“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” almost didn’t make it to air, but now, the comedy is looking ahead to seven potential Emmy wins this September.
“Kimmy’s” turnaround exemplifies the age of television we’re living in today. It’s not just a golden age, it’s an age of rebirth.
The Tina Fey and Robert Carlock-created “Kimmy” isn’t the only series Netflix has “adopted” from another network recently. The streaming service greenlit a fourth season of Western drama “Longmire,” after it was cancelled by A&E for failing to strike gold in young demos. Netflix already streams the earlier seasons of “Longmire,” and new episodes bow Sept. 10.
As “Longmire” co-creator John Coveny observed at this summer’s Television Critics Assn. press tour, “Netflix said, ‘We want human beings to watch this show — if it has heart and soul to it, we need that piece in the Netflix family.’”
Exec producer Greer Shephard added, “We’re mercifully with a wonderful company now that values viewers over demos and we’re benefiting from that.”
Earning a reputation as the patron saint of cancelled shows, Netflix also gave AMC’s “The Killing” a send-off season last year, and revived Fox’s “Arrested Development” seven years after its untimely ending, with plans for another season under way.
“It’s certainly a fan landscape right now. The audience has so much control and say and a true vote,” says Hulu head of originals Beatrice Springborn, who was integral in picking up a fourth season of “The Mindy Project” after Fox let it go.
“We really do pay attention to social media,” she says. “Even though we were in the process of saving ‘Mindy’ while the #savethemindyproject Twitter campaign was going on, it certainly boosted and reinforced our decision to pick up a show that had such a fanatic following.”
“‘Mindy’ was such a huge performer on Hulu before we even considered picking up original (episodes). Because it had such an established fanbase and such a vocal fanbase, we also knew we would get those loyal viewers who were watching Fox to come to Hulu and they would come to subscribe,” Springborn adds. “There really wasn’t that much discussion. It was like, ‘Oh, great, Fox is canceling ‘Mindy.’”
A similar twist of fate worked out for “Community” last season. After NBC axed the fan-favorite laffer, Yahoo Screen stepped up for a sixth season, putting the digital company on the original programming map. Although digital outlets don’t release ratings — making it difficult to discern how these shows actually perform — Yahoo execs have said they’re exploring opportunities to extend the series with “Community’s” production company Sony.
Streaming services are the go-to outlets for studios to pitch when the cancellation axe falls, but series aren’t only resurrected online.
After a tumultuous run on CBS, crime procedural “Unforgettable” somewhat ironically landed at A&E (proving they don’t just lose shows like “Longmire,” they’ll revive shows too). New episodes of the Poppy Montgomery starrer are expected to bow later this year.
That model follows the success of “Cougar Town,” which came to an end last spring after six seasons. It was almost a goner three years earlier, when ABC cancelled the Courteney Cox vehicle. Then TBS came to the rescue and aired 41 more episodes. The upside for the cabler, in terms of above-average ratings and increased media buzz, was almost instantaneous.
However, even shows with significant fanbases can face obstacles on the road to resurrection if the stars aren’t properly aligned.
“Hannibal,” which NBC let go after three seasons, launched a Twitter revival campaign, thanks to the show’s avid “Fannibals,” and garnered enough interest to put the #SaveHannibal hashtag onto trending topics.
“The fact that the fannibals have been so passionate about the show and so enthusiastic, it always helps,” “Hannibal’s” Bryan Fuller told Variety of the show’s rabid following. “It may not be the thing that seals the deal, but it is an indicator of audience interest.”
But with the series’ current seasons housed on Amazon, Netflix execs weren’t interested in continuing a show to which it didn’t have library rights. Amazon execs passed as well, saying they prefer original properties to define their emerging network. Fuller, who went down a similar road with ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” is continuing to explore other options.
In a move closer to what Netflix did with “Kimmy Schmidt,” Amazon did nab the Bryan Cranston-produced pilot “Sneaky Pete,” which was passed over by CBS. Written by David Shore and starring Giovanni Ribisi, the potential drama series is now part of the digital outlet’s public pilot-testing process.
In another sign that Hollywood is getting closer and closer to a time when no TV show, or even pilot, ever really dies, the CW’s lone new fall offering, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” was originally made for corporate sibling Showtime. Although the raunchy half-hour, created by and starring Internet sensation Rachel Bloom, had to be retooled to work as an hourlong series and to meet appropriate audience standards for the younger-skewing CW, they were small prices to pay to actually get on the air.
As we head into another season of inevitable cancellations, and possibly one or two announced series not even making it to air on the network that picked them up, producers should look on the bright side. In today’s media landscape, every TV death is an opportunity for a new beginning.