Cobra Kai is an American action comedy-drama web television series, presented in an episodic storytelling format, and based on The Karate Kid film series. It was created by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald, and stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka along with Xolo Maridueña, Courtney Henggeler, Tanner Buchanan and Mary Mouser. Cobra Kai is set 34 years after the original Karate Kid film, and re-examines the narrative from Johnny Lawrence's point of view. His decision to reopen the Cobra Kai karate dojo leads to the rekindling of his old rivalry with Daniel LaRusso.
The series was launched on YouTube Red, which ran seasons one and two from 2018 to 2019. In 2020, Netflix acquired the first two seasons, and will release season three at "a date to be determined."
PremiseThirty-four years after his defeat in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny Lawrence, now in his 50s, works in construction and lives in an apartment in Reseda, Los Angeles, having fallen far from the wealthy lifestyle in Encino that had been enabled by his verbally abusive step-father, Sid Weinberg. He has a son, Robby Keene, with ex-girlfriend Shannon Keene, but he abandoned them both the day Robby was born after Johnny's mother Laura died the same day. Johnny, self-admittedly, has never recovered from the breakup with his high school girlfriend, Ali Mills.
After losing his job, a down-and-out Johnny rescues his teenage neighbor Miguel Diaz from a gang of bullies using karate. Miguel, an asthmatic child raised by his Ecuadorian single mother Carmen, asks Johnny to teach him. Initially reluctant, Johnny finally agrees and decides to reopen the Cobra Kai karate dojo as a chance to recapture his past; however, this act reawakens his rivalry with Daniel LaRusso. Daniel, now the owner of a highly successful car dealership, is married to Amanda and has two children: Samantha and Anthony. Daniel is finally living the wealthy lifestyle he envied as a child when he lived in Reseda. However, after his friend and mentor Mr. Miyagi died, Daniel's struggle to meaningfully connect with his children has disrupted the balance in his life. Meanwhile, his mother Lucille, his other source of support, has a complicated relationship with his wife Amanda.
Johnny's dojo attracts a group of bullied social outcasts who find camaraderie and self-confidence under his tutelage, a marked contrast to the kind of students Tommy, Bobby, Dutch, Jimmy and Johnny were when training in the original Cobra Kai run by John Kreese. Johnny develops a bond with his first and best student, Miguel, in a manner that resembles the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. Cobra Kai's philosophy, however, remains mostly unchanged, though Johnny tries to infuse it with more honor than Kreese did. Thus, Miguel develops into a very different kind of student than Daniel, or even Johnny, was; he also begins dating Samantha.
As a means of revenge against his estranged father, Robby convinces Amanda to hire him for a position at the LaRusso Auto dealership and develops a close friendship with Daniel. He even studies Mr. Miyagi's form of Karate with Daniel and becomes friendly with Samantha. She eventually joins her father's dojo, which ultimately leads to her breaking up with Miguel. Miguel later begins dating another Cobra Kai student, Tory who is Sam's rival.
The developing story revolves around these primary relationships, which lead to conflicts that are ultimately the product of Daniel and Johnny's inability to move away from the past
Cast and characters
- Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso
- William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence
- Xolo Maridueña as Miguel Diaz
- Courtney Henggeler as Amanda LaRusso
- Tanner Buchanan as Robby Keene
- Mary Mouser as Samantha LaRusso
- Jacob Bertrand as Eli Moskowitz/Hawk
- Gianni Decenzo as Demetri
- Martin Kove as John Kreese
- Kwajalyn Brown as Sheila
- Nichole Brown as Aisha Robinson
- Vanessa Rubio as Carmen Diaz
- Peyton List as Tory
- Paul Walter Hauser as Raymond AKA "Stingray"
- Aedin Mincks as Mitch
- Khalil Everage as Chris
- Rose Bianco as Rosa Diaz
- Hannah Kepple as Moon
- Griffin Santopietro as Anthony LaRusso
- Bret Ernst as Louie LaRusso Jr.
- Diora Baird as Shannon Keene
- Randee Heller as Lucille LaRusso
- Ed Asner as Sid Weinberg
- Dan Ahdoot as Anoush Norouzi
- Owen Morgan as Bert
- Nathaniel Oh as Nathaniel
- Joe Seo as Kyler
- Annalisa Cochrane as Yasmine
- Bo Mitchell as Brucks
- Jonathan Mercedes as A. J.
- Ken Davitian as Armand Zarkarian
- Candace Moon as Laura
- Vas Sanchez as Nester
- David Shatraw as Tom Cole
- Kim Fields as Sandra Robinson
- Rob Garrison as Tommy
- Ron Thomas as Bobby
- Tony O'Dell as Jimmy
Season 1 (2018)
Season 2 (2019)
ProductionThe thematic genesis for Cobra Kai began with two works of pop culture. First, the 2007 music video for the song "Sweep the Leg" by No More Kings stars William Zabka as a caricature of himself as Johnny, and features references to The Karate Kid, including cameo appearances by Zabka's former Karate Kid co-stars. In a 2010 interview, Zabka jokingly discussed this video in the context of his vision that Johnny was the true hero of the film. Then, in 2013, Macchio and Zabka made guest appearances as themselves in the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, Macchio is invited to Barney Stinson's bachelor party, leading to Barney shouting that he hates Macchio and that Johnny was the real hero of The Karate Kid. Towards the end of the episode, a clown in the party wipes off his makeup and reveals himself as Zabka.
DevelopmentCobra Kai was greenlit on August 4, 2017, with ten half-hour episodes, written and executive produced by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg. Although the series received offers from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and AMC, it ultimately ended up on the subscription service YouTube Red. The trio was joined by executive producers James Lassiter and Caleeb Pinkett of Overbrook Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television. YouTube Premium released the first season on May 2, 2018 and the second season on April 24, 2019. It renewed the third season for a 2020 release.
On May 28, 2020, Deadline Hollywood announced that the series would be leaving YouTube and moving to another streaming platform, ahead of its third-season premiere. As YouTube was not interested in renewing the series for a fourth season, the producers wanted to find a streaming venue that would leave that option open. On June 22, 2020, it was announced that the show would be moving to Netflix, which will release the first two seasons on August 28, 2020. It will release Season 3 at "a date to be determined." A similar move of moving the series to another platform was planned ahead of its season two premiere, but the deal did not go through.
Castingand Ralph Macchio revived their Karate Kid characters, Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso, for the series. Randee Heller also reprised her role as Daniel's mother. In addition, Martin Kove joined the series as a regular cast member in the second season, reprising his role as John Kreese. Other actors from The Karate Kid franchise have also commented on the series. Elisabeth Shue who appeared in the first film, is ambivalent about appearing in Cobra Kai. Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto from the second film, and Robyn Lively, Sean Kanan, and Thomas Ian Griffith from the third film, have all expressed an interest in appearing in the series. Hilary Swank, has neither confirmed nor denied her interest. She did acknowledge it would be a chance to have a “showdown” with Ralph Macchio, however.
The cast list for Season One was announced on October 24, 2017, and included Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, Tanner Buchanan, and Courtney Henggeler. Ed Asner was cast in a guest role as Johnny's verbally abusive step-father, Sid Weinberg. On December 19, 2017, Vanessa Rubio joined the cast as Miguel's mother.
Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Xolo Mariduena, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, and Courtney Henggeler all returned for the second season, with Paul Walter Hauser and Peyton List joining the cast.
FilmingPrincipal photography for the first season began in October 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Filming took place at various locations throughout that month at places including Union City, Marietta, and the Briarcliff Campus of Emory University. In November 2017, shooting moved to locales such as the North Atlanta Soccer Association Tophat fields in East Cobb. In December 2017, the production was working out of Marietta and Conyers. Various exterior shots were also filmed in parts of Los Angeles such as Tarzana and Encino. Exterior locations included Golf N' Stuff in Norwalk and the South Seas Apartments in Reseda, both of which were originally featured in The Karate Kid.
Principal photography for the second season began in September 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. In October 2018, production continued around Atlanta with shooting also occurring in Marietta. In November 2018, the series was filming in Union City. In December 2018, shooting transpired at the closed Rio Bravo Cantina restaurant in Atlanta.
MarketingIn January 2018, the series was promoted at the annual Television Critics Association's winter press tour where YouTube's global head of original content Susanne Daniels described the show saying, "It is a half an hour format but I would call it a dramedy. I think it leans into the tone of the movies in that there are dramatic moments throughout. I think it's very faithful really in some ways to what the movie set about doing, the lessons imparted in the movie if you will. It's next generation Karate Kid."
The first trailer was released on February 15, 2018, the second on March 1, 2018, and the third a week later. The final official trailer was released on March 21, 2018, and included the announcement that the show would premiere on May 2, 2018.
On April 17, 2019, YouTube Premium released a six-minute commercial parodying ESPN's 30 for 30, featuring the main cast members and select ESPN personalities analyzing the 1984 match between Daniel and Johnny. It was nominated for a Clio Award.
PremiereThe series held its world premiere on April 24, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in New York City, New York, during the annual Tribeca Film Festival. Following the screening, a discussion was held with writers, directors, and executive producers Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz, and Josh Heald, in addition to series stars and co-executive producers William Zabka and Ralph Macchio.
On April 25, 2018, YouTube partnered with Fathom Events for special screenings of the first two episodes of the series at around 700 movie theaters across the United States. The event also included a screening of the original film.
Critical responseThe first season of the series had a positive response from critics upon its premiere. At the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a 100% approval rating, with an average score of 7.44 out of 10 based on 41 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads: "Cobra Kai continues the Karate Kid franchise with a blend of pleasantly corny nostalgia and teen angst, elevated by a cast of well-written characters." Cobra Kai was 2018's best-reviewed TV drama on Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the season a score of 72 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The second season has also received a positive response at Rotten Tomatoes, holding an 88% approval rating with an average score of 7.49 out of 10, based on 24 reviews. Its critical consensus reads: "While Cobra Kai
ViewershipYouTube has reported that the first episode, which was posted for free along with episode two, had been viewed 5.4 million times within the first 24 hours. While it was noted that the response had been, in part, a result of YouTube releasing the episode for free, it was noted by Cinema Blends Britt Lawrence that, "YouTube Red's new series debuted to numbers that should make rival streaming services take notice."
By October 30, 2018, ahead of the second-season premiere, YouTube was promoting the report that the first episode had then been viewed over 50 million times. The first episode was #8 on YouTube's list of ten top-trending videos of 2018.
According to market research company Parrot Analytics, the first season of Cobra Kai was the world's most in-demand streaming television show during May 2018. Parrot Analytics later reported that the second season of Cobra Kai was the world's most in-demand digital television show during April 2019 through May 2019., the season 1 premiere has over 80million views, and the season 2 premiere has over 80million views.
Awards and nominations
Home mediaCobra Kai was first made available for home video distribution in 2019 when Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released season one on DVD in Australia. Additionally, the first season also received an official Blu-ray release in Australia, however, it is not available via any online retailers including JB Hi-Fi, Sanity or EzyDVD; instead, it is only available to purchase through eBay and Amazon. The second season was released on DVD-only format in Australia in 2020 and it is currently not known if it will become available on Blu-ray.
In the United States, Sony Pictures released the first and second seasons in a "Collector's Edition" DVD set, despite the fact that, via their official Twitter, it was announced that Cobra Kai will not be coming to DVD. The set was only intended for limited availability and is now out-of-print.
† Indicates DVD-only availability
‡ Indicates both DVD and Blu-ray availability
± Indicates limited availability