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It’s not uncommon to see a freshman TV show canceled mere weeks after its debut — except, of course, if that show airs on a streamer, where ratings are guarded tightly and additional seasons are all but guaranteed.
But on Dec. 2, Amazon’s feminist period drama Good Girls Revolt was axed by one of the town’s most prolific (and elusive) outlets despite the trappings of success. “We were all so surprised because we were a hit,” creator Dana Calvo tells THR, citing two metrics that Amazon execs told her they cared about: a high Rotten Tomatoes score (Good Girls has a 96 percent audience rating) and the ability to spur purchases on Amazon’s retail arm: “Of the people driven from the entertainment sections to the commerce section, we were driving 55 percent, which was phenomenal.”
Streaming monitor Symphony Advanced Media agrees Good Girls was a breakout. “It’s really the only Amazon program that we’ve seen to date that has a really strong female 18-to-49 following,” says Symphony senior vp John Sollecito. Counters Amazon’s Joe Lewis, head of comedy and drama: “We had high hopes for Good Girls Revolt, and have tremendous respect for the creators, cast and Sony, but I can tell you that the Symphony numbers being reported are wrong and that the show wasn’t performing at the levels we had hoped for — either in total viewership or completion rates.”
Producer Sony Pictures Television plans to shop the drama elsewhere — the studio has until Dec. 31 before cast options expire, though an extension is considered likely with the holidays — as it will maintain its coveted spot in the California Film Commission’s tax incentive program should it find a new home. Insiders say ABC, Bravo, Freeform, Hulu and USA are among the nets that have shown interest, with Netflix and Lifetime considered longshots. Sony declined comment. The independent studio, meanwhile, remains in business with Amazon with upcoming series including Sneaky Pete, The Tick and The Last Tycoon, all due in 2017.
So what happened? “What we hadn’t factored in is that [Amazon Studios head] Roy Price just doesn’t care for the show,” says Calvo. “He’s representative of the Amazon culture in that he’s just impenetrable.” Insiders suggest Price largely was uninvolved with the series — he didn’t attend the premiere or provide episode notes — and didn’t think Good Girls would be an awards contender. Adds Calvo, “All I know is that in the [season two] pitch, he asked us to refer to the characters by the actors’ names because he didn’t know the characters’ names.”
The cancellation comes as the deep-pocketed streamer has shifted its focus to star-driven fare from big-name auteurs (Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes, David O. Russell’s Robert De Niro-Julianne Moore drama, and Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men follow-up). Some also point to the streamer’s October executive shuffle that saw Lewis expand his purview to include drama as a reason for the new direction, with multiple insiders noting that he asked if there was a way Good Girls could be redeveloped as a comedy.
While Amazon has had awards success with its dramedies Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, this isn’t its first clash with a writer-producer. David Shore (House) exited the Bryan Cranston-produced drama Sneaky Pete, and showrunner Frank Spotnitz stepped down from The Man in the High Castle after its first season. “The Amazon corporate culture that everyone knows is a tough one, and it’s not a great place for creatives,” adds Calvo. “They run some people out.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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