Amazon is reviving this canceled drama, despite its terrible Rotten Tomatoes rating

Jeff Daniels in American Rust
(Image credit: The Playlist)

Whenever many of us hear news that one of our favorite shows has been canceled, there is always that brief flicker of hope that some other network will pick it up, but the examples of it happening are rather rare. 

Sometimes it does happen. When Fox canceled Brooklyn Nine-Nine back in 2018, the next day it found a new home and three further seasons on NBC and Hulu, while Netflix picked up both Lucifer and Manifest after they were abandoned by their original networks. These things are rare but they do happen, normally for shows with passionate, small-ish fanbases that aren't bringing in enough viewers to satisfy advertisers. All of which makes the case of American Rust all the stranger. 

Launched in 2021, American Rust starred Jeff Daniels and The Affair's Maura Tierney in an adaptation of Philipp Meyer's book of the same name. It was adapted for the small screen by Dan Futterman, writer of Foxcatcher and Capote, while David Alvarez, Bill Camp, Julia Mayorga, and Rob Yang starred alongside Daniels and Tierney in this nine-parter. 

The show saw Daniels play Del Harris, the chief of police in an economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, who suddenly found his ethics and professional boundaries thrown into question when son of the woman he loves, Tierney's Grace, is arrested and accused of murder.

Reviews for the show haven't been kind, with American Rust posting a lowly 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where many a critic drew an unkind comparison between it and the beloved Mare Of Easttown. Showtime, the Paramount-owned network where American Rust aired, axed the show in January of this year after a single season, but now it has been saved. 

Saved? By who?

Amazon. The tech giant has given the show a home for its second season on Amazon FreeVee, its ad-supported, free to use platform that was once called IMDb TV. 

Speaking about the surprise pick-up, star Daniels said: "I’m grateful to Amazon Freevee for giving us the chance to make Season Two of American Rust. Set inside a struggling American small town, our authentic, realistically told story is built for streaming. The movies they don’t make anymore are being made as series at places like Amazon Freevee. It’s where I want to be."

Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi, co-heads of content and programming at Amazon Freevee, added: “American Rust is exactly the type of gritty and engaging storytelling Amazon Freevee audiences love, and we could not be more excited to bring this prestige series to our customers, free of charge. 

"We can’t wait to dive in with Boat Rocker and Dan Futterman to continue the story that intrigued audiences during the first season, and to see the evolution of characters so expertly portrayed by Jeff and Maura in this next chapter.”

Analysis: Why does Amazon want this show?

Take a quick glance at FreeVee's current slate and you'll see that American Rust actually fits in rather nicely in terms of subject matter with what the platform offers.

The re-launched platform's flagship show is Bosch: Legacy, another gritty crime drama, albeit one with much better reviews. They've also put critical hit Troppo there, another dust-in-throat mystery that's set in the Australian outback. You'll also find lots of wrapped action-dramas with procedural edges, shows like Burn Notice and the MacGyver remake. 

Additionally, Prime Video offers subscribers shows like Reacher, which still has two seasons left to run, and the soon-to-air Chris Pratt-starring The Terminal List. Both are chest-thumping action-dramas with real heroes and definitive bad guys; a clear showcase of the kind of market Amazon like. With a cast and creative team already in place for American Rust, why spend a year developing your own if you don't have to?

Want to read about the end of Jack Ryan and the franchise's planned spin-off? Step this way.

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…