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11 YouTube Originals Vying To Be the Next Cobra Kai

A look at the original series and films coming to YouTube Premium with stars Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr., Kirsten Dunst, George Clooney, and more.

by | September 12, 2018 | Comments

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in art for Cobra Kai (YouTube Premium)
(Photo by YouTube Premium)

In 2018, YouTube Premium’s original series Cobra Kai became the kind of hit any network would dream of, with critical acclaim, strong word-of-mouth, and a passionate fan base. The streaming service has also ordered second seasons of its series Impulse, Step Up: High Water, and Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television.

In the wake of that success, both critics, and TV fans are curious about what YouTube Premium will offer next. Can YouTube compete with streaming heavy hitters Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon? What about traditional TV networks?

Susanne Daniels, global head of original content for YouTube, took Rotten Tomatoes through 11 of the streamer’s upcoming releases to see if any of them has the potential to be the next Cobra Kai. Considering YouTube has 50 original shows, movies, international productions, and specials on the docket — and that’s just what’s been announced — chances are high that at least one of these series or films could be the next Certified Fresh sensation.


WEIRD CITY

Jordan Peele at the 90th Oscars(r) broadcasts live on Oscar(r) SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2018 (ABC/Craig Sjodin)
(Photo by ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Talent: Creators Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders; stars Ed O’Neil, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Laura Burton, Sara Gilbert, Dylan O’Brien, Laverne CoxLeVar Burton, and more.

What It’s About: The series began as Jordan Peele’s Twisted Ass Anthology, but the title Weird City is more accurate because the anthology stories all take place in the same city. The city of Weird has a little bit of crossover between residents and some Easter eggs for attentive viewers.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: If each episode is a mini Get Out, then that’s highly likely. Daniels said Weird City straddles the line between comedy and drama, which worked well for Peele’s movie.

Weird City has a dramatic element to it too,” she said. “It’s not laugh-out-loud comedy like The Big Bang Theory where you know you’re going to get jokes every minute. It’s just eccentric tales.”


ON BECOMING A GOD IN CENTRAL FLORIDA

(Photo by FX)

Talent: Producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov; stars Kirsten Dunst (pictured above in FX’s Fargo); and creators Robert Funke and Matt Lusky.

What It’s About: Krystall Gill (Dunst) is a water park employee in the ’90s who is trying to infiltrate Founders American Merchandise, a pyramid scheme that destroyed her family.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: It might give some viewers and critics pause that AMC passed on Becoming a God, but it wasn’t a quality issue — it was a scheduling one. And AMC’s scheduling conflicts are YouTube’s gain.

“I just thought it was a unique world and an exploration of something I haven’t seen before on television,” Daniels said. “We made the deal for the script, and then we went to Kirsten Dunst and told her what we’re doing with YouTube Premium and were able to make a deal with her.”


ORIGIN

Talent: Stars Tom Felton, Natalia Tena, Sen Mitsuji, Nora Arnezeder, Fraser James

What It’s About: A group of strangers awaken from hypersleep on the spaceship Origin and have to figure out what happened and how to get to their destination — if they can survive the biggest danger facing them: each other. Every hour will see flashbacks that reveal what led each character to the Origin. You’ll have to wait until episode 8 for the story of Harry Potter star Felton.

“No one tells each other what they’ve done because they’ve all done something terrible,” Felton said. “Everyone’s reluctant to volunteer the reasons why they did [what they did]. Some people are actually protecting that with their lives. For [my character] Logan, it builds up that there would be a very violent and vicious reason for him to make this switch, but actually it’s a very sweet one.”

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: This is a show that is decidedly not for kids — you get to hear Draco Malfoy use the F word, after all. Plus, with Felton and fellow Harry Potter alum Tena (also Game of Thrones) in the cast, they’ve got the fantasy fans on lock. Felton, however, doesn’t think their series is rooted in fantasy at all.

“I don’t see this as really slipping into the fantasy realm because it is such a likely scenario that we could probably face in the next 50 to 100 years,” he said. “Space travel is already a thing but the idea of colonization and starting a new life is a very conceivable idea and very appealing I think for a lot of people.”


ROBERT DOWNEY JR. NONFICTION SERIES

Avengers: Infinity War stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr. (©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
(Photo by ©Marvel/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Talent: Susan and Robert Downey Jr. and real-life scientists

What It’s About: Robert Downey Jr. (pictured above in Avengers: Infinity War) will host this look at artificial intelligence, which Daniels described as “an exploration of all things A.I. today and where A.I.’s taking us in the future.” Filming has already begin.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: Iron Man himself explaining real-life Stark technology sounds like a winner. (Doctor Strange not included.)


Champaign, ILL

(Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Talent: Stars Jay Pharoah, Adam Pally, Sam Richardson

What It’s About: A sitcom about a rapper and his entourage — after the rapper’s not famous anymore. “This one’s broad and big and loud and fun,” Daniels revealed.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: At first glance, the star of Happy Endings and the guy who did Will Smith and Denzel Washington impressions on SNL don’t necessarily seem like a comedy match.

“That was my concern when we were casting them,” Daniels shared — but this odd couple works. “They’re funny together. They have very different character trajectories. The differences in the actors work for the characters that they’re playing. Their different energies seem to play off well against each other.”


THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Talent: Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig

What It’s About: A spin-off of Craig’s own movie that starred Hailee Steinfeld as a teenager coping with high school and her family. Craig is developing the series, it’ll be a little bit of time before information about the new characters is revealed.

Chances It’ll Be A Certified Fresh Hit: Well, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is Fresh at 81% compared to the movie’s 33% Rotten score. YouTube’s own Impulse has a perfect 100% on nine reviews, though the movie it was based on, Jumper, is Rotten at 16%. The Edge of Seventeen is fresh at 95%, so Craig only has her own work to live up to.

“What I’ve found is that the director has spent a lot of time thinking about that movie and living with that movie, living with the concept and the characters,” Daniels said. “Bringing all that thought and creativity and passion for the project into the series. Things they didn’t get to do with the movie now they get to do with the series. I think that helps bring these kinds of projects to life.”


THE LOU PEARLMAN PROJECT

(Photo by YouTube Premium)

Talent: Executive producers Lance Bass, Craig Piligian

What It’s About: Lou Pearlman gave the world *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, but he also took millions in his Ponzi schemes. He died while serving a 25-year prison sentence for his crimes. This documentary follows the rise and fall of the late Svengali.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: Whether it’s Fresh or not, Daniels can confirm you’ll see a lot of classic boy-and moments. If you need to see more, you can go down the rabbit hole of YouTube clips like she did.

“That was the impact the documentary had on me,” Daniels said. “My one note was: I need more footage of the bands in the movie. You’re really reminded of how huge those bands were at the time and how passionate their fans were. Then there’s this dark side from the creator of these bands, and the fraud, the wool he was pulling over everyone’s eyes. It ends up being a very sad story in many ways.”


VIPER CLUB

Viper Club (YouTube Premium)
(Photo by YouTube Premium)
Talent: Stars Susan Sarandon, Matt Bomer, Lola Kirke, Edie Falco; writers Maryam Keshavarz and Jonathan Mastro; director Maryam Keshavarz

What It’s About: This feature film was developed by YouTube (unlike another feature, Bodied, which was acquired). When an ER nurse and single mom’s journalist son is kidnapped by ISIS, she can’t afford the ransom, but goes to great lengths to get the money.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: Find out what critics said after Viper Club‘s premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.


WILL SMITH: THE JUMP

Talent: Will Smith

What It’s About: On his 50th birthday, September 25, Smith has accepted a challenge from one of his fans to bungee jump from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, Big Willie style!

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: There may not be enough reviews of a live streaming event to certify The Jump on the Tomatometer, but that’s not why Smith is doing it anyway. This is a way to engage his millions of fans.


KAT & JUNE THINK STUFF

Talent: Stars Tenea Intriago, Alexia Dox; creator Mackenzie Yeager

What It’s About: Kat (Intriago) and June (Dox) become friends and the audience hears their hopes and fears out loud — with an emphasis on the fears.

Chances It’ll Be A Certified Fresh Hit: Daniels said she developed Kat and June primarily for the same audience as their hit young adult series Foursome, so it’s up to the youth to decide. “We have a really robust Foursome audience on the platform, and we wanted to give them a new show,” Daniels said.


WAYNE

(Photo by YouTube Premium)

Talent: Stars Mark McKenna, Ciara Bravo, Mike O’Malley, Dean Winters

What It’s About: Described as a Dirty Harry in high school, Wayne (McKenna) goes looking for his late father’s stolen 1978 Trans Am.

Chances It’ll Be a Certified Fresh Hit: Given YouTube’s ability to combine comedy and drama in Cobra Kai and teen drama with sci-fi in Impulse, the tricky combination of Wayne seems in good hands.

“It has its funny moments,” Daniels said. “Particularly Wayne’s interaction with the principal, Mike O’Malley, is very funny. It’s pretty intense. It’s pretty hardcore exploration of a tougher life for a teen.”

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