There’s nothing quite like the frustrating feeling of your favourite show getting cancelled before it has the chance to wrap up any loose ends. Even the shows that do get the chance to wrap up after cancellation often get rushed, and precious plot points have to be cut for time.
While there are dozens of shows that were likely cut before their prime, the cancellations of these particular five shows cut particularly deep.
1. I am Not Okay With This
The incredibly promising, I am Not Okay With This, was just getting on its feet. The coming of age story about Syd (Sophia Lillis), a teenager who discovers she has powers, took a much more poignant direction than your typical ‘kid gets powers’ story.
In the show, Syd’s powers have an intrinsic link to her emotions and well-being. These aren’t necessarily powers that are strictly for good, and she certainly isn’t using them to save the world. Instead, she struggles with the discovery as she battles the emotional turmoil of grief, coming to terms with sexuality, and trying to help raise her younger brother while her mother works.
Many LGBTQ people have felt frustrated with Netflix, as the streaming service has a habit of cancelling their stories before they’re ever completed. The streaming service perpetually cancels shows, so much so that some people don’t even like watching a first season of any Netflix show when it comes out. But their continued cancellation of LGBTQ stories makes the representation they do provide ring hollow to some.
In a conversation with Insider, the show’s creator, Jonathan Entwistle, talked about the issue.
“There’s a tonal and aesthetic shift. It’s very clear to me now, in the latter days of doing shows at Netflix, that they are a brand — you generate content that sells their brand. They’re not interested in highlighting new voices in the television space,” he said of Netflix.
Netflix’s cancellation of I am Not Okay With This was especially brutal as it came after they renewed the show. The streaming service went back on that renewal, citing issues with the pandemic. Not only was the show cancelled after people were told it would be renewed, but production had already written a second season.
It’s important to note that the crime drama, Mindhunter, wasn’t technically cancelled. Netflix, however, put the show on an “indefinite hold.” Director David Fincher confirmed it’s incredibly unlikely the network will move on with the next season, citing that the popular show was too “expensive.”
The gripping crime thriller was created by Joe Penhall and was based off of a novel called Mindhunter: Inside the FBIs Elite Serial Crimes Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. It follows the founding of the Behavioural Science Unit in the FBI in the late 70s.
The show stars Jonathan Groff as FBI agent Holden Ford, Bill Tench as FBI Agent Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv as psychologist Wendy Carr. The trio launches a study where they interview serial killers to understand their behavioral patterns and general psychology.
Both of its seasons were critically acclaimed and for good reason. The show stands out from the extensively packed genre of crime shows with its impeccable visuals and expertly crafted characterisation. The show is chilling and disturbing, but comes with a lot of heart, making it one that’ll be sorely missed by fans.
Sense8, the ambitious and wonderfully zany sci-fi drama by the Wachowski sisters, was the first time many people saw themselves in television. The show was a pioneer for modern day LGBTQ representation. It’s wildly creative premise, international cast, and whimsical storytelling make it an inimitable cult classic.
The show follows eight people from all over the world who discover they are “senseates,” people who are mentally linked. They can sometimes feel each other’s emotions, see through each other’s eyes, and even supernaturally “visit” each other through their connection.
Sense8 was released in 2015, and a lot has changed in the landscape of representation since then. With multiple people of color and LGBTQ people in the role of main characters, the show explored the subjects of race, gender, nationality, and sexuality. But the show wasn’t just good because of its representation. Its incredibly unique premise, lovable characters, and eccentric writing made it an absolute joy to watch.
When Sense8 was canceled by… yes, Netflix, on the first day of pride month in 2017, it caused a massive uproar. Netflix said that the audience wasn’t big enough to keep up with the cost of production. Eventually, the streaming service bowed to the pressure, giving Sense8 a movie that would allow the Wachowskis to wrap up the story. While the finale was widely praised for giving the possibility of making the show feel more complete, there was a lot more they could have done with the story.
4. Arrested Development
Yes, Netflix picked Arrested Development up almost a decade after its initial cancellation, but most are in agreement that too much time had passed to make the show feel how it used to. Arrested Development is a widely praised 2003 sitcom created by Michael Hurwitz about businessman Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and his wealthy family.
Fox cancelled the series in 2006. In spite of its critical acclaim, the show had low viewership. It’s hard to understand why. Arrested Development is masterfully witty, with complicated longer form jokes interwoven with the typical one-liners you’d get in a sitcom. The Bluth family isn’t full of traditionally lovable characters, but balances that with more nuanced and wholesome moments.
The show combines the dark satirical elements of Always Sunny In Philadelphia with the more wholesome and humanizing elements of traditional sitcoms. But its also completely its own.
Completely unique in its comedy and character work, the original Arrested Development years proved to be something you can’t get back after a ten-year gap. The newer seasons, released on Netflix in 2013 and then again in 2018, received mostly negative responses.
5. Bojack Horseman
The final season of Bojack Horseman was so seamless that most people don’t realise Netflix told producers that season 6 would be their last, not the other way around. While Netflix tried not to announce the end of the wildly popular and critically acclaimed show as a cancellation, creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg confirmed that Netflix did in fact cancel the series.
Thankfully, Netflix gave Waksberg the final sixth season to wrap things up. And once you know that, it’s a bit noticeable. While the sixth season is careful to do the characters justice and deliver a powerful ending, it does feel rushed in spots.
Bojack Horseman follows the lives of a cynical, “washed up” former TV star and his friends. It’s a cartoon set in a world where animals talk, walk, and live like humans.
Bojack Horseman is often overlooked due to the fact that it’s a cartoon about a talking horse, but it’s unparalleled in its nuance and depth when exploring concepts such as addiction, mental health, childhood trauma, abuse, morality, and relationships. It’s a visually goofy show wrapped in pure poetry. While it starts as a dark comedy and retains its comedic moments throughout the series, the show crescendos into a brutally honest work untethered by any particular genre.
Cancellations in The Streaming Era
All five of these series were fantastic pieces that suffered from budget cuts, unfairly low viewership, pandemic woes, and/or an unsupportive production company looking to make as much money as possible. Whether or not they feel finished, each of these TV shows are works of art in their own right, and deserve to be appreciated as such.
As the streaming age barrels forward, the days of Netflix being a place for experimental artistry are all but over. While money has often been put ahead of the actual art, nothing makes that problem more clear than these cancellations. No era of TV is immune to this phenomenon, the streaming service era makes it particularly noticeable.
Hopefully, as more and more people become fed up with empty cash grabs. An example is Netflix’s new show, The Hype House, a group of tiktokers and their endangered lives during a pandemic. The landscape will once again change in favour of artistic, diverse, and more boundary-pushing work like the shows mentioned in this article. For now, viewers are left to appreciate what they have, and hope for better days with less cancellations ahead.