Before Netflix launches its big guns with the highly anticipated new season of Arrested Development and House of Cards from David Fincher and Kevin Spacey, the rental/streaming service will test the waters with its first original series, Lilyhammer.

Next month, Netflix members will be able to watch all eight episodes of Lilyhammer through the company’s popular streaming service.

The series brings back to television the familiar face of Steve Van Zandt who – when not playing guitar for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band – played New Jersey mobster Silvio Dante on HBO’s The Sopranos during its six-season run. In Lilyhammer, Van Zandt stars as New York mobster Frank ‘The Fixer’ Tagliano, who is shuffled into the witness protection program after dropping a dime on his former boss. Rather than be shipped off to Kansas or New Mexico, Frank insists on calling the host of the 1994 Winter Olympics home – and the Feds move the gangster off to the Norwegian town of Lillehammer.

Of course, Frank’s vision of an idyllic, snow-capped getaway filled with gorgeous women and the lifestyle to which he’s grown accustomed, turns out to be a far cry from the actuality of his new situation. From what we can see in the trailer, the series looks to be a blend of drama and comedy – not unlike certain aspects of The Sopranos – with much of the central storyline focusing on the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect.

Take a look at the trailer for Lilyhammer below:

In addition to the aforementioned House of Cards and Arrested Development, Netflix is readying original programs from Eli Roth (Hostel, Inglorious Basterds) and Jenji Kohan (Weeds), entitled Hemlock Grove and Orange is the New Black, respectively. Reportedly, the company is also courting Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant in the hopes of reviving the Comedy Central series Reno 911!

This is undoubtedly a big move for Netflix, and one that couldn’t come at a better time. Certainly, the company has been licking its wounds after a less-than-stellar year that included a hefty price increase for a subscription, and the embarrassing debacle over the short-lived (and wisely abandoned) Qwickster service. While it’s too soon to tell whether Lilyhammer, or any of Netflix’s planned original programs can convince those who left the service behind to come back, perhaps the larger question is whether this is the first real salvo in the upcoming war between online and cable television.

Now, with 2011 firmly in the rearview, perhaps Netflix can get back to providing its customers with the service they know, and hopefully include some enticing new content most subscribers never even knew they wanted.

The entire eight-episode season of Lilyhammer debuts exclusively on Netflix February 6, 2012.

Source: Netflix via The Hollywood Reporter