Why Netflix's Mindhunter Never Could Have Worked As A Network TV Show

Holden and Bill in Mindhunter

Over the past few years, TV had quickly become a hub for exciting new stories, with major players from the film world transitioning over to the small screen. This includes The Social Network director David Fincher, who recently produced and directed Mindhunters on Netflix, in addition to his work developing House of Cards. Mindhunters is a crime drama that revolves around two members of the FBI's infant Behavioral Science Unit in the late 1970s. In typical Fincher style, the series is a slow burn that mostly revolves around dialogue heavy scenes and relatable characters. And its for this reason that series lead Jonathan Groff (Looking, Glee) thinks that it wouldn't fit in a conventional network or cable TV network.

CinemaBlend's Conner Schwerdtfeger spoke to the cast of Mindhunter at Netflix's recent press junket. It's here where Jonathan Groff revealed why Netflix is the perfect home for the series, saying:

As I was watching it back this last week, and I was watching the first episode, which is very slow and the moment of inspiration and whatnot doesn't kick in until they sit down with Ed Kemper it's like boom. But it's so interesting that the idea of interviewing these serial killers and just the whole sort of origin story is so specific. So I understood when I was watching this week thinking about David plotting it all out, and it's like this guy who teaches the hostage negotiation so that he has a specific skillset in talking to people, and when he's teaching hostage negotiation to other people, and then we connect. Watching it all take its time and telling the story as specifically and with as much tracking as you need, that could never happen on a network because you need the Ed Kemper interview to happen three quarters of the way through the first episode, but David could really tell the story he wanted to tell in more of a way that felt more like a novel than a television show.

Jonathan Groff certainly seems to be singing Netflix's praises, especially the control given to directors. This has been a common part of the conversation revolving around Netlix's original programming. The streaming service produces a ton of content, and is free from the logistical restraints that come with traditional TV. With no advertisers needed and the shows void of commercial breaks, directors can use their time more liberally. And for Mindhunters, its allowing the audience and characters to find themselves organically.

Holt McCallany is the other series lead, and spoke to the difference between Mindhunters and network TV as well. Specifically, that the pacing can be slowed and scenes can be longer and more exploratory.

I've had both experiences, I just remembered one day we were shooting in Pittsburgh and we were sharing stage with another show that was a network show. The writer of that show happened to be an old friend of mine and he's a big fan of David Fincher's. So he came to me and he said 'do you think David would allow me to come to the set and watch one afternoon.' So I asked David and he said it was OK and the guy sat behind the monitors all day long one day, and it was the scene where we were interviewing Richard Speck, and it's a very long scene, like a ten page scene. And It's ten pages of three guys sitting around a table talking. And he watched all afternoon and at the end of its he took me aside and said 'Holt, that was an amazing thing to watch, because on my show I couldn't even turn in a scene that was longer than four pages.'

This is another perk of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Because acts don't need to be cut in order to facilitate advertising, moments don't need to be as rushed. Mindhunters is mostly made up of longer scenes, especially when it comes down to Holden and Bill's interviews with various psychopaths.

Mindhunters' complete first season is now available on Netflix. The series has also been renewed for a second season, so expect more long scenes and slow burns in the future. In the meantime, check out our fall premiere list to plan your next binge watch.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.