The screen adaptation of Trent Dalton's novel Boy Swallows Universe has risen up the Netflix rankings in its first full week on the streaming platform, reaching third place globally for English-language TV as audiences soak up its imaginative and comedic story of a boy's journey in 1980s Brisbane to extricate his dysfunctional but loving family from a gruesome world of crime.
The series was the number one show in Australia on Netflix for the week of 15-21 January, while also ranking highly in some of the streaming platform's largest markets such as the US (6th), UK (4th), Canada (5th), France (5th) and Germany (7th).
The news announced today follows a number five spot for the series on Netflix in its first four days on the platform, when it also reached 20th position on the global charts of IMDb, the world's leading database for information on movies and TV.
At the time of writing, Boy Swallows Universe is sitting in sixth spot for IMDb's Most Popular TV Shows list.
Executive producer Troy Lum tells Business News Australia he never thought the series would receive such a response.
"I'm just really blown away, especially by the global response. I always expected the Australian response would be good, although that wasn't guaranteed either," he says.
"I can only judge by the reviews online from punters from all around the world, and it’s been mainly positive.
"Just last week we had an incredible review from the New York Times which listed it as the TV show to watch."
Lum believes Boy Swallows Universe has been able to cross cultural boundaries because of its authenticity and originality as a distinctively Australian production.
"It’s Australian in its best way with very unique storytelling, which I think Australians are really good at," he says.
"But the series is really about hope and about love – no matter what your circumstances are in your life, as long as you have love in your life, you can always see a path through it.
"Little Eli [the main character], he’s so hopeful right from the beginning of the show to the end; I think that spirit of hopefulness translates everywhere."
The producer believes that the more specific and local you get with storytelling, the more open a production can be to universal appeal.
"I think when you’re that authentic people really get granular and understand where the characters are at, so ironically the more local you get, the more global you get at the same time," he says.
"It comes back to cultural confidence. Australians are really great at pulling ourselves down or assuming that what we do isn’t good, and what I really want this series to show is what we do is really good and our novels are great pieces of writing that can be shared all over the world. We have talent here to make something that speaks globally and can compete on a global scale."
The show is filled with clever little flourishes that only Australians or people who have read the book will spot. Lum says this was intentional to add to the authenticity.
"We had a really incredible production designer, Michelle McGahey, and she had an incredible team around her," the producer explains.
"There were just things all over the place – little fridge magnets – and by getting those details right, it’s just so important.
"There was a day that Trent Dalton, the author of the book, came on set and walked into the house that we’d dressed in the way that you see on the TV show. He burst into tears because it all came flooding back to him just how authentic it all looked compared to his actual house that he grew up in.
"You can feel it on screen even though you don’t know that you’re feeling it."
He adds that it was a joy to live in Brisbane for six months, and experience how Queenslanders had embraced the novel and were so excited about the series.
"It felt like everybody in the whole state had read the book, especially in Brisbane, so it just opened doors," he says.
"You’d mention you were doing Boy Swallows Universe and then magically these doors would open for you."
Despite the higher ranking overall, the show made the Top 10 in 45 countries this past week, down slightly from 47 the week prior. Other large Netflix subscriber markets where it performed strongly include Argentina (10th), Spain (5th), Italy (7th), the Netherlands (5th), Norway (5th), and Sweden (7th).
Boy Swallows Universe is yet to break through to the Top 10 in some of the streaming platform's leading markets such as Brazil, Mexico, Japan and India.
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