'The First,' Starring Sean Penn, Canceled at Hulu

The space drama launched in September to lackluster reviews.
Paul Schiraldi
Sean Penn on 'The First'

Hulu's big-budget space drama The First has been permanently grounded.

The streamer has opted to cancel the Sean Penn-led series from creator Beau Willimon after one season.

The show, which marked Penn's first TV series regular role, launched in September to lackluster reviews. The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic Daniel Fienberg said in his review that the drama — about a Mars expedition — had "its eyes on the heavens but its feet on the ground" as The First was more of an exploration of what it takes to get to space than time in orbit. The series has a 68 percent rating among critics and 79 percent among viewers on RottenTomatoes.com. Hulu, like fellow streamers Netflix and Amazon, does not release viewership information.

"It's not unreasonable to expect, having seen this launch at the end of season one, that we will [continue to] see the astronauts on the way — perhaps even get to the surface of Mars," Willimon told The Hollywood Reporter at the September premiere of The First. "But, because we've invested so much time in Earth, as well, in a parallel fashion we can tell the stories of the people they left behind and who are working on the ground."

Willimon and Tappis' Westward Productions owned and produced The First, which was co-financed by Hulu alongside Channel 4 and IMG, the company that WME co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell purchased for $2.4 billion in 2014.

Natascha McElhone, LisaGay Hamilton, Hannah Ware and Keiko Agena co-starred.

The First becomes Hulu's latest high-profile one-and-done series to date. The pricey drama joins Sarah Silverman's talk show I Love You, America, which was also canceled after one supersized season.

Hulu's scripted roster consists of Castle Rock, Catch-22, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Little Fires Everywhere, Looking for Alaska, PEN15, Veronica Mars, Ramy, The Handmaid's Tale, Runaways, Shrill and Future Man, among others.