2020 was a bad year. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused millions of deaths worldwide, brought economic hardship to tens of millions, and has forced us into working in a “new normal.” One of the few saving graces of this pandemic is that video streaming services got a huge boost with more people staying at home and binge-watching their favorite shows. However, even with this rise in users, there were still canceled streaming shows in 2020 that didn’t deserve to end so soon.
This week, the digital SEO agency Ardent Growth released the results of a survey of 2,609 people, asking them which of the canceled Netflix shows they were most upset about losing. In the number one spot, somewhat surprisingly, was Luke Cage, one of the five Marvel comic book shows that the service commissioned. Netflix abruptly canceled Luke Cage after just two seasons, way back in 2018, even though scripts were reportedly being written for the third season.
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The number two canceled Netflix show that people in the survey say they were upset got canceled unexpectedly was GLOW. The dramedy about a female wrestling business was a critical and fan favorite, and Netflix announced in 2019 that a fourth and final season would be made in 2020. In fact, production began in February 2020 on the first episode. Then the COVID-19 outbreak caused most TV productions to shut down in March. In October, Netflix announced that there would not be a fourth season of GLOW after all. One of the reasons that was cited was that, due to the very nature of the show itself, COVID-19 testing and tracing was deemed too expensive for such a large cast.
Other canceled streaming shows of 2020, and even an entire service
It’s been a rather brutal year for Netflix shows that were canceled before their time. My personal favorite of the new shows that didn’t get a second season was Teenage Bounty Hunters. This show had a lot of Buffy The Vampire Slayer vibes for me. Two teenage fraternal twin sisters who live in Atlanta decide to branch out into capturing criminals on the run. It was a very funny series that unfortunately didn’t find an audience.
There were other Netflix shows that got canceled after just one season, thanks in part to higher COVID-19 costs. They included I Am Not Okay with This, based on the graphic novel about a 17-year old girl who starts to manifest telekinetic powers. The Society, a series about a group of teenagers trapped in what appears to be a parallel universe, had actually been renewed for a second season, but again, increased costs due to COVID-19 caused Netflix to reverse its decision. Other one-and-done shows in 2020 from the streamer include The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, V-Wars, October Faction, and Away. Altered Carbon, the very cool sci-fi action show and a personal favorite, got canceled in 2020 after just two seasons. While it lasted six seasons and had 40 episodes, I was also sorry to see the terrific Peabody Award-winning comedy news show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj get the ax in 2020 as well.
It wasn’t just Netflix that unexpectedly canceled some promising shows in 2020. Hulu closed the books on its Stephen King anthology series Castle Rock after two seasons, and its Marvel Comics-based horror show Helstrom after just one season. Amazon Prime Video shut down Utopia after a single season this year. Peacock, the new streaming service from NBCUniversal, launched in July and promoted the heck out of its flagship original show, the sci-fi drama Brave New World. However, it will not be returning for a second season.
Perhaps the biggest streaming cancelation of 2020 was that of an entire service. I’m talking about Quibi, which started up in April in the middle of the first COVID-19 wave. It’s business model of only offering short-form videos on smartphones and tablets, and ignoring the vast smart TV audience, seemed doomed from the start. In the end, the company finally released some smart TV apps on October 20, only to announce a day later, on October 21, that Quibi would soon shut down completely. On December 1, Quibi vanished and took all of its original programming (over 50 shows) with it.
You would think that there would be less pressure to launch a 10-episode first season of a scripted TV series on a streaming service with such large subscriber numbers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu. In the past, broadcast TV networks have given shows with abysmal ratings in their first season the time to find their audiences because they knew they were good shows. Series like Cheers, Seinfeld, and the US version of The Office got that chance and became massive hits. Indeed, they have since found an even bigger audience in the streaming era. The Office remains one of the most-watched shows on Netflix, even as it gets ready to move to Peacock on January 1.
Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a real strategy for keeping or canceling shows at Netflix. While I know increased COVID-19 costs were the factor in some shows getting the ax in 2020, it does seem to be a bit random at times.
We want to hear from you on this subject. Which of the canceled streaming shows of 2020 would you like to bring back?