After two seasons, Nextflix has cancelled the family friendly, critically acclaimed, and (seemingly) quite popular series The Baby-Sitter’s Club. Worsening the blow to the show’s young fanbase, given the relative lack of television that takes early teens seriously, is the fact that we’ll never know exactly why it’s gone.
Streaming services have complicated and shadowy motivations when it comes to the shows they renew or cancel. Where a broadcast network might be looking almost exclusively at how viewership translates into advertiser revenue, a streamer is worried about how a show’s popularity translates into subscriptions. If a show isn’t drawing new subscribers, or isn’t generating the kind of passion that might lead fans to cancel if it weren’t around, viewership almost doesn’t matter. There’s also the fact that shows are increasingly competing internationally — as BSC creator Rachel Shukert told Vulture, “when your show does very well in North America, as ours does, as far as Netflix is concerned, pretty much everybody who’s going to have Netflix [in North America] has it. They’re looking to drive subscriber growth in other parts of the world.”
The bottom line: When something good gets cancelled in its prime, we’re left with best guesses, conjecture, and disappointment — particularly when the shows we love aren’t given the opportunity to wrap up their storylines. Paradoxically, this can only make viewers that much more reluctant to try something new, worried they’ll fall in love only to be disappointed yet again — which makes it even harder for unique shows to survive past a season or two. But if that’s the case, Netflix only has itself to blame for its reputation for cancelling great shows a season or two in. Consider, as evidence, a baker’s dozen of series Netflix dumped way too soon.
One Day at a Time (2017 — 2020, three seasons)
This comedy-drama, inspired by Norman Lear’s popular 1975 sitcom of the same name, quickly became one of the streamer’s most critically acclaimed shows, telling the story of a Latinx family lead by Justina Machado as an Army Nurse Corps veteran struggling with her return to civilian life and single motherhood, and joined by Rita Moreno as her plainspoken mother. Aside from that solid Latinx representation, the funny and big-hearted show spotlighted Justina’s lesbian daughter, Elena, and her non-binary love interest, Syd. Unfortunately, despite a dedicated fan campaign, Netflix cancelled it after three seasons.
The good news? The show got a reprieve of sorts from pay television network Pop, which picked it up for a fourth season. Six new episodes were produced, but then COVID-19 shut down production. One further episode was produced in animated form, but the remainder of the season was never filmed — and the episodes that were completed aren’t currently streaming or airing anywhere. Showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett tweeted the synopses for the episodes that were written but never shot. It’s great that we got a few extra episodes following the Netflix cancellation, but it’s a wee bit depressing that we didn’t get the rest.
GLOW (2017 — 2019, three seasons)
A very fun comedy-drama set during the 1980s, GLOW’s ensemble is lead by Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, a very serious, but very out-of-work actor who signs on with Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The show’s heightened drama, period detail, and willingness to be a little silly were highlights. Another victim of COVID-19 production shutdowns, the show was renewed for a concluding fourth season before being unrenewed and cancelled.
The good news? There’s a very fun graphic novel from IDW (GLOW vs. The Star Primas) that captures the tone of the show quite well. Otherwise, it’s hard to find much of a silver lining in that unexpected cliffhanger ending.
I Am Not OK With This (2020, one season)
Yet another victim of pandemic production delays, I Am Not OK With This starred Sophia Lillis as Sydney Novak, a teen who discovers she’s beginning to manifest supernatural abilities in the wake of her father’s death by suicide. As a lead, Lillis sells the hell out of this offbeat coming-of-age story. Much like GLOW, the show was renewed for a second season before being cancelled and ending on a cliffhanger.
The good news? The show is based on a Fantagraphics graphic novel from Charles Foreman that, at least, provides a more definitive ending than the series does.
The Get Down (2016 — 2017, one season)
A musical drama about the rise of hip-hop in 1970s New York from Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) and playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis was such wild an idea that it might not have worked, but rap luminaries (including Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow) were brought in to consult, lending the show an authentic feel. Unfortunately, it apparently cost a fortune, and Netflix pulled the plug before it really got going.
The good news? If more musical delight from Luhrmann is what you crave, The Get Down’s cancellation at least freed him up to produce his long in the works film about the rise and fall of Elvis Presley, which arrives in theatres later this year.
The Irregulars (2021, one season)
What sounded like a desperately unnecessary Sherlock Holmes pastiche involving the Baker Street Irregulars (lead here by Thaddea Graham) layered an unexpected exploration of grief into the dark supernatural mystery at its core. I’m not sure the Holmes angle was even particularly necessary, but the show more than worked as a darker, Victorian-era Stranger Things.
The good news? The single season tells a fairly complete story, and, though it was something special, there are an awful lot of Sherlock Holmes adaptations/pastiches out there — even of Netflix, which is working on a sequel to 2020’s Enola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown as the great detective’s younger sister.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019, one season)
The magic of the Jim Henson company’s practical puppetry and effects were what initially drew me to this prequel series, but the impressive worldbuilding and and expansive mythology offered reasons to stick around. The series tells a largely complete story set before the classic ‘80s film, so it’s not unreasonable to view it as a miniseries. Yet though it seemed to do well critically and with audiences, it was also quite expensive, which is probably what doomed it.
The good news? We haven’t seen the end of The Dark Crystal, which is a small but plucky media franchise in its own right. Publisher Archaia has produced graphic novels that tie in to Age of Resistance alongside others that serve as sequels to the original film. There are prose novels and manga, as well as games and novelty items galore. Even if we never get another movie or series, there’s life in these puppets yet.
Sense8 (2015 — 2018)
Probably the series we need most right now, the collaboration between The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski featured a multinational cast in a story about eight individuals from around the world who discover that they’re mysteriously, deeply connected, with the ability to share experiences, knowledge, and skills almost instantaneously. One of the most queer-friendly and sex-positive shows of the last few years, it’s worth a revisit — despite the fact that it was cancelled two seasons into a planned five-season run.
The good news? Following the show’s post-second season cancellation, Netflix greenlit a film special that streamed a year later and tied off most of the dangling story threads. It’s not the ending that was necessarily planned, but it does provide the series with a degree of closure.
Julie and the Phantoms (2020, one season)
From Executive Producer Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, etc.), Julie stars Madison Reyes as the title character, who is struggling with her grief over the death of her musician mum and accidentally summons three ghosts who died just before their band hit it big. Naturally, they all start making music together. It’s a clever and quirky series with a passionate fan base, but as with The Baby-Sitter’s Club, it seems an audience of lots of young girls didn’t have the pull to get it past a single season.
The good news? Like Julie’s bandmates, the show is dead, but you can explore its origins by tracking down Julie e os Fantasmas, the Brazilian series that inspired it, on YouTube.
The OA (2016 — 2019, two seasons)
With a passionate but apparently not-large-enough fanbase, The OA (like Sense8 before it), was the product of an era when it seemed as though Netflix might become the home to some truly innovative genre programming. The unclassifiable sci-fi/mystery series stars Brit Marling as Prairie Johnson, a woman who returns after a seven-year disappearance, proclaiming herself to be the “original angel”; aiding her case is the fact that she has the ability to see, though she was previously blind.
The good news? There isn’t much, given that the show ended on a cliffhanger. I suppose it’s best to appreciate we got as much of it as we did, given it was probably always too weird to last.
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (2017 — 2018, two seasons)
With a new cast, including comedian Jonah Ray and nerdy celebs Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day, cult-fave MST3K made a splashy return to TV almost 20 years after its initial run concluded (at which point it had already been saved from cancellation one time over). Though a bit more polished than back in the old days, the show hadn’t lost a step when it came to mercilessly mocking bad movies. Naturally, Netflix said goodbye after two seasons.
The good news? MST3K has been dead before, and always manages to launch itself back into orbit eventually. Last year, the gang ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign last year to produce a new 13-episode season with the Netflix-era cast. Episodes will be distributed directly to fans via a custom app, at least initially, which means there’s no more network to cancel the show.
Tuca & Bertie (2019, one season)
This adult animated sitcom from Bojack Horseman vet Lisa Hanawalt follows to thirty-something birds (literally) as they struggle to make sense of living as mature adults. Despite critical acclaim and a great voice cast led by Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, and Steven Yeun, it was cancelled after a single season.
The good news? Following cancellation by Netflix, the show was picked up by Cartoon Network for its Adult Swim block, and has since been renewed for a third season.
The Society (2019, one season)
This surprisingly smart Lord of the Flies riff involves a group of teenagers forced to create their own community after all the adults in the world disappear. It was another show that was renewed before being cancelled permanently due to COVID-19 production delays.
The good news? Though the show’s eerie season/series finale leaves their fates ambiguous, there’s not much doubt that their story is over.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 — 2020, two seasons)
Blending high school drama with genuinely dark humour, Sabrina is a step above that other revisionary Archie Comics drama, if only because Riverdale never had a storyline involving cannibalism or sex magic. Unfortunately, Netflix cancelled the show after two seasons — though each was split in two so as to make it feel as though there are four.
The good news? Sabrina’s connections to the broader Archie-verse have provided her with a bit of a future: the character made a recent cameo appearance on Riverdale, and the show’s story is set to continue in an upcoming comic book. Given all that, it’s not impossible that the live-action Sabrina Spellman will appear again somewhere. Never count a good witch out.