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The streaming giant has opted to cancel the scripted drama after two seasons, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. It becomes the first Netflix original scripted series to not be renewed for a third season.
Originally developed with a straight-to-series order at Starz back in 2012, Marco Polo debuted to dismal reviews — THR chief TV critic Tim Goodman called it “a middling mess, complete with random accents, slow story and kung fu” — and little buzz.
The drama, produced by The Weinstein Co., featured a global cast that included Lorenzo Richelmy in the title role with Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan. The second season launched quietly July 1, with options on the cast set to expire at year’s end. Sources tell THR that the series, across both seasons, was responsible for a $200 million loss to the streaming giant. Sources say the decision to not move forward with a third season of Marco Polo was a joint one between Netflix and TWC.
“We want to thank and are grateful to our partners on Marco Polo from the actors, whose performances were enthralling and top-notch; to the committed producers, including John Fusco, Dan Minahan, Patrick Macmanus, and their crew, who poured their hearts into the series; and of course Harvey [Weinstein], David [Glasser] and our friends at TWC, who were great collaborators from start to finish,” Netflix vp original content Cindy Holland said Monday in a statement.
Added Weinstein Co. co-chairman Weinstein, who with showrunner Fusco suggested they would soon be reteaming for another similarly themed drama in the works: “Netflix has been incredible to give us the room to make a series with a cast true to every principle of diversity. It’s a bold network that allows you to do that and support us in the way that Netflix did. As many people know, Asian history and the world of martial arts have fascinated me for all of my career — I’ve made many movies around these topics and this genre, and now this TV show I’m so proud of. John has been a great partner and we’re both fascinated to continue exploring this exciting period in history on future projects together.”
Noted Fusco: “Harvey and I have a love for this kind of history — we had a fantastic cast, fantastic creative team and crew, and shooting in Malaysia was a privilege. We’re working on an idea right now in a similar space that we’re very excited about.”
The news comes months after Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told THR in a roundtable discussion with other executives that Marco Polo had done “what it was supposed to do.” “Marco Polo is one of those shows for us [where viewership doesn’t matter to international audiences],” he said. “It’s hugely popular all throughout Asia and Europe, and there’s a lot of focus on if your neighbors might be watching it. And it’s really irrelevant because it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”
Marco Polo joins a short list of series that have been canceled at the streaming giant that also includes Bloodline, which will end with its upcoming third season, as well as Hemlock Grove, which also wrapped after three seasons.
Other shows awaiting word on their future at Netflix include The Get Down, which still needs to air the second half of its freshman season, Easy and Between.
For The Weinstein Co., Marco Polo marks a far cry of where the independent studio is with its television arm right now. The studio has focused more recently on high-level projects from big-name directors including Amazon’s David O. Russell drama starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore as well as Matthew Weiner’s follow-up to Mad Men. Both projects were picked up straight to series.
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