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Will the "True Detective" Model Boost the Next Netflix Original Series?

By Tim Beyers - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:40PM

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With star power in Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, new Netflix original series "Grace and Frankie" could draw well from the start.

When HBO first brought True Detective to subscribers, it had the benefit of star power in Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The same dynamic could boost the fortunes of Grace and Frankie, a just-ordered Netflix ( NFLX -3.76% ) original series, Fool contributor Tim Beyers says in the following video.

The Hollywood Reporter says Friends creator Marta Kauffman is developing the comedy, which features Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as wives whose husbands declare their love for each other. Plans call for a 13-episode series order, putting Grace and Frankie in an increasingly diverse lineup of Netflix original series that includes not only acclaimed comedy Orange Is the New Black, but also four Marvel Comics-themed series, and the horror epic Hemlock Grove.

Star power isn't always a magic bullet in television, of course. Last month, Comcast ( CMCSA -1.80% ) unit NBCUniversal pulled the remaining episodes of The Michael J. Fox Show, effectively canceling the struggling series. Fonda and Tomlin may not fare any better.

And yet the difference here is that the show isn't just about them. Like True Detective, their presence adds heft to what fans and investors hope will be a great story -- a formula we've seen pay off not only at HBO, but also with Netflix original series House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey and Golden Globe winner Robin Wright. Comcast recently struck a deal with Sony to sell individual episodes of the first season via its Xfinity Store.

What should investors be watching for with Grace and Frankie? Buzz. Netflix original series don't bring in ad revenue. But if the show scores well with critics and builds an initial fan base, the ensuing buzz could entice those who've been on the fence to become members.

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