Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ask Brett - Will Every Netflix Series Get a Second Season? Should Netflix Release Ratings? 'Wayward Pines' Renewal Odds?

In this week's edition of Ask Brett, chief TV critic Brett Hense of TV-Recaps-Reviews discusses whether Netflix should release ratings, the ups and downs of Stranger Things, the renewal odds for Wayward Pines and much more!

Q: Where do you stand on the great debate of Netflix refusing to release its rating information? - Carmen

Netflix refusing to release ratings for its original programming has been a huge talking point over the last few years. The streaming service does not need to release that information. Ratings are a huge definer of success in this industry. But they aren't how Netflix actually makes money. They are a subscription-based service. So they only care about their original programs actually bringing subscribers to its service. That's all they should focus on. And yet, the conversation gets more complicated because Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos keeps bringing up the fact that "show x" is the biggest show they've ever had. If we don't have anything to compare that to, it's just an empty statement. Netflix should stop saying things like that. Yes, it's easy to assume that Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards and the various Marvel shows are probably the best performers on the service. It's also probably likely that Stranger Things has done better than Season 2 of Marco Polo due to the zeitgeist conversation. But Netflix should be talking about the creative direction of the series and not the ratings impact. As soon as they make that shift, this whole conversation about whether or not they should release ratings will die down.

Netflix is hardly the only original content provider doing this as well. HBO clearly set a mold when it decided to release ratings despite being a subscription service. The premium channel - along with Starz and Showtime - still release their programs in a linear fashion. So, it's easier for them to release and talk about ratings. But Amazon and Hulu don't release ratings either. They've ran into the same problems as Netflix in needing to talk about the success of the show when the audience doesn't have those statistics. It's just a really awkward conversation right now that the industry is still working out how to actively talk about. So that probably means nothing will change any time soon.

Q: Do you think more creatives are going to Netflix right now because they have $6 billion dollars to spend on original programming and the shows will always be renewed for second seasons? - Nick

It simply cannot be understated how much original programming Netflix is planning on producing over the next few years. It was only a little while ago when the streaming service only had stuff like Derek, House of Cards and Arrested Development. And now, it is the kingpin of the streaming movement. It certainly does help that the service is willing to spend as much money as possible on its shows. Upcoming dramas The Get Down and The Crown both spent over $100 million dollars on their first seasons. That would be unheard of on any other network. But Netflix is able to do it because it exists as a global company. It has the money to do so. But spending as much money as possible doesn't mean the final products will be any good. But fortunately, the service is also committed to giving absolutely everything more than one season to figure itself out. That really is impressive and could be a huge deciding factor for a writer not sure where to take their potential series. If it ends up on Netflix, that basically guarantees a second season renewal. Netflix has not cancelled anything after one season yet. That shows it's more interested in bulking up on original programming to entice subscribers than trying to maintain a consistent brand. When you look at the original programming on Netflix, it varies in tone so much. Its brand is prestige and unique differences. It's a service that can have Orange Is the New Black just as easily as Fuller House.

However, Netflix is also expanding its brand to include more original movies and miniseries. Those are important to the service as well. Continuing series are crucial for longterm success. But movies and miniseries can help win over prestige and awards as well. Just look at Beasts of No Nation and What Happened, Miss Simone? during the last awards cycle. Or if you look ahead to the next year, Netflix has limited run miniseries including 13 Reasons Why, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, The Defenders and Godless. Those projects didn't come to Netflix because of the renewal odds. They landed on the service because of the reputation Netflix now has as being the best in the business. That's probably a better motivating factor than anything else.

Q: I heard so many great things about Stranger Things [on Netflix]. So, I binged the entire first season over the weekend. It was fantastic! Bummed that we haven't heard anything about a second season yet though. What do you think about the show? - Ginny

First off, you shouldn't stress too much about Stranger Things not being renewed yet. Yes, it is curious that Netflix hasn't ordered more episodes yet. Their silly explanation is that they'll waiting for the buzz to die down a little bit before announcing a Season 2. That's just lame and weird. But considering how much people have been talking about the show over the past few weeks, it's pretty much a lock to return.

In terms of the quality of the first season, I can confirm that it's an epic and fun ride from start to finish. I only reviewed the first episode but the entire season was gripping. Unlike most people, I wasn't able to binge it all in one sitting. In fact, I only finished it last night. I was so happy that it mostly stuck the landing too. [SPOILER ALERT for anyone who has not finished the first season of Stranger Things]. The whole cast was terrific - especially Winona Ryder, David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown. However, it was troubling to see Cara Buono so underutilized for the entire season in a pretty thankless role. Also, Matthew Modine was good in underplaying Dr. Brenner but the character never really broke out as multi-dimensional. Plus, it's a tad weird that so much of the arc of the season is about the search for Will. If he is found alive, everything can go back to being normal. He wasn't the only person taken by the creature but he was the only one that really mattered. So, the lack of reaction to Barb's death was particularly egregious. But again, all of these things are just minor criticisms for a show that utilized and then subverted cliches from 1980s pop culture so well. I loved how Nancy evolved over the course of the season. It's great that Dustin seems to be right about absolutely everything. And finally, eight episodes was the perfect running time for the season. Long enough to keep the story intense and interesting but short enough so it didn't feel pandering.

Q: I loved Wayward Pines in Season 1 but was really disappointed with Season 2. It just didn't work as well as it did in year one. I'm not the only who thinks so either! So, doesn't it seem likely that FOX doesn't renew? - Becca

As someone who didn't watch a single episode of the show, I can't speak to the creative quality between the seasons. It was simply one of the many shows that slipped through the cracks because it's impossible to watch everything. I do know there was a change in showrunner between seasons. I also know that the first season sparked more conversation than the second season did. I've heard very little about this season of the show. More important than that though, the ratings have been lower - in both live and delayed viewing. That's the biggest indicator to me that the renewal odds are much slimmer than they seemed last year. I don't know what will happen. FOX could pick the show up for another season if the creative team presents a solid story idea for Season 3. Or it could return because FOX needs stability on the schedule during summer - where it has really been struggling this season. Or it could just end because FOX doesn't think it's worth it anymore. FOX has become known for looking at bigger factors than just ratings. So it really could go any number of ways.

Brett Hense is the chief TV critic and founder of TV-Recaps-Reviews. He has been writing about television professionally for five years now. To be featured in a future edition of "Ask Brett," make sure to email your inquiries to Make sure to put "Ask Brett" in the subject line. Or you can leave a comment on this page or the site's official Twitter and Facebook pages.