One of Netflix’s greatest contributions – and perhaps also its most overlooked one – is its promotion and production of foreign content. Without Netflix, it is difficult to imagine a world where a film like Parasite would have walked away with a Best Picture win. Netflix made it possible for content from all over the world to be spread to the masses in part due to its global streaming deals with foreign TV channels and film studios.
Following huge success with foreign entertainment shows, Netflix also began investing in films and TV shows, producing top-notch entertainment from all corners of the world. This meant that Netflix would then be airing original content like Israeli crime dramas, German historical and grim dramas, Indian robust Bollywood films and French TV shows and beloved films, all around the world. The names I’ve listed are only a few of the 17 countries Netflix has made original content from, but it would be on the mark to say that none of this could have happened without the phenomenon that is ‘Money Heist’.
Doesn't matter if you call it La Casa de Papel or Money Heist … Part 4 premieres in 12 hours!
Here's where things left off: pic.twitter.com/iaV8Bwfi66
— Netflix (@netflix) April 2, 2020
From La Casa De Papal to Money Heist: Tracing the roots
Back in 2017, when Netflix acquired global streaming rights to an obscure Spanish thriller, there was little to indicate that the show would become one of the biggest TV shows globally. Early successes with dubbed content of series such as the French Marseille and Germany’s sci-fi Dark, had encouraged Netflix executives to produce it and acquire more foreign content for the streaming giant. Another Netflix series Narcos deemed as a Spanish Breaking Bad, and about drug Cartels in Colombia, was also one of the most-watched shows on the service.
But, none of those shows took off like Money Heist, an old fashioned heist thriller about a group of misfits who end up robbing the Royal Mint of Spain, that is in few short years one of Netflix’s flagship series. With the group of good looking characters having illusive code names like Tokyo, Berlin, Nairobi, Moscow and Denver and being lead by the mysterious Professor, it’s hard not to get into the fun spirit of the show. Especially since it has its own signature look, with the robbers’ red costumes and Salvador Dali masks coming across as effortlessly striking.
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Money Heist’s rise is by far one of the most organic ones, really underlining how anyone can be a winner in the age of streaming. After taking rights to stream the series globally, the show was renamed “Money Heist” from the original title ‘La Casa De Papal’ and cut from 22 episodes into 12 fifty-minute episodes with dubbing and subtitles options added.
As the writer of the show stated “[Money Heist had] no promotion or anything. Netflix put it in that pile of series that it has, which is like the sock drawer that you never look in and from which only the algorithm can rescue you, and we didn’t think it was a big deal”. So it was really word of mouth and genuine interest from a few viewers who stumbled on the show and boosted the viewership so much, that with no promotion whatsoever, the show became the most-watched show in Europe and among the most-watched Netflix film or TV series in the world.
With the show becoming such a big hit in a short amount of time, Netflix decided to invest properly in season 3, hiring a voice acting department to dub the show to make the viewing experience better for international audiences. The budget for the show was also increased as the showrunners were approached by Netflix to produce a new story to continue the adventures of the team.
The new team members that joined in Season 3 or were given code names in the third season were given names from countries where viewership was high. Pakistan which was chosen as the home of the hackers assisting the team, from early in the show was a happy coincidence. The characters’ names, the show itself, and a popular song from the show trended on Pakistani Twitter. Pakistanis being associated with the Money Heist gang within the series has also helped make the show popular here.
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‘La Casa de Papel’ (‘Money Heist’) Tops Netflix’s Charts in Key European Markets https://t.co/G6Uwc63lVh
— Variety (@Variety) December 30, 2019
Celebrities among millions following the show
By the time the third season rolled out, the world had begun to take notice of Money Heist. Within a week of its release, the third season was watched by more than 34 million accounts out of which 24 million completed the show. This made the series the most-watched foreign show and one of the most-watched Netflix show of all time. With the fourth season coming out just a few months ago and quickly seeing a whopping 65 million households across the world watch the show, it’s safe to say that the show has never been more popular than today.
From April 3 to 5, La Casa de Papel was 31.75 times more in demand than the average series globally, beating out such perennially popular series as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Westworld, according to Parrot Analytics. And the love for the show is likely to continue as rumours are already churning about a fifth season, before the arrival of the fourth. The TV series has amassed a dedicated fan following that includes everyone from Stephen King to Sharukh Khan.
The costumes worn by the robbers in the show have become a mainstay in pop culture, going from cute Halloween costumes to actual outfits of robbers and hackers around the world. The show also enjoys a huge social media following that has made it a regular trending topic on Twitter and the subject of numerous memes and videos. The success of the show is so great that it continues to be one of the most talked-about series ever on social media, an unusual feat for a foreign language show.
Why is Money Heist so popular?
So what makes Money Heist so extraordinary? A group of ragtag con men forced to band together and commit crimes isn’t exactly a novel trope. The show’s soapy love stories and unrealistically inept depiction of law enforcement also doesn’t work in the hit drama’s favour. Yet, there is something very addictive about the wild, rambunctious energy of Money Heist that has quickly made it one of the most popular TV shows around the world.
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Although Money Heist seems a simple story on the surface, the use of non-linear storytelling, flashbacks and the twist-filled plot has proven to be enticing for viewers all around the world. The show also benefits from a number of talented actors, many of whom have now become fan favourites and have accumulated an international fan base.
Many of the characters on the show start out as unlikable and remain morally ambiguous for some time, allowing further development to make viewers understand them. The show’s main character, Tokyo, although weakest candidate among other characters, makes for a great introductory character into the world of this heist thriller considering usually this genre is occupied and lead entirely by men.
There are subtle feminist themes sprinkled out by the show that further add depth to the show. A case could even be made for the female characters in the show being harder to decipher than most men. Money Heist’s large ensemble is a benefit to the show as it gives the audience a number of fully realized characters with constantly changing loyalties to support.
The show operates somewhere between the light Marvel team flicks and the grim British procedurals, bringing forth a story both rich and dark but also, decidedly fun. The high-octane action scenes become more lavish each season, as do the elaborate heists.
The web series also appeals on a deeper level and is a hit with many people who hold institutional ineptitude accountable for the downfall of society. In that way, the show parallels a number of edgy films such as V For Vendetta and last year’s Joker. The clever writing of the show quickly turns all the core characters in Money Heist as Robin Hood-type characters making them surprisingly easy to root for.
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It should come as no surprise, that like the recent Joker movie, the show’s mask and costume is now being worn by protesters around the world. There is something particularly fascinating about the show’s undercurrent of anti-system ideology and how it shows the heisters as rockstars for rebelling against the government and making a fool of the criminal justice system in the series.
For all of Money Heist’s magical tricks, the greatest may just be how it has helped open up the world to foreign content. While much of the world has fallen for other racy Spanish offerings like Top Boy and Elite, the show’s mammoth success has made people across the globe give non-English content from different parts of the world a shot. So far, none of them have blown up quite the way Money Heist has. Money heist’s ever-burgeoning popularity truly underlines how good content will always find a home in the hearts of the masses, no matter the circumstance.