Netflix have announced they will not be ordering further seasons of Designated Survivor, the Kiefer Sutherland-fronted political drama, or Tuca And Bertie, the slice-of-life sitcom about bird people from the makers of BoJack Horseman.
The loss of Designated Survivor isn’t a great surprise: it had already been cancelled once at NBC after its second season, before being revived by Netflix for a third (and, as it transpired, last). Although its online revival provided a bit of a bump in the ratings, they remained middling at best, coming nowhere near the heights of its generally well-regarded first season. In a statement which politely but firmly showed Designated Survivor the door, Netflix said “We are proud to have offered fans a third season of ‘Designated Survivor,’ and will continue to carry all three seasons for years to come.”
Tuca And Bertie not being picked up for further seasons is more of a puzzler. Like its surrogate parent BoJack Horseman, it enjoyed both popular and critical acclaim, clocking in at fully 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and pronounced one of the best TV shows of 2019 by Vox, Indiewire, and The A.V. Club. Off the back of that, commissioning more seems like a no-brainer, and to not do so is practically picking a fight – there’s plenty of people out there still angry with Fox for cancelling Joss Whedon’s lamented sci-fi series Firefly midway through its first and only season.
So why would Netflix drop such a ratings smash, sans even any career-ending misdeeds from its main cast? I suppose we’ll never know. For full context, though, it’s worth noting that almost exactly a month ago, the employees of ShadowMachine – the animation production studio that works on both Tuca And Bertie and BoJack Horseman – voted to unionise and join the Animation Guild, which provides wage minimums and a healthcare and pension plan. It should be noted that this doesn’t represent the animators of Tuca And Bertie seeking special treatment, if anything the opposite: ShadowMachine also produces animation for Final Space, and those working on that project enjoyed union benefits where others didn’t.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Netflix is seeking to punish ShadowMachine for unionising – just that if they were, it would explain a lot.
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