TV fans have seen a few rays of hope in the last year or so. Shows that were cancelled long ago have been given a reprieve in some form or another. Veronica Mars is headed to the big screen, thanks to a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. Meanwhile, in just a matter of weeks, Arrested Development will return with a new season after a seven-year hiatus. It seems almost too good to be true, and at the same time, it's given fans hope that maybe other gone-but-not-forgotten series have a shot at a comeback, and perhaps Netflix is the place to make that happen.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos sat down with Stuff.TV to talk about the streaming video service's original programming, and the site grilled him on possible plans for various projects, including a revival of Firefly and Twin Peaks, and the possibility of more seasons of Arrested Development.
Sarandos didn't commit to much, but his answers to the questions posed did indicate that there have been discussions about some of these projects. On the subject of life for Arrested Development beyond Season 4, he sounded hopeful, but brought up the obvious issue - cast availability.
Hopefully! It was very difficult logistically with a cast full of movie stars. They all had full-time jobs when we were making this season – Tony Hale of Veep, Jason Bateman was directing a film, Michael Cera was starring in a movie in Chile, Portia de Rossi was on an NBC pilot, Will Arnett was on weekly show Up All Night. We were constantly bringing everyone in and out.
He went on to talk about how creator Mitch Horowitz took advantage of Netflix's back-to-back episode set-up by arranging a format for Season 4 that is "ridiculously fun and complicated," with jokes set up to pay off in later episodes. From the sound of it, that's something that fans who binge-watch the upcoming season will likely benefit from the most.
When asked about the possibility of adapting Stephen King's Dark Tower series - an ambitious project that always seems close to happening, either on the big or small screen, but never does - Sarandos sounded interested but noncommittal.
I spoke to Ron about it, actually. The last time we talked about it the thing was being kicked about HBO – but it’s no longer there. Once Arrested Development gets through we’ll keep talking about it.
As for other revivals, while he sounded up for discussing a revival of Twin Peaks, he seemed less optimistic about Jericho, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. For Jericho and Buffy, he didn't exactly shoot down the possibility, but he responded to the questions by noting fan interest and enthusiasm rather than indicating that there might be a chance for Netflix to bring either of them back. For Firefly, his response was a two-parter and more direct. The first part is that it's sort of been done before with the follow-up film Serenity, and the second part had to do with the enthusiastic but diminishing audience for it:
In almost every case the cult around the show gets more intense and smaller as time goes by. Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was cancelled. The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there’s fewer of them and they’re more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we’re going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience.
We can assume that Sarandos (and Netflix in general) is basing that opinion on whatever data they've collected of their subscribers' viewing habits. Firefly is available on Netflix, and it's likely that the service has ways of noting who's watching. Are new fans watching the first and only season? Are they watching past the first episode or two? Does the audience consist mainly repeat viewers? These are things they may be able to look at to determine if a series return - assuming it was even possible to get the cast and Joss Whedon back together to do it - is worth the time and money. From the sound of it - from Netflix's perspective - it probably isn't.