Steven Van Zandt as Frank Tagliano in ‘Lilyhammer’ TV series episode

Creeping back from the abyss, Netflix appears to be taking the smart road after its highly publicized missteps of the past couple of years: innovation and risk-taking. As you may recall, the popular mail-order and web-streaming video-rental firm lost a large number of its millions of subscribers when it announced a two-tier payment setup that meant higher prices for those who ordered DVDs by mail instead of solely using downloads.

After a furious outcry among subscribers, Netflix canceled the two-price system and stayed under the radar for several months, undoubtedly licking its wounds. The company, however, has just made a big and very positive public splash by announcing that it would produce and exclusively distribute new episodes of the popular Fox comedy Arrested Development, which was canceled seven years ago but remains well-remembered and has long been the subject of calls for a revival.

The Arrested Development announcement comes hard on the heels of several other high-profile programming moves at Netflix, which appears to be staking out territory as the Internet alternative to cable TV subscription channels such as HBO and Showtime. Netflix has an impressive slate of original programming from some of the industry’s most successful creative people, as USA Today reports:

— House of Cards (Feb. 1), a darkly cynical political drama from producer David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) that stars Kevin Spacey as a scheming congressman who plots revenge when he’s outmaneuvered for a political post. “The swath of his sword is never-ending,” Spacey says. Fincher directed the first two episodes, and a second 13-episode season is planned by early 2014 as part of the estimated $100 million commitment.

— Hemlock Grove (April 19), a murder mystery set in a Pennsylvania steel town in which “killer creatures” are among the suspects. Produced by Eli Roth (Grindhouse), it’s based on a novel.

— Arrested Development (May), reviving the Emmy-winning series, after reruns were among Netflix’s biggest draws.

— Orange is the New Black (late spring), based on the comedic novel set in a women’s prison, from producer Jenji Kohan (Weeds). Jodie Foster is among its directors.

— Derek (summer), the latest series from writer-star Ricky Gervais, about lovable losers who work in a nursing home.

— Lilyhammer (fall), a second season of last year’s series starring Steve Van Zandt (The Sopranos) as an ex-mobster in the witness protection program who’s transplanted to Norway.

It’s important to note that Netflix is investing the same kind of money as the TV networks in producing these shows—and more, in some cases, having outbid Showtime for the Arrested Development rights. That’s the way a smart business responds to adversity: by taking chances on developing better, more profitable products.

And there’s the rub: not having seen any of these programs, I can’t attest to whether the new Netflix series are better than the rather depressing general run of television drama series we already have today. Indeed, none of the above-mentioned projects sounds much different from the rather cynical, world-weary fare that currently dominates U.S. television screens.

If Netflix truly wants to distinguish itself, a good way to do so would be to develop drama and comedy series that highlight something different—say, a respect for basic American values such as self-reliance, honesty, community, hard work, Christian faith, and the like, while allowing plenty of scope for depicting their importance as seen in the seamy side of life caused by their absence in so many people. Now, that would be really innovative.

I think that there may be a surprisingly large number among the American public that would be delighted to pay for such programming, but it seems evident that tapping that market will require even more courage than even the back-from-the-dead Netflix can muster.