new #1 show on Netflix, The Watcher is also another Ryan Murphy production, this time with him directing and writing specific episodes of the series. He co-wrote a few Dahmer episodes, but he’s more intimately involved in The Watcher. He directed two of the seven episodes and co-wrote five of the seven.
The Watcher is loosely based on a true story of a couple who began receiving threatening letters to their home, which was the subject of a 2018 New York Magazine story. Here, it’s been reimagined with an all-star cast including Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts, with a lot more Ryan Murphy-style murder and mayhem involved.
It’s also…not very good. I’m five episodes into the seven episode series and the script is just bizarre, with character motivations and actions that don’t make sense. It feels like a heavily toned down version of one of Murphy’s American Horror Story seasons, and lacks any of the dark artistry that Dahmer had. Critics and audiences seem to agree to a certain extent. Early audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes are a not-great 64%, and even though there are only four scored critic reviews in, it’s at a 50% there.
But of course, this is Netflix, and whatever is #1 on the service is often not necessarily beloved by critics or audiences, compared to rival programming on other streaming platforms. Sometimes there are true, universal hits (Stranger Things! Never Have I Ever!) but these days, it feels like more often than not, mediocre offerings keep rising to the top of the pack, and I’d cite The Watcher as another example of that happening here.
As for Dahmer, well, that’s another matter entirely. Dahmer has a wide split between critics and audiences 57% to 84%, but viewership has simply been astronomical. With 700+ million hours viewed, its one of Netflix’s most-viewed series in first month ever, and will likely end this initial period behind only Squid Game and the last season of Stranger Things. That’s astonishing, especially given that this is one-off miniseries, and I mean, it’s fine, but I would never have imagined it would be this gripping.
This current situation, where Ryan Murphy has just dethroned his own megahit show with another of his own shows, reiterates the importance of Netflix securing these overall deals with mega-producers to pump out hits for them. And in this case, Murphy’s deal seems to have been one of the most lucrative they’ve done, and I expect it to either continue for a long while, or for some other streamer to drop a mountain of money on him to get him to switch over to their camp. We’ll see what happens from here.
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