Netflix finally cancels Sarah Paulson thriller series Ratched after over 3 year wait for season 2

Sarah Paulson's Nurse Ratched looks concerned
(Image credit: Netflix)

Ratched, the prequel series featuring one of cinema's most memorable monsters, won't be coming back for a second season. The Netflix show set out to tell the story of how a mental health nurse became the villain of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but season one's poor performance and equally poor reviews mean the show won't be renewed.

You can see why the premise appeals – Nurse Ratched is a classic movie antagonist –but many critics felt that the delivery didn't live up to its promise, with some reviews suggesting that the show was perpetuating outdated and potentially harmful tropes. That was certainly the case for Bethan Ackerley in New Scientist, who wrote that while the show did remove some of the misogyny from the original book and film, it also "peddles harmful stereotypes about mental health". 

Suffice to say, it didn't make the cut for our best Netflix shows list and it wasn't just us that felt this way about the show. The first season's vital signs aren't great; it's currently sitting with 62% from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 69% from viewers. 

Why Nurse Ratched isn't coming back

For studios, returning to much-loved shows and movies can be very lucrative. There's already an audience primed and waiting, and when the show is done well – as it is with the likes of Wednesday – there's cross-generational appeal: fans of the source material and new viewers too. But the downside is of course that the new version is going to be compared to the original, and may be found lacking.

That's definitely the case for some reviewers here. NME Magazine says that "Sarah Paulson's sinister nurse bears almost no resemblance to the classic 1975 character" and neither does the show, which swaps the movie's "grotty realism" for a world where "the outside world actually looks worse than the hospital," which is a "strangely Instagram-friendly institution". For NME, it's a prequel in name only: "I was looking for some thread, some connection between the show and the movie. I found none."

That's not to say that Ratched is entirely without merit. The BBC is one of many reviewers to praise Sarah Paulson's performance, saying she "nailed it in the characterisation" – but it's a "shame about the plot". The Age was more impressed, suggesting that the series was "such fun, a sort of mash-up of the slasher sensibilities of American Horror Story and the old campy Hollywood glamour of Feud." And The Globe and Mail felt it had some important things to say: "For all its outsize horror and macabre approach, Ratched is anchored in a feminist and queer perspective on recent American history and popular culture. As such, it's part of a necessary reckoning, and brave." We liked it too, noting in our review that "Ratched isn't just a story of cheap thrills and bloody violence... each member of the show's cast are devilish in their own particular ways."

The first and only season of Ratched is streaming now on Netflix.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.