Santa Clarita Diet Canceled

Almost exactly one month after Netflix’s dark comedy series Santa Clarita Diet debuted its third season, the show starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant has suddenly been canceled. It’s one of several similar casualties at Netflix where a show has been given the axe after only two or three seasons, and while there’s a good reason for that behind the scenes, that’s not going to be good enough for fans who wanted to see the show continue, especially after the third season cliffhanger.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed news of Santa Clarita Diet canceled after three seasons. The series followed realtor spouses Sheila (Drew Barrymore) and Joel (Timothy Olyphant) Hammond, who led vaguely discontented lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita with their teenage daughter Abby (Liv Hewson). But suddenly Sheila went through a dramatic change that sent their lives down a road of death and destruction. That change was turning into a zombie that needs to eat flesh to survive, but it turned out be something that saved their family.

Fans are understandably upset about Santa Clarita Diet being canceled at Netflix, especially after the series ended with the spider-like zombie creature known as Mr. Balls Legs crawling into Joel’s ear and into his brain. In order to stop Joel from dying, Sheila bites Joel, and we’re left wondering what will happen next. Unfortunately, Santa Clarita Diet joins Netflix shows like One Day at a Time, Bloodline, Hemlock Grove, Love, and Narcos, which were all canceled after three seasons.

Showrunner Victor Fresco and executive producer Tracy Katsky expressed their gratitude in a statement:

“Like our audience, we were all-in on Sheila and Joel. Their relationship, in the face of incredible adversity, was inspiring to write and to watch. Mostly, they were funny, which in a comedy is important. Working with Drew and Tim, along with the immensely talented Liv and Skyler, was a joy and a once in a lifetime experience. Netflix took at chance on this odd show and for that we will always be grateful. They were supportive, ever positive, and appreciative of our work. Until about noon today. Still, they were just one phone call away from being a perfect studio. Not bad. Everything ends. This was a thing. And so it ended. We’ll miss it but are proud of the work we did and will always appreciate the love and enthusiasm we felt from our audience. It if was up to them, Sheila and Joel would continue for another 10,000 years.”

Netflix also released a statement regarding the cancellation of Santa Clarita Diet, saying:

“The world had never known a ‘zom-com’ until Santa Clarita Diet, and we’re indebted to creator Victor Fresco for bringing this idea to Netflix. To their endless credit, the incredible Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant were totally game, with an uncanny knack for comedy that brought Sheila and Joel Hammond to vibrant life, even though one of them was undead. We’re grateful to Victor, Drew, and Timothy, along with fellow executive producers Tracy Katsky, Aaron Kaplan, Chris Miller and Ember Truesdell and the terrific cast, including Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo, and crew for three hilarious seasons for Netflix members to discover for years to come.”

While the film Warm Bodies might disagree with that first sentiment, Netflix certainly sounds regretful for canceling Santa Clarita Diet. So why does Netflix give shows the axe like this?

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Why Netflix Cancels Good Shows

Like any network, Netflix has canceled these shows for business reasons. As Deadline has previously reported, the way Netflix produces their own programming gets more expensive the longer a show lasts, so the criteria a show needs to meet in order to justify getting renewed gets a little more complicated. That’s why other successful shows also get the axe. Some shows like American Vandal, Lady Dynamite, Sense8, Marco Polo, Friends from College and more weren’t even lucky enough to land three seasons. In fact, you’ll find very few shows make it past the two or three season mark at Netflix. Here’s how Deadline explained it when they looked into the number of shows getting canceled at the streaming service:

“Netflix employs a “cost-plus” model, offering to pay upfront a show’s production costs plus a premium of 30%+ of the costs. Even after Netflix subtracts a distribution fee, outside studios are at break-even or in a positive territory from Day 1, versus having to deficit-finance series for the first few seasons on most traditional networks. But in exchange for the upfront payments, outside studios give up the potential upside that normally comes up with owning a long-running successful series, including off-network and international sales.

Instead, Netflix’s deals include bump/bonuses after each season that are getting progressively bigger. While the payments are relatively modest after Season 1 and a little bigger after Season 2, I hear they escalate after Season 3, especially for series owned by Netflix — sometimes from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars — as the studio starts to pay off the shows’ back-end. For series from outside studios, which I hear cost about 20% more than their Netflix-produced counterparts, I hear the built-in payment increases do not skyrocket as much but still are bigger after Season 3, Season 4 and beyond.”

So the longer a show continues on Netflix, the more expensive it becomes to maintain. That means in order for a show to continue, it needs to be a huge hit, something like Orange is the New Black or House of Cards, or awards darlings like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Grace and Frankie.

Santa Clarita Diet merely reached an important milestone, and the viewership it had garnered apparently wasn’t strong enough to make it worth Netflix spending increasingly more money for a fourth season. And unfortunately, since Netflix keeps their original shows from being renewed elsewhere for at least a year or two, it’s not likely to get picked up elsewhere.

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