Why Netflix is Full Of It For Canceling One Day At A Time

Let’s Talk About Viewership

“….we spent several weeks trying to find a way to make another season work but in the end simply not enough people watched to justify another season.” Oh really? Aside from the fact that maybe if you did a better job marketing the show people would have watched, but let’s dig deeper into the viewers that were and weren’t there.

Netflix claims the viewers weren’t there to watch One Day at a Time, but what is frustrating is fans will never know the truth. Unlike other networks or basic cable channels, who have viewership tracked by Nielsen ratings, Netflix doesn’t have to and rarely releases this information to the public. When they do, it is only when they want to roll out a success like when they claimed that Bird Box was watched by 45 million accounts in the first week (but not saying if it was watched to completion – if anyone turned it off before it was over – or if it autoloaded). This lack of transparency makes it frustrating and infuriating when Netflix says the numbers weren’t there because nobody knows the truth. They could be spinning the best way to say they don’t want it around anymore and put the blame on viewers (not realizing – hey maybe if they marketed it better they’d have more of those).

Diversity Matters…but Does It Really?

Earlier this month there were reports that Steven Spielberg was going to go to the Academy and make an effort to ensure Netflix movies couldn’t be considered for Oscars because they don’t fit the definition of a theatrically released movie. Netflix then tried to counter these sentiments by saying they were the platform that gave a voice to diverse talent and wanted to tell their stories.

A worthy sentiment, but one that loses a lot of credibility when they cancel a show that helps highlight and gives a voice to a group of people who often don’t see themselves on television. Yes, Netflix gave it a shot to begin with, but they never fully put their support behind it.

“to anyone who felt seen or represented — possibly for the first time — by ODAAT, please don’t take this as an indication your story is not important.”

This is even more insulting because they don’t get to tell people how to feel. The very fact that Netflix canceled a show, means this story isn’t important to them. They made a choice. Nobody forced their hand, they aren’t slaves to the data. They can take a risk, make an investment, but they chose not to. With canceling it they said these stories aren’t important enough. Not as important as a third season of The Crown. Or a new season of Stranger Things. Or any of these new shows they have announced as in development. They weren’t forced to cancel it, they made the choice and they do not get to wiggle out of taking fault for this.

Real Reason

One Day at a Time has a lot in common with many other popular fan favorite shows Netflix decided to cancel. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and American Vandal were all critically adored to varying degrees (yet probably none as much as One Day at a Time). Yet they all were canceled without warning and they are all produced by other studios. Netflix licenses these shows out but they are owned and developed outside of Netflix. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Punisher were with ABC Studios, American Vandall at CBS, and One Day at a Time was by Sony. That made these shows more expendable than the ones Netflix makes in house.

Instead of saying this outright, Netflix tried to spin it as they had no other choice. They are your friend who is just as heartbroken by this as you are. Yet they aren’t. At the end of the day they are still a tech company, and these shows aren’t art for them. It is content, and if they don’t see it as valuable to them, then it doesn’t matter.

What Was Lost

Why such a big deal about a show? Representation matters, and One Day at a Time did a great job putting female writers and performers front and center, as well as people of color, and gave a voice to many immigrants and children of immigrants. It was a miracle of a show. It helped raise awareness, in the context of a traditional sitcom, to important LGBTQ rights and the voice of immigrants, who in this country under this current administration need it.

Remakes of shows are often so cynical, they are often meant to cash in on name recognition yet never actually become popular and end up getting canceled. No one remembers the remakes of Knight Rider, Bionic Woman, or Charlie’s Angels because trying to replace the original with a cheap copy rarely works. You can’t recapture the magic that made the show a cultural phenomenon in the first place. It’s not just brand recognition.

But the ones that survive, the ones that endure and become great and even surpass their predecessors, it is because they see untapped potential in the original or spin it in a new direction. They don’t just use the name, they use it as a springboard for new ideas. Battlestar Galactica did this perfectly, and I would say so did One Day at a Time. It arrived on Netflix two months after Donald Trump was sworn into office, and the idea of a show that showcased a Cuban-American family with an immigrant matriarch seemed a lot more relevant. It showed them just trying to live a normal life, but also highlighted the unique struggles that come with their circumstances. It was a way to show people another side of life maybe they never considered. It took the premise of the original and truly modernized it in ways beyond the superficial.

It took the original multi-camera set up we’ve seen on numerous other television shows and was able to use that comfort people have with those types of shows to be subversive. People expect a lot of silly laughs, which they got for sure. But they were also able to use that as a platform to put the focus on a Cuban-American family and while still being funny knew how to talk about serious topics like veterans’ struggles with PTSD, depression and anxiety, as well as sexuality, gender identity, sexism, consent, alcoholism, drug addiction, and religion, amongst many others.

The best moments of the show were never just the ones that made you laugh, but the ones that made you cry. It was a gem of a show and it is a shame that Netflix didn’t see the amazing show they had.

Thank you to the show’s creators, the cast, and crew who made this show a possibility. It’s one of the television greats and it will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come.

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