Way back when Netflix started producing their own original content with the likes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, it guaranteed quality original programming. However, over the last few years, as they’ve brought out more and more original shows, they haven’t been able to keep up that 100 per cent success rate.
But to Netflix’s credit, the majority of its programming has garnered a huge fan base and a warm response from critics. Narcos, Stranger Things, Master of None, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Ozark, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, BoJack Horseman, Love, Grace and Frankie, and F is for Family have all been really great.
But there have been plenty that the boys and girls at Netflix have tried to sweep under the rug after catastrophic failures, either because the critics didn’t bite or because not enough people were watching. Here are 15 Netflix series that have failed miserably.
15. Iron Fist
Marvel’s Iron Fist has been renewed for a second season, despite overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus is that the show is “weighed down by an absence of momentum and originality.”
IndieWire called it “incredibly skippable,” while IGN noted that the series was “generic and overlong” and that it “suffered from a poorly drawn hero, mundane villains, pacing issues, some truly bad dialogue at times, a largely bland aesthetic, and too many unconvincing fight scenes for a show devoted to martial arts.”
Iron Fist did get decent viewership, but that’s only because Marvel twisted everyone’s arms. If you liked the much better shows, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, and want to watch The Defenders, then you have to watch all 13 episodes of Iron Fist. But they weren’t happy about it.
However, the showrunner has been replaced, so maybe season 2 will be more exciting.
14. Friends from College
Friends from College was a massive disappointment for comedy fans, who know just how talented and brilliant the cast is. The combination of Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage, Ike Barinholtz, Kate McKinnon, Seth Rogen, and Chris Elliott should be a hit. All you have to do is let them do their thing.
And that’s why when the show came out, it was a letdown — it really sucks. The characters aren’t likeable at all. Terrible people have been made endearing and loveable in shows before like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But on Friends from College, they’re just a bad mix.
The Guardian’s review read, “each character may be unpleasant in his or her own right, but the sheer charmlessness of the group is hard to overstate. If they were sitting at a table near you, you’d leave the restaurant.” The show has been renewed for a second season nonetheless.
Will Arnett has starred in a brilliant original comedy series for Netflix. That series perfectly balanced humor and tragedy. It has a huge fan base, and it’ll be going strong for many years to come. Yet, Flaked is not it — it’s BoJack Horseman, which you should watch right away if you haven’t already.
By all accounts, Flaked should have been a fantastic show. For starters, it’s a Netflix original, which is generally a mark of quality. And it was developed by Mitchell Hurwitz, who gave us one of television’s greatest comedies: Arrested Development. Its star, Arnett, created and leads in this tale about a self-help guru who can’t help himself.
After the eight-episode first season was released, critics maligned it as “dull and pointless,” full of “stupid plot twists.” But Netflix threw Arnett a bone, renewing it for a second season. He probably gets a pass because he gained a lot of subscribers and awards for them with Arrested Development and BoJack.
However, the second season has been reduced to six episodes. And now, Netflix will either cancel it straight up after giving it too many chances, or keep it going until it disappears into oblivion.
It was only a matter of time before someone made a sitcom set in a pot dispensary. And of course it was Chuck Lorre who decided to bring the idea to the screen. He cast Kathy Bates in the lead role as a pot activist who smokes weed all day and sells it while campaigning for its legalization. It’s a rich tapestry of potential storylines.
Cheech and Chong appear as themselves for no reason other than they’re famous stoners and it’s a show about weed. Missi Pyle plays a character called – drumroll, please – Mary Jane. I mean, come on. The critics have had nothing but bad things to say about the show.
IndieWire wrote, “you need to be stoned to enjoy Kathy Bates’ Netflix comedy, and that’s not high praise.” Meanwhile, Vulture wrote of the Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory creator’s new series, “Disjointed is a CBS sitcom that smoked a little weed, wandered away from its home network, stumbled onto Netflix, then looked around and said, ‘Cool, I’m on Netflix now. That means I can say fuck.’”
11. Fuller House
Fuller House, the sequel-like revival of the hit ‘90s sitcom Full House, has proven to be very popular with viewers — especially fans of the original — to the point where it’s now well into its third season.
But it’s been panned by critics, who have called it “predictable,” “unoriginal,” and “a mawkish, grating, broadly played chip off the Full House block,” which is filled with “self-congratulatory, blaring obviousness.” The Hollywood Reporter called the pilot episode the most painful TV episode in 2016.
It’s also been met with ire from parents who believe that Fuller House has dropped the nice, family friendly vibe of the original show, replacing it with offensive language and explicit references to sex and drugs. So, overall, it’s not going down great. But it’s still going.
10. The Killing
AMC adapted this Danish murder mystery series, but had to cancel it after a few seasons due to low viewership compared with high cost.
One good thing that came from the series was giving True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto his first TV writing gig and the motivation to push for his own show where he would have creative control — with mixed results. But anyway, after AMC canceled The Killing, starring Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, Netflix picked it up for another season.
They were all excited about the possibilities the show offered, saying, “the rich, serialized storytelling in The Killing thrives on Netflix. We are looking forward to offering fans — both existing and new — a series that we know is perfectly suited for on-demand viewing.” And then they didn’t pick it up for more seasons. Curious.
Lilyhammer was the very first Netflix original series. House of Cards was the first totally original series to hit Netflix. But Lilyhammer was a co-production between Netflix and a Norwegian TV company that started them on the road to more original programming.
It stars Sopranos actor and part-time rock star Steven Van Zandt as ex-gangster Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, who makes a new life for himself in Norway in the country’s federal witness protection program. However, the little-crime-comedy-series-that-could got caught up in a legal battle for ownership rights. Netflix had to cancel it.
Content boss Ted Sarandos said, “it’s become a very economically challenged deal because there’s a partnership with the Norwegian broadcaster. It was very difficult to maintain the level of global exclusivity and control that we hope to with our shows with that show.”
Following the announcement that the show had been canned, Van Zandt tweeted, “#Lilyhammer RIP. Not my decision. Let’s just say for now the business got too complicated.”
8. Hemlock Grove
TV production company Gaumont International Television has enjoyed a great working relationship with Netflix over the last couple of years. That team has given the streaming service two of its most successful original series in the form of Narcos and F is for Family. However, its first original series for Netflix was less successful.
It was a horror series called Hemlock Grove. Starring Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard, the show was about the strange goings-on, brutal series of murders, and the deep, dark secrets of disturbed residents in a fictional Pennsylvania town. Sound intriguing? No, that’s what audiences thought, too.
Critics never took to it either. The Los Angeles Times called it “terrible” and IndieWire said it was “a mess.” The one good thing to come from the three-season run of Hemlock Grove is Skarsgard, who got the role of Pennywise in the new It movie.
7. Netflix Presents: The Characters
Netflix released the first season of Netflix Presents: The Characters, its misguided attempt at a sketch comedy, a few months ago. And there’s not going to be a second season because the promising premise was executed poorly.
Eight young comics were given half an hour each to wow audiences with a fictional character. The critics gave it okay reviews. The AV Club wrote: “Netflix gave the comedians creative control, so everyone ends up playing to their strengths.” But ultimately, the show didn’t find an audience.
It was perhaps too scattershot and unfocused as a series to find any. If every episode is different and in a different style, how is it going to attract anyone? Well, long story short: it didn’t!
The Wachowski siblings — the founding fathers of The Matrix — conceived this science fiction series for Netflix when they saw a lack of LGBTQ and international representation in the genre. It tells the story of eight very different people scattered across the world but connected by a supernatural force that draws them together.
The show made strides for LGBTQ representation in the media, and as such garnered many fans in those marginalized communities. Netflix begrudgingly canceled the show after two seasons. It was costing them a whopping $9 million an episode for the globetrotting location shooting!
The fans, though relatively few, are very passionate about the show, and they were outraged by the cancelation, protesting Netflix for closure. The same thing happened at HBO with The Leftovers when they tried to cancel it after its phenomenal second run.
Whereas HBO ended up giving The Leftovers a whole third season, Sense8 has only been allowed to finish off its story with a two-hour series finale to be released next year. Still, it’s better than nothing.
No show has ever gone so quickly and so far downhill in such a short pace of time as Bloodline did — a dark and intriguing thriller Netflix premiered to rave reviews in 2015. Rotten Tomatoes assigned it an impressive “fresh” score of 80 per cent and called it “an addictive, tightly drawn brainteaser framed on a believable canvas.”
Netflix saw that the expensive show wasn’t getting all that many viewers, but they did get Emmy nominations and positive reviews. So they allowed a second season, albeit with the episode count cut a little short.
Yet, when season 2 came out, critics turned on the show, begrudging a measly 47 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes. “Bloodline’s second season fails to recapture its predecessor’s dramatic intrigue,” critics said.
So, the producers put their heads together, threw together a third and final season, and released it to more negative reviews: 29 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. IndieWire wrote, “for those curious if the final season of Bloodline is worth it — the basest function of a review — I will quickly and succinctly answer: No.”
Ay, ay, ay. Where do we begin? Basically, Netflix thought it would be a good idea to make a drama series about a psychotherapist (Naomi Watts) who stalks her patients and gets involved in their private lives. The only good thing about the show is the pairing of heavyweight talents Watts and Crudup — who plays her husband.
Newsday called it “boring,” The Daily Telegraph called it “flavorless;” Common Sense Media called it “flat;” and The Los Angeles Times wrote, “almost nothing about Gypsy feels authentic.” Woof.
Romani communities were unhappy with the use of the word gypsy as the title, since it’s a slur that gets used against them and the content of the series gives them negative connotations. All in all, the show was a failure on all cylinders. The critics hated it, the audience hated it, and the title alone insulted an entire community of people.
Netflix canned the show after just one season, and hopefully they’ll never make a misstep quite as drastic as that ever again.
3. The Get Down
The Get Down is a stylish musical drama about disco and R&B and hip hop music in the South Bronx in the 1970s. It was created by Baz Luhrmann, the guy who spent more than $100 million adapting The Great Gatsby for the big screen, and he made Netflix fork out a similar amount to fulfil his vision for The Get Down. It reportedly cost around $7 million to $8.5 million per episode (with some reports as big as $11 million an episode), which is around the same as giants like Game of Thrones and Westworld, but without their viewing figures to justify it. The critical response was okay. It wasn’t Game of Thrones-level acclaim or anything to brag about, but it wasn’t particularly negative. Rotten Tomatoes assigned it an approval score of 73% and the consensus reads, “The Get Down’s vibrant music and energetic young cast help to elevate its meandering narrative.” However, the low viewership numbers were nowhere near enough to justify the humungous costs of producing the show, so Netflix canceled it after one two-part season.
By all accounts, Girlboss should’ve been a huge success. It had a strong feminist message as the story of a 23-year-old woman who set out to start her own company and become her own boss. The show was developed by Kay Cannon, a great comedy writer who’s worked on 30 Rock and New Girl, as well as writing all three Pitch Perfect movies. It had a great cast consisting of Britt Robertson, RuPaul, Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, Saturday Night Live’s Norm Macdonald, Community’s Jim Rash, and Two and a Half Men’s Melanie Lynskey. However, it was canned after just one season, because it simply wasn’t that good. Rotten Tomatoes assigned it a negative (“rotten”) score of just 32%, because the critics didn’t think the selfish lead character was very likable and questioned whether or not the promise of a feminist show was actually true. The New York Post called Girlboss a “feminist fraud.” Ouch.
1. Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a big budget epic historical drama. It was Netflix’s attempt at creating a popular historical show in the vein of other hits, such as Game of Thrones, Rome, Spartacus, and Vikings. They spent $9 million per episode on the series and then no one watched it. It only got a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What Netflix thought would be a sure-fire hit had failed. But they weren’t willing to give up on it that easily. They were determined to find an audience for the show and turn things around, so they persisted with a Christmas special and a second season, all still costing $9 million an episode, before finally agreeing with the rest of the world that Marco Polo was a bad idea and canceled it. According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, the failed two seasons of Marco Polo that no one wanted led to Netflix losing $200 million. Yikes.