Netflix is adding to its already impressive roster of original programming with its new series “Marco Polo.” The streaming service is pulling out all the stops and playing at an almost unprecedented level of TV development with the drama.
Netflix has succeeded in becoming a name synonymous with original TV. After bringing back the Fox cult hit “Arrested Development,” the streaming service proved it is not only capable of producing its own shows, but has the talent to make them spectacular. As its award-winning series “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” are going into their third seasons, Netflix is showing no signs of stopping. This is evident by the massive investment it’s making in “Marco Polo.”
The series, all 10 episodes of which will debut on Dec. 12, follows the adventures of the 13th-century Italian explorer who traveled the ancient Silk Road into Central Asia and China. Along the way, Polo met the great Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and became a member of his court. According to Netflix, the show focuses on Polo's adventures trying to navigate the world of Eastern politics, with plenty of sex and swordplay to spice things up.
In a New York Times preview, the show’s creator, John Fusco, said the show was inspired by a trip he took with his son in 2007. The two crossed Central Mongolia on horseback by following the Silk Road and tracking the trail of Kublai Khan's grandfather Genghis Khan. Along the way, the “Forbidden Kingdom” screenwriter said, hearing stories about Polo and Kublai was unavoidable.
“It always circled back around to Marco Polo and Kublai Khan,” Fusco said. “That always fascinated me because so few people make the connection between the two. Marco Polo has been kind of buried under this cloud of rather banal historical dust when the true story is so much more exciting.”
The new series is a big gamble for Netflix. While “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black" are both relatively low-risk yet high-reward investments, “Marco Polo” is different. With a budget of $90 million, Variety reports it is the second-largest TV production ever, trumped only by HBO’s insanely popular “Game of Thrones.” The outlet reports that "Marco Polo" had a construction crew of 400, an art department of 160, and shot at two distinct locations.
Why would Netflix would risk so much on an untested project? Many speculate it may be about capturing the much-needed international market. Although “House of Cards” has done well, Netflix holds no international rights to the show, which is why it appears on rival platforms in Germany and France, reports the New York Times. With "Marco Polo," Netflix holds all international rights.
Business Insider notes that, in reaction to a sluggish growth that fell below expectations in 2014, capturing the international market is more important than ever for Netflix. The show will run in several languages in several countries where Netflix is hoping to beef up subscriptions.
Netflix viewers can stream all 10 episodes at once starting Friday, Dec. 12. In the meantime, they can watch the bold show’s NSFW, sex-filled and action-packed teaser trailer (which HitFix notes was quietly released back in October) below.
"Marco Polo" stars Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen, Chin Han, Zhu Zhu, Olivia Cheng, Claudia Kim, Mahesh Jadu, Tom Wu, Remy Hii, Uli Latukefu and Rick Yune.