Netflix produces an awful lot of original content at great expense, but the flip side of this coin is that the streaming service is pretty ruthless at cancelling shows which don’t justify the outlay. For fans, this means it pays not to get overly invested, knowing full well that they may not get a satisfying resolution.
The latest victim of the two-season curse is Steve Carell and Greg Daniels’ comedy Space Force. According to Deadline (opens in new tab), Netflix has “opted not to renew” the show for a third season after it failed to break into the Nielsen streaming weekly Top 10 rankings (and then Netflix canceled a new show from Meghan Markle).
That isn’t to say Space Force did poorly in overall terms, but the show was likely on the pricey end of what Netflix produces. The cast included not just Steve Carell but John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz and Lisa Kudrow. As Deadline explains: “for an expensive show like Space Force, the ratings renewal bar is high.”
That’s a pity, as the critical consensus was that the show was moving in the right direction. While the first season earned a pretty poor rating of 39% fresh (opens in new tab) on Rotten Tomatoes, the second hits the heights of 90% across its seven episode run (opens in new tab). That should feel familiar to fans of Daniels and Carell’s last sitcom collaboration — The Office — which struggled to find its feet in season one, before becoming a global megahit over the subsequent eight seasons.
Space Force won’t get the same opportunity to shine, as Netflix looks elsewhere for the next megahit to turn its disappointing subscriber downturn around.
The cancellation spree continues
By my count, that’s at least nine shows that have been axed in 2022 alone. Just days ago, Raising Dion was abandoned after two seasons, joining Pretty Smart, On The Verge, The Baby-Sitters Club, Archive 81, Another Life, Gentefied and Cooking with Paris on the scrapheap.
From a dollars-and-cents perspective, anyone can see why Netflix has to be brutal at wielding the axe. Making original shows is expensive, and Netflix isn’t a charity: if programs aren’t doing the numbers to justify the outlay, then it simply isn’t sustainable to keep producing them, and shows should make way for other projects that might.
But there are plenty of problems with that as a philosophy. Overlooking the fact that some shows are slow burners that take time to settle into their groove, there’s also a real risk that Netflix’s reputation for culling shows before they’re finished could just make subscribers pass on original content. After all, what’s the point in getting invested in something that might be abandoned next week?
That’s certainly my perspective: it would take extremely good reviews for me to take a chance on a Netflix show in 2022, knowing the company’s reputation. With hindsight, I feel pretty lucky that the streaming service didn’t kill off F is for Family before it reached its satisfying conclusion.
For now, (like some other Tom's Guide staff) I’m not canceling Netflix, though I'm sticking to a lower quality subscription tier due to lack of use. But when Better Call Saul season 6 reaches its (no doubt depressing) conclusion, I may well revisit that choice if the company doesn’t show signs of becoming a little more patient with its home-made content. Finished with Space Force, and looking for something else? We've compiled the 3 Netflix shows you need to binge-watch this month to keep you streaming.
Curious what services you should be canceling? Our streaming editor explains it all in the latest edition of his monthly column, "Forget canceling Netflix, here are two streaming services I'd cancel this month."
In other streaming news, there's a returning show you should definitely check out. See why our streaming editor couldn't stop watching this HBO Max show you need to stream.