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The Real Reasons Netflix Canceled These Shows

It doesn't seem like all that long ago that Netflix was just a snail mail DVD rental service. Now they're so strongly associated with the original programming offered on their streaming subscription service that South Park poked fun at the company with an episode that had Netflix operators answering company phones with, "Netflix, you're greenlit," without even bothering to hear what the incoming calls were about.

Netflix's reputation for original content is well-deserved and they've enjoyed a lot of success. Titles of popular Netflix originals like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Stranger Things have become household names. With fewer content restrictions and no commercials, Netflix has some clear edges over regular and cable networks — and the company doesn't seem about to slow down any time soon.

But with expanded original programming comes the inevitability that not everything will survive. Whether it's because of critical panning, small audience numbers, inflated budgets, legal issues, personal issues with talent, or any other number of reasons, any show can unexpectedly end, even the popular ones. Since Netflix doesn't disclose their shows' ratings, the reasons for any particular show's demise can accompany a much deeper shroud of mystery than the cancellation of a show on NBC or The CW.

If you're curious about why your favorite Netflix original disappeared, you might find the reason it was canceled here.

Lilyhammer was a Norwegian show on a global network

Netflix's first outing into original programming was Lilyhammer — about Frank Tagliano, a mob fixer who enters the Witness Protection Program after a failed attempt on his life. Impressed with the seemingly small, idyllic town of Lillehammer, Norway when it was the setting of the 1994 Winter Olympics, Tagliano requests to be moved there in exchange for his testimony.

Steven van Zandt — known for the role of Silvio Dante on The Sopranos as well as a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band — was intensely committed to the show and was involved in almost every aspect of its creation. Along with co-writing the series, Van Zandt provided the musical score for free because Lilyhammer had no music budget until its second season.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that Van Zandt was angry about its cancellation. He broke the news on twitter, writing, "#Lilyhammer RIP. Not my decision. Let's just say for now the business got too complicated."

Lilyhammer was produced in a partnership between Netflix and the Norwegian government-owned broadcasting company NRK. While he wasn't specific about what difficulties existed between Netflix and NRK, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos cited the partnership as the source of the decision to give Lilyhammer the axe. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "It was very difficult to maintain the level of global exclusivity and control that we hope to with our shows with [Lilyhammer]." 

Gypsy died young ... very young

Gypsy — starring Naomi Watts as a therapist who oversteps every boundary and gets involved with the personal lives of her patients — was released on Netflix on June 30, 2017 and its cancellation was announced on August 11, 2017, only six weeks later.

Reviews of Gypsy were not kind to the show as a whole, though many credited Watts and co-star Billy Crudup with rising "above sub-par material." Newsday's Verne Gay called it, "Boring, boring, boring." The Telegraph's Ed Power said it was a, "flavourless hodgepodge." Olly Daniels of Empire said it was a, "a sadly missed opportunity that takes juicy ingredients but dries them all out," while The AV Club said Gypsy was "as subtle as syphilis."

Along with the critical carpet-bombing were reports of an inflated salary for Gypsy star Naomi Watts (though, if you agree with the critics, you might argue she deserved it and then some). Add to that the objections raised by Roma organizations in regards to the series' title, and it seems not too far a stretch to say Gypsy was doomed for the start.

Haters Back Off showed the limits of YouTube stardom

With Haters Back Off, Netflix experimented with transporting a YouTube character into a more traditional, scripted series. Based on the YouTube character meant to mirror wanna-be YouTube pop stars with all of the arrogance and nothing to back it up, Haters Back Off follows the inexplicable rise of the talentless Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger).  

Haters Back Off was canceled at the end of 2017, after two seasons and 16 episodes. Ballinger was "absolutely devastated" at the news.

The reason for the show's cancellation likely aren't that mysterious. Haters Back Off's first season aired to mixed reviews, and the consensus seemed to be that the transition from short YouTube clips of Miranda Sings to half hour episodes wasn't easy, and that ultimately it just didn't work. Hollywood Reporter's Keith Uhlich wrote that while the Miranda Sings YouTube videos were "fairly potent in short bursts," that in half-hour episodes, "the lampoon loses its edge." Likewise Rob Lowman of the Los Angeles Daily News said that while Miranda's utter lack of talent might be hilarious "as a short YouTube video," that it simply didn't sustain a 30-minute show.

The Get Down ran into every kind of issue

Baz Luhrmann's ambitious musical drama The Get Down, set in the late '70s Bronx, was canceled after one season and enough problems to fill a concert hall.

Production delays plagued The Get Down from the very beginning. Variety reported that the delays became so frequent that Get Down writers started jokingly call it The Shut Down. Because of the delays, unlike most Netflix original TV shows, The Get Down was released in two parts. Ultimately, in spite of an initial order for 13 episodes, The Get Down only got 11.

Variety reported that with a budget of $120 million, The Get Down was the most expensive production in Netflix history which likely would have been a huge factor in the decision to cut the show. Luhrmann refuted that claim however, saying The Crown was the most expensive show in television history.

Luhrmann has said he believes the decision to cancel The Get Down had less to do with money or reviews and more to do with his decision to walk away from the project. In an interview he said Netflix and Sony both wanted a second season but, because of a filmmaking commitment Luhrmann intended to fulfill, he couldn't agree to come back for another season full time. After the cancellation was announced, Luhrmann addressed his fans on Facebook: "It kills me that I can't split myself into two and make myself available to both productions ... But the simple truth is, I make movies."

Marco Polo wasn't a good return on investment

Marco Polo was one of the first of Netflix's original series to suffer cancellation. The historical drama starred Lorenzo Richelmy as Marco Polo and Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan, and focused on Polo's years in Khan's court. 

The first season of Marco Polo cost $90 million, making it one of the most expensive TV shows in the world. The show was filmed in Italy, Kazakhstan, and Malaysia, and featured stunning scenery and epic battle scenes. 

Unfortunately, the higher spending didn't translate into positive reviews. Marco Polo has an abysmally low Rotten Tomatoes score, with many critics feeling Marco Polo was a cynical and poorly executed attempt to ride the coattails of HBO's Game of Thrones

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia in 2015, clearly felt different when he presented Marco Polo creator John Fusco and his creative team with an award for its positive portrayals of Mongolians. 

Regardless of poor reviews or presidential accolades, the reason for Marco Polo's demise after two seasons seems pretty simple: money. Shortly after the show's cancellation, the Hollywood Reporter claimed sources confirmed the historical epic meant a $200 million loss for Netflix. 

Chelsea couldn't make Netflix work for her

After seven years of hosting Chelsea Lately at the E! Network, in 2014 Chelsea Handler signed a deal with Netflix that included the stand-up special Uganda Be Kidding Me Live, the documentary series Chelsea Does, and the half hour talk show Chelsea. The initial plan was for Chelsea to stream three times per week, a half hour per episode, with a total of 90 episodes per season. By the second season, the format changed to an hour long weekly format. 

In spite of a long list of top-tier celebrity guests, the critical reception to Chelsea was harsh; with words like "excruciating" and "even dumber than Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show" populating the reviews. 

Regardless, after two seasons, Handler claimed it was her own decision to end Chelsea. In October 2017 Handler announced the end of the show on her various social media pages, and said it was her choice to walk away from Chelsea. The message to her fans expressed deep concern over the political landscape. She wrote she had been "galvanized" and wanted to "devote as much time as I can to becoming a more knowledgeable and engaged citizen and to focus on projects that have significance to me." One such project she mentioned in her announcement was a documentary with Netflix in which she planned to "engage with people I don't talk with enough –- people of different ethnicities, religions, and political philosophies."

Lady Dynamite made life imitate art a little too well

The unique and intense stand-up comic Maria Bamford played herself in Netflix's Lady Dynamite. A surreal comedy full of sharp critique on Hollywood as well as revealing and painful humor about mental illness, Lady Dynamite did not suffer the critical panning many of Netflix's other canceled series had to endure before being put out of their misery. Critics and viewers alike were thrilled with the show. Entertainment Weekly's Melissa Maerz said the show's "sense of endless possibility makes Lady Dynamite a joy to watch." Joshua Alston of The AV Club wrote Lady Dynamite was "something deeper, more challenging, and ultimately, more rewarding than a winking self-parody."

Which begs the question if Lady Dynamite was so well-received, then why did it go away?

Though it hasn't been confirmed, quotes from Bamford after the cancellation announcement raise the possibility that she simply couldn't continue with the production schedule. In comments following the announcement, Bamford described the difficulty of work 15-hour days and the irony inherent to her work on the show: "It's hilarious because [Lady Dynamite] is about mental health and that [I was] kind of putting my mental health in danger in order to do a TV show about mental health. So, whoops."

Bloodline's death was taxes

The cancellation of Bloodline — a dramatic thriller about a family reeling at the skeletons uncovered in its closets — was announced after its second season concluded in 2016. Netflix announced the show would get a third season to finish its story, with 10 episodes instead of the originally planned 13, and then the story of the Rayburn family would be done. The decision was a surprise, particularly considering the first season's appeal to both critics and viewers. Bloodline had its share of awards and nominations. Ben Mendelsohn won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2016 and that same year he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe Award. Both Mendelsohn and Bloodline star Kyle Chandler were nominated for Emmys for their work on the show in 2015, and Mendelsohn earned another Emmy nomination in 2017

Reception for the second season wasn't nearly as positive as it was for the first, though it seems likely the biggest factor in Bloodline's cancellation was the end of Florida's entertainment tax incentive program. Shot on location in the Florida Keys, Bloodline's budget benefited from what could've been a much more expensive venture. Once it did become a much more expensive venture, that — plus a less positive critical response — probably sealed Bloodline's fate.

Sense8 was loved a lot by a few

The cancellation of Sense8 was perhaps the most surprising of Netflix's cuts to date, and probably the one about which fans voiced their disapproval the most.

Co-created by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski, Sense8 was a science fiction drama with a diverse cast and global scope. The first season was filmed in nine different cities across the globe: San Francisco, Mumbai, London, Nairobi, Berlin, Chicago, Seoul, Reykjavik, and Mexico City. It was a hit with fans and critics before it was canceled after two seasons.

While viewer response was positive, it apparently just wasn't enough. According to Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, "The audience was very passionate, but not large enough to support the economics of something that big, even on our platform." At a cost of $9 million per episode, Sense8 was simply too expensive to keep making.

Fan outcry was strong enough to merit an apologetic, yet firm response from Netflix in June 2017 that fan passion was understood, but the show was still canceled. A message on Netflix's Facebook page said, "We wish we could #BringBackSense8 for you ... we've thought long and hard here at Netflix to try to make it work but unfortunately we can't."

Later in the month, Netflix changed its mind. Co-creator Lana Wachowski announced Netflix had greenlit a special two-hour series finale for Sense8 set for release in 2018.