The Queen’s Gambit is easily my favourite series of the year. The Netflix drama starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a young female chess prodigy with substance abuse issues is riveting viewing and has become a phenomenon globally. How much of a phenomenon? Well, according to the streaming giant itself, the seven-episode The Queen’s Gambit has now set the record as the most-viewed scripted limited series ever on Netflix with over 62 million accounts worldwide having viewed it in its first 28 days of release.
Now before we continue praising this staggering achievement, it has to be pointed out that Netflix controversially counts a view simply as somebody having watched the show for at least two minutes. That could mean that a viewer barely got past the intro, didn’t like it, and then turned it off… but it would still have been recorded. However, going just by critical success and social media buzz, a lot of people liked it. A LOT. They loved it, in fact. So there’s a good chance that a large quantity of these numbers is legit.
According to further figures tweeted out by Netflix, The Queen’s Gambit is ranked #1 on Netflix in 63 countries and made the top 10 in 92 countries. The Hollywood Reporter also reports that in the US, according to Nielsen’s ratings, the show has made the top 10 for all streaming services overall. But it’s not just in viewing numbers where The Queen’s Gambit has had an impact. The show is adapted from Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel of the same name, which now, nearly four decades after its release, has found its way onto the New York Times bestseller list. Even more impressively though, is that since the show’s debut, the number of Google searches for the term “How to play chess” has hit the highest point yet for the last nine years.
Scott Frank (Logan, Out of Sight, Minority Report), the series’ showrunner and director, told THR that “I am both delighted and dazed by the response. It’s just all way beyond what any of us could have imagined.”
But speaking for my fellow producers and the entire cast and crew of the show, every one of whom made me look better than I actually am, we are most grateful that so many took the time to watch our show. And we all look forward to bringing you our Yahtzee limited series next.
Damn! I would be all over a Yahtzee series! Jokes aside, Peter Friedlander, the Vice President of Original Series at Netflix – and the exec who shepherded the series after working together with Frank on the three-time Emmy-winning western drama Godless – also revealed to THR how Frank wanted to make the chess more cinematic, which allowed it to appeal to non-enthusiasts.
We had a lot of conversations about the challenges of that, but there was also a lot of trust in [Frank]. We also used a lot of the same really talented craftspeople from Godless as well — the same DP [Steven Meizler] and the same editor [Michelle Tesoro], for instance. They all work so well together as a team.
Continuing, Friedlander also explained that with a compelling underdog character in Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon, as well as fantastic production values all around, The Queen’s Gambit had the perfect recipe for global success.
What Scott executed was phenomenal in terms of the precision of the craft, and yet at the heart of it all is this incredible character, played by the incomparable Anya Taylor-Joy. Her underdog journey is what I think people are really connecting with. She had challenges every step of the way, and yet she’s this incredibly determined, unique and unapologetic in approaching life and who she is and who she wants to be. I think people responded to rooting for her against all these odds. There were also other elements — the nostalgic feeling of traveling back in time and the escapist quality of that. At the same time it’s a real sports story too. You’re rooting for someone to win.
At this point, it’s clear that Netflix is the winner here. The streaming service will look to make it official as Friedlander indicated that besides for Frank and Taylor-Joy, they will be putting in a multi-pronged awards push that also includes composer Carlos Rafael Rivera, production designer Uli Hanisch, and costume designer Gabriele Binder. They all get my vote. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go read up some more about chess.
Last Updated: November 24, 2020