View Finder: Netflix wants a war, cancels Sense8

Nick Broughall 2 June 2017 NEWS

Sense 8

Netflix is sharpening its axe, with boss Reed Hastings saying killing shows is something it needs to do more.

Less than a month after it dropped the second season of Sense8 for binge watchers around the globe, Netflix has killed off the sci-fi action series about a group of psychically connected individuals around the world.

The show, which was created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (the brains trust behind The Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5, the show was notable for combining sci-fi themes with global action and a truly diverse cast of different cultures, sexes and accepting views of individual difference.

Because Netflix doesn't release viewership numbers, there's no word on exactly why the show was axed, though given the fact the second season is only a month old, you would have to expect the numbers were particularly disappointing for such quick action.

It also comes a week after Netflix killed off the Baz Luhrmann hip hop music drama, The Get Down, which joined shows like Marco Polo and Bloodline on the floor of cancelled Netflix TV shows.

But while there is (rightfully) a public outcry at the cancelling of Sense8, perhaps the most interesting part of this whole story is the comments from executioner in chief, Reed Hastings.

Just before the official news, in an interview with CNBC in the US, Hastings said, "I’m always pushing the content team, we have to take more risk, you have to try more crazy things, because we should have a higher cancel rate overall. Because then, what you get is you get some winners that are just unbelievable winners — like, 13 Reasons Why over the last three months has been a big hit for us."

Rumours have claimed that Sense8 was expensive to produce, coming close to US$9 million per episode. With a second season consisting of 11 episodes, that's a significant investment to be making for a show that isn't performing, either in terms of actual watchers or in new subscribers. Netflix may be churning through US$6 billion in original content production this year, but it's still a business. It's still trying to make money.


But even if I accept that Sense8 wasn't getting the viewers it needed to justify the expense, I'm still finding the cancellation news hard to swallow. It took me almost two years to get around to watching the first season of the show, because as much as I love the beauty of the binge-watch, the sheer quantity of incredible content means finding the time to return to your favourite shows can be challenging.

But offsetting that trouble is the fact you can watch it whenever you want. My social media feeds are filled with disappointment at the cancellation, with a number of people admitting they're still only a few episodes into the second season. And that makes particular sense with Sense8, a complicated show that somehow managed to tell the story of eight connected individuals through a complex narrative and a real focus on giving each character (plus a lot of the fringe characters) a real personality.

Streaming at your leisure isn't just about avoiding prime time viewing and schedule changes – it's also about not needing to drop everything to watch a show when it returns for another season.

And as much as the show is about sci-fi and martial arts and action, it's also an incredible tale about acceptance and identity, and captures beauty of being able to accept who you are and be loved.

During that same CNBC interview, Hastings was asked if he could give any insight into how many people had started watching season five of House of Cards the day after it dropped. When you take his response with the context of the Sense8 cancellation, it seems a little odd.

"Absolutely not," Hastings replied. "It is one of the great things about Netflix is we don't have to release ratings. Each show gets to have its own audience because it is very personalised."

There are a lot of Sense8 fans today taking the cancellation pretty personally today, that's for sure.

Trailer of the week: Go watch Sense8

It's a great show. Go watch it and discover why Netflix's decision to cancel was a mistake.

You should also check out the trailer for Season 2 of Preacher, which is coming to Stan later this month.

Each week, View Finder rounds up the latest news in TV and movie streaming in Australia.

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