A few days after news broke that Netflix had canceled teen drama First Kill, the show's showrunner has spoken out and has some choice words for the streaming giant.
The teen drama, which debuted in the second week of June, was given the axe on Tuesday (August 2) when Netflix revealed that there would be no sophomore season of the show. That cancellation came off the back of some pretty scathing reviews, even though the Netflix series seemed to resonate with audiences.
Based on the short story of the same name by author V. E. Schwab, First Kill is a reimagining of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It follows Juliette Fairmont, a vampire from a long dynasty of vampires who are able to live in plain sight in Savannah, Georgia.
Approaching her 16th birthday, Juliette, who has spent her life thus far living off blood pills, discovers that the pills are losing their efficacy and she must confront the prospect that it is time for her to make her first kill – something she does not want to do.
Things are complicated further by the arrival of a new girl in town, Calliope Burns, who Juliette quickly becomes infatuated with. Trouble is, Calliope's family history is just as complicated as Juliette's. She’s a monster hunter raised by a family of monster hunters. And, as with the star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare's original, there's an awful lot of drama.
The show's cancelation came as a surprise as it had racked up pretty decent viewing figures, especially in its early weeks. First Kill managed to score 30.3 million hours viewed in its first three days and 48.8 million hours viewed in its first full week, numbers which put it only behind Stranger Things and Peaky Blinders.
Now, speaking to the Daily Beast (opens in new tab), Felicia D. Henderson, First Kill's showrunner, criticized Netflix, particularly over the show's lack of marketing.
She said: "The art for the initial marketing was beautiful. I think I expected that to be the beginning and that the other equally compelling and important elements of the show – monsters vs. monster hunters, the battle between two powerful matriarchs, etc – would eventually be promoted, and that didn’t happen.”
Henderson's comments echo what a source close to the show had previously told The Daily Beast (opens in new tab) that the show's supernatural roots had been played down. Instead, all the marketing focused on the intense love story between the two main characters, a decision they believed stopped it reaching a wider audience.
The showrunner, who has served on shows like Fringe and Gossip Girl in the past, was pretty sanguine about the cancelation, saying: "When I got the call to tell me they weren’t renewing the show because the completion rate wasn’t high enough, of course, I was very disappointed. What showrunner wouldn’t be? I’d been told a couple of weeks ago that they were hoping completion would get higher. I guess it didn’t.”
Analysis: Does Henderson have a point?
Henderson isn't the only showrunner to feel like Netflix's executives have moved the goalposts in terms of the numbers required to earn another season.
Earlier in the year, when Netflix axed The Babysitters' Club, showrunner Rebecca Shukert sat down with Vulture (opens in new tab) to explain what had happened. She said that the streaming giant doesn't just care how many people watch your show, but how they do so.
At the time, Shukert said: "Completion rates are a big deal. At Netflix, it’s more about if your show works on the platform than if the platform is working for your show. They want people to watch it a certain way, and they want shows that people will watch that way – not shows that people want to watch in their own way."
From what Henderson has said, First Kill feels like another victim of that culture. Unless you explode in your first few days on the platform, in the same way a show like The Lincoln Lawyer did, then you may struggle to earn a renewal.
This may change when Netflix's ad-supported tier comes in , which is when the streaming giant's executives will have to assess a different type of audience. But, for now, it seems that for a show to really fly, it needs to be very, very binge-worthy.