Last week, on the heels of cancelling The Get Down, Netflix surprisingly cancelled its original program Sense8 as well. Twitter and the internet exploded with fan outcry. I honestly haven’t seen The Get Down, but I’ve heard good things from friends and the online community. I am however, a big fan of Sense8. The globe spanning show about 8 random people suddenly sharing one consciousness was a fascinating and unique television show for any network. It was an obvious contender for having one of the most diverse story lines and cast. This made Sense8 accessible and important for a large variety of people.
The key factor for both cancelled programs is obviously the cost. The Get Down and Sense8 are notoriously expensive to film and produce. Especially Sense8, with its international locations, well choreographed fight sequences, and ambitious plot lines. It isn’t cheap to make (reportedly 9 million dollars an episode), and unfortunately it seems like there just wasn’t a big enough audience to sustain it. Or at least, that’s what the reasoning appears to be.
Besides the initial sadness from the fan community about the cancellation of Sense8, this appears to be the first real intense fan outcry towards a Netflix cancellation. With the dual cancellations of beloved fan favorites, Netflix programs no longer feel safe and assured. These are not the first programs to be axed by the streaming service, but they definitely feel like the biggest loss towards the platform. Marco Polo was entertaining, but it wasn’t breaking any new ground for period piece television. Hemlock Grove seemed to try to cash in on the success of True Blood, resulting in a small fan base and fairly negative reviews.
Most recently, the award winning drama Bloodline was even given a final third season to wrap up its story. If anything, it appeared that Netflix would only outright cancel programs that flopped critically and financially. Now, it seems that the financial aspect has finally kicked into effect. Netflix is a company after all, and like any media company, their main concern is the success business model. If anything though, a rather large majority of programming on Netflix has appeared to be “safe” for a long time. It’s one of the main reasons why Netflix has been so appealing over the past 5 years or so.
Cable television programs can be cancelled after one episode. ABC, FOX, CBS and NBC have always been notorious for cancelling fan favorites to opt for safer and more profitable programming. With these two big cancellations from Netflix, it appears that more of its original programming might not be as safe as we all thought. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but one that seemed to be far off on the horizon. When Netflix announced the final season of Bloodline, it appeared that even if they decided to cancel one of their shows, they would at least allow a planned ending. Sense8 and The Get Down didn’t get that chance.
Overall, it’s worrisome. Netflix viewers, including myself, might be more weary towards investing in that new original series now. It opens up a lot of doubt about the future of its original programming, and it makes me feel like I’m back watching something on FOX. Even with the budget concerns, there were ways that Sense8 could have become cheaper to make. Especially since the end of the second season had all of the main characters finally in the same city. It just feels like a strategic move of a company who now knows that a fairly high majority of Americans pay and watch Netflix programming.
Sense8 wasn’t a perfect show. It had some clunky and often bad dialogue. The over the top acting of some supporting characters added a cheesiness and sometimes cringe-y aspect to particular scenes. Even with its flaws though, it was still a hugely ambitious piece about humanity and the power of diversity. It offered different perspectives on transgender and homosexual lifestyles and the issues they face. All of this was packaged in a pretty compelling, emotional and action packed story.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been interviewed saying that “We have to take more risk; you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall”. Sense8 was pretty crazy and risky, but apparently the budget was as well. Netflix will undoubtedly cancel more programs in the future, but hopefully they at least consider the fan base when they do.
Phasing out shows can actually add credibility to any network. FX has announced many of their programs end-games in advance. This gives viewers the security and overall feeling that they are not wasting their time. Hopefully Netflix begins to treat more of their cancellations like Bloodline. Giving their original programming one shortened season to wrap things up. Sense8 definitely deserved that.