The legacy of the 1980s classic, The Karate Kid, that got so many fans practicing karate chops in their living rooms lives on with the revival series, Cobra Kai, that aired on Youtube Red this year. While the 10-episode sequel could rely on nostalgia to generate interest in the continuation of the journey of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso, the storyline in the show had to be able to stand on its own two feet to find success in 2018. With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and over 37.4 million views of the first episode, Cobra Kai has brought back Johnny and Daniel in a way that is resonating and capturing the interest of a wide audience.
Creators and writers Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald managed to elevate these characters for modern times by growing the storyline with their audience. The superfans of The Karate Kid have grown up a bit and so have Johnny and Daniel. The storyline features the grown-up problems that come with adulthood. Dismal careers, finances, parenthood, and substances are all relevant subjects in the lives of adult Johnny and Daniel. Cobra Kai appeals to fans and Karate Kid newbies alike with a multifaceted storyline that continues an epic rivalry and blends the challenges of adulthood with a teen coming-of-age element. By creating complex characters that are deep, flawed and real, Cobra Kai has demonstrated the power of great storytelling to make a classic relevant again with a growing audience.
A YOUTUBE RED SUCCESS STORY
Cobra Kai is a breakthrough hit for YouTube Red, outperforming top competitors on Netflix and Hulu. According to Parrot Analytics, Cobra Kai had 46.9 million demand expressions (mentions on social media, online reviews, etc.) from May 10th-23rd. This places the series second in demand for digital original series in the United States above The Handmaid’s Tale, Arrested Development, and Lost in Space. The buzz created by the show presents no signs of slowing as Cobra Kai is returning for a second season featuring additional characters from the original Karate Kid. The widespread success of the series has proven that old stories can be brought back to life and modernized by creating an original storyline that pays tribute to the classic, but has its own kick to it.
THE CRANE KICK OF COBRA KAI
For Cobra Kai, the winning move has been striking a balance between flashbacks using the nostalgia for The Karate Kid and developing the storyline of the modern characters. The writers have done an exemplary job in using references to the past in a way that doesn’t suffocate the story in the show. The fusion of past and present is illustrated in the trailer for season one, opening with the legendary fight between Johnny and Daniel from The Karate Kid and quickly moving to where the characters are now and the new issues they are facing.
The interest in The Karate Kid remains a powerful marketing tool, but with too many blasts from the past Cobra Kai wouldn’t have been able to command the audience and relevance that its first season has obtained. Name recognition and nostalgia help create interest in the show and Cobra Kai’s ability to grow its story has made it a sensation that will be returning for season two.
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