Ever since Netflix started debuting original series in 2012, the streaming giant has been adding shows at a rapid-fire rate. The platform also has been renewing the vast majority of them — until now, that is.
The streamer is finally starting to look a bit more like a traditional TV network, implementing a model that keeps the most successful shows and does away with some of the less fortunate contenders. Within the span of a month last year, the streamer pulled the plug on Baz Luhrmann’s pricey hip-hop drama The Get Down, The Wachowskis‘ globe-spanning sci-fi series Sense8 and Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s semi-biographical comedy Girlboss. Later in the year, Netflix made its swiftest cancellation yet when it canceled its Naomi Watts drama Gyspy only six weeks after the show’s debut.
Surprising many in the industry, the cancelations came amid remarks made by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in a CNBC interview at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. in May 2017, speaking about the company’s track record. “Our hit ratio is way too high right now,” he said. “I’m always pushing the content team, ‘We have to take more risk, you have to try more crazy things,’ because we should have a higher cancel rate overall.”
The company’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos also addressed the topic last summer at the Produced By conference. “Relative to what you spent, are people watching it?” he said in a conversation with Jerry Seinfeld, whose show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is moving from Crackle to Netflix next season. “A big, expensive show for a huge audience is great. A big, expensive show for a tiny audience is hard, even in our model, to make that work very long.”
Below, The Hollywood Reporter looks at the handful of Netflix shows that have received the ax and examines why they didn’t make the cut.
Hemlock Grove may not have been Netflix’s first original series, but it was the first to be canceled. In 2014, the company announced that it had renewed Eli Roth’s supernatural drama for a third and final season. The final 10 episodes of the series, which is based on a Brian McGreevy novel of the same name, premiered in 2015. “We are so grateful to the fans of Hemlock Grove who have championed the series so intensely over two seasons. We are looking forward to taking the last and final season into some dark and unexpected places, and to giving viewers the killer finale you’d come to expect from Hemlock Grove,” Roth said in a statement when the cancelation news broke. Mere months before Hemlock Grove‘s cancelation, Netflix’s original content vice president Cindy Holland broached the topic in a rare interview with THR. “They can’t all last forever!” she said when asked about the company’s cancelation strategy, adding, “If the creative team decides they don’t want to go on, that’s one factor. And if the investment required outweighs the subscribers and the viewing hours we predict for the series, that would be another.”
The Norwegian drama marked Netflix’s first foray into original programming when it debuted in 2012. But after three seasons following the exploits of former gangster Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt) as he makes a new life under Norway’s federal witness protection program, the streamer opted not to move forward with the series. The decision was brought on by entangled ownership rights and escalating costs. “It’s become a very economically challenged deal because there’s a partnership with the Norwegian broadcaster,” Sarandos told THR at the time. “It was very difficult to maintain the level of global exclusivity and control that we hope to with our shows with that show.” Star Van Zandt, for his part, noted his frustration with the show’s cancelation on twitter, writing, “#Lilyhammer RIP. Not my decision. Let’s just say for now the business got too complicated.”
A year after Netflix announced it would revive Fox’s cult comedy Arrested Development (which, by the way, is set to return for a fifth season on the platform in 2018), the streamer revealed it was doing the same with AMC’s mystery thriller The Killing. Based on a popular Danish TV series, Veena Sud’s drama starring Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman was canceled not once but twice by the cable network before Netflix picked it up for a six-episode fourth season. “The rich, serialized storytelling in The Killing thrives on Netflix. We are looking forward to offering fans — both existing and new — a series that we know is perfectly suited for on-demand viewing,” said Holland at the time. The short run served as the wrap-up for The Killing as Netflix did not order any additional seasons of the drama.
Though it’s hard to know for certain without any reliable viewer metrics, Netflix’s big-swing historical drama appeared to be a massive misstep for the digital service. With a reported $90 million budget for the first 10-episodes alone, sources told THR at the time of the show’s cancelation in December 2016 that the two seasons Netflix ordered of Marco Polo marked a $200 million loss for the streaming giant. The Weinstein Co. series starring Lorenzo Richelmy debuted to little buzz and dismal reviews, with THR‘s own chief TV critic Tim Goodman describing it “a middling mess, complete with random accents, slow story and kung fu.” However, Sarandos claimed in a THR roundtable discussion with other TV executives months prior that Marco Polo was a global success for the company. “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. 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.” Its cancelation following a quietly launched second season made it the first Netflix original scripted series to not make it to three seasons.
A&E raised eyebrows when it decided to cancel the Western drama after just three seasons. It was, after all, the cable network’s most-watched original scripted series — however, contemporary crime thriller’s fan base skewed old and was doing little to boost the coveted, advertiser-friendly 18-49 demo that the channel needed it to for revenue purposes. But since advertising is a foreign concept to Netflix given its subscription-based model, the streaming giant quickly swooped in to save the show in an effort to lure a new (and older) crowd to its service. “When Warner Horizon Television came to us with the idea for a new season of Longmire, we were intrigued because the series is so unique, and consistently great,” Holland said of the pickup. “We are thrilled to help continue Walt Longmire’s story for his large and passionate following.” Netflix announced in November that the drama would conclude with its sixth and final season later this year after three additional seasons on the streamer.
Despite series creators and executive producers Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler being open about having a five- or six-season plan for the family drama starring Kyle Chandler, Bloodline came to an end earlier this year after only three seasons. In an in-depth story on the inner workings of the streaming giant, THR exclusively revealed that Netflix had notified producers at Sony Pictures Television sometime after the show’s July 2016 renewal that the third season of the series would be its final outing on the platform. The streamer also cut the episode order from 13 episodes to 10 and slashed licensing fees on the show, though both parties deny any tension between them. Even prior to the renewal, a third season of Bloodline had been uncertain due to the demise of Florida’s entertainment tax incentives program, which made the Keys-set drama more costly to produce. “There were ideas that we thought we might do in a third season leading into a fourth season and beyond,” Kessler told THR at the time. “But it’s storytelling, so working with amazing actors and great collaborators and directors, we had to figure out how to shake it out and say, ‘OK, here are all of the moments that we want to hit’ and give each character as great a story as possible that will hopefully create emotional resonance and be entertaining.”
The Get Down
Ever since the project was first announced in February 2015, the musical drama from acclaimed film director Baz Luhrmann was plagued with rumors of a chaotic behind-the-scenes process. On top of multiple production delays, the series faced financial problems. With a reported overall budget of $120 million, The Get Down was quite possibly the most expensive television series, though Luhrmann refuted the claim when pressed on the matter by THR. “I heard The Crown was the most expensive show ever made,” he said at the time, pointing to another Netflix series. Still, Lurhmann’s ambitious vision wasn’t enough to keep the show alive. The streamer waited until the second half of the first season debuted on the platform — both parts received middling reviews — to make the final call. In a lengthy letter to fans posted on his Facebook page, Luhrmann suggested that the fact that he was unable to continue on the series full-time moving forward was the reason for the cancelation. “When I was asked to come to the center of The Get Down to help realize it, I had to defer a film directing commitment for at least two years. This exclusivity has understandably become a sticking point for Netflix and Sony, who have been tremendous partners and supporters of the show. It kills me that I can’t split myself into two and make myself available to both productions,” he wrote, adding, “But the simple truth is, I make movies.”
A week after Netflix canceled The Get Down, the streaming platform pulled the plug on the sci-fi drama from Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. “After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end,” Holland said of the drama, which centered on eight strangers around the globe who find themselves interconnected. “It is everything we and the fans dreamed it would be: bold, emotional, stunning, kickass and outright unforgettable.” But following outcry from fans that included a petition to bring back the series, Netflix announced that Sense8 would return with a two-hour finale episode next year. “After seeing that the cancelation was a total cluster, we decided to give Sense8 fans the ending they totally deserve,” said a Netflix spokesperson. Co-creator Lana Wachowski unveiled the news in a emotional letter in which she admitted to falling into a “fairly serious” depression after the show was abruptly axed. “The outpouring of love and grief that came in the wake of the news that Sense8 would not be continuing was so intense that I often found myself unable to open my own email,” she wrote. “While it is often true that these decisions are irreversible, it is not always true.”
Girlboss didn’t last long after debuting to dismal reviews. Netflix quickly opted to not move forward with a second season of the Britt Robertson-led comedy that’s loosely based on Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s life. The 13-episode series — which followed a rebellious anarchist who turns herself into a business woman by up-selling vintage clothes online — was written and executive produced by Pitch Perfect’s Kay Cannon and counted Charlize Theron among its executive producers. Amoruso shared the news herself in a rather candid Instagram post. “So that Netflix series about my life got canceled,” she wrote. “While I’m proud of the work we did, I’m looking forward to controlling my narrative from here on out. It was a good show, and I was privileged to work with incredible talent, but living my life as a caricature was hard even if only for two months. Yes, I can be difficult. No, I’m not a dick. No, someone named Shane never cheated on me. It will be nice to someday tell the story of what’s happened in the last few years. People read the headline, not the correction, I’ve learned.” Since Will Arnett’s sadcom Flaked somehow managed to score a second season despite being critically panned, Girlboss marks the first comedy to get cut by the platform.
The Naomi Watts drama had all the trappings of a hit — an Oscar nominee as its star (plus Billy Crudup in a supporting role), one of Hollywood’s most successful female filmmakers at the helm (Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Sam Taylor-Johnson made her first foray into TV with the show) and a sexy, mysterious premise (it’s all about a therapist who gets over-involved in her patients’ lives). But upon its June debut, it became clear that the 10-episode psychological thriller created by newcomer Lisa Rubin missed the mark. At the time, THR‘s TV critic Daniel Fienberg wrote in his review that “Watts towers above subpar material,” also noting that “the show falls into that familiar fictional therapy trap of having every single conversation directly articulate something that could have either been subtext or illustrated rather than monologued.” And at a 25 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Gypsy isn’t exactly “certified fresh.” In addition, sources say that the series a significant expense for the streaming giant due to Watt’s high-end salary and the fact that Universal Television, not Netflix, produced it. The critical bashing and steep price tag may explain why Netflix axed the drama only a mere six weeks after its launch, the streamer’s quickest cancellation yet, while it swiftly renewed its June comedy breakout G.L.O.W.
Haters Back Off!
Netflix’s attempt to help a YouTube star crossover from her native digital platform to more traditional script content ultimately didn’t pan out. Haters Back Off!, which starred Colleen Ballinger as her popular YouTube character Miranda Sings, lasted for two seasons before the streamer pulled the plug. The show followed the oddball family life of Sings, a confident yet totally untalened star on the rise who continues to fail upwards. Produced by Brightlight Pictures, Haters Back Off! was picked up to series in January 2016 with an eight-episode order, and marked the service’s first scripted series for a YouTuber. The series — which also starred Angela Kinsey, Francesca Reale, Erik Stocklin and Steve Little — was then renewed for a second season a year ago. In THR‘s review, critic Keith Uhlich acknowledged that while Ballinger’s shtick is “fairly potent in short bursts… put Miranda in her own half-hour eight-episode Netflix series, however, and the lampoon loses its edge.”
Comedian Maria Bamford’s critically-acclaimed comedy was canceled after two seasons. Despite an impressive 97 percent average critical score on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81 percent rating among viewers, Netflix opted not to be forward with a third season of the series, which was inspired by Bamford’s life. The decision came shortly after the streaming giant decided to wrap Judd Apatow-produced comedy Love with its third season. A third season of Lady Dynamite had been up in the air. In an interview, creator and star Bamford said, “It’s a TV show which goes for like 15-hour days. It’s this thing that’s actually keeping you away from having your personal life. She added, joking: “I do wonder about if there was a third season — who knows — but I might ask for children’s hours, which is a limit of 10 hours a day. I think the kids have it right!” In another interview, she acknowledged that making the series has taken a toll on her. “It’s hilarious because [Lady Dynamite] is about mental health and that [I was] kind of putting my mental health in danger in order to do a TV show about mental health. So, whoops.” She noted if the show were to get another season, she’d want to focus on the storylines of some of the other characters. “I’d be interested in whatever it could become. I don’t know if there will be a third season.”
As one of Netflix’s few forays into multicamera comedy, Disjointed was poised to endure on the streaming service the way Ashton Kutcher’s The Ranch has. But the pot comedy from Big Bang Theory‘s Chuck Lorre didn’t quite land the way Netflix would’ve hoped. The cancellation was somewhat surprising given how hard Netflix fought for the project, which was written on spec by Lorre and The Daily Show‘s David Javerbaum. Amid an intense bidding war with other broadcast and streaming outlets, the streaming giant ultimately doled out a rare straight-to-series, 20-episode order for the show starring Kathy Bates as a lifelong advocate for marijuana legalization who is finally living her dream as the owner of a Los Angeles-area cannabis dispensary. But the Warner Bros.-produced series — which premiered in August — only managed a paltry 23 percent rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes and an 80 percent user score. Not to worry, Lorre will still remain in business with Netflix despite Disjointed‘s cancellation. He has a single-camera comedy The Kominsky Method, starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, coming next.
Add Everything Sucks to Netflix’s growing list of one-and-done series, which also includes Girlboss, Haters Back Off, Gypsy and The Get Down. The quirky 1990s-set coming out comedy from Ben York Jones (Like Crazy) and Michael Mohan (Save the Date) premiered to an acceptable, though not terrific, 69 percent rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes in February. But less than two months later, THR exclusively revealed that Netflix would not be moving forward with a second season of the comedy. The news is particularly sad for fans of the series, considering Everything Sucks ended on a cliffhanger. Not only that, the show had drawn comparisons to Judd Apatow’s short-lived classic Freaks and Geeks, and was praised in particular for its lesbian representation onscreen. Consider Everything Sucks the latest victim of Peak TV.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Sources confirmed to THR that the comedy starring Ellie Kemper would wrap up after its upcoming fourth season. However, there are talks of doing a movie after it’s all finished. The series — which also stars Jane Krakowski, Carole Kane and breakout Tituss Burgess — follows Kemper’s Kimmy, a naive woman who was freed from a decade of bunk imprisonment by a doomsday cult only to move to New York and start a new life. Producers NBCUniversal and distributer Netflix declined to comment on the show’s fate at the time, but given that the next batch of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt episodes is split in two parts due to Fey’s schedule, there’s no question the comedy will get a proper send-off. After all, discussions of a potential wrap-up movie suggest that this is an ongoing conversation between the show and the streamer and not an abrupt move.