Fans of beloved but low-rated television series used to have fewer options for saving their favorite shows. There are classic examples of successful campaigns, like the letter-writing effort to bring “Star Trek” back for a third season and the 20 tons of peanuts that were sent to CBS to extend the life of “Jericho,” but most series with insufficient viewers get consigned to summer “burn-off” runs and eventual home video release.
But the emergence of streaming video now gives new hope to die-hard fans. Last year, Netflix stepped in when AMC canceled “The Killing,” giving the show a final resting place for six episodes that, viewers hope, will wrap up the frequently maddening crime drama. Netflix is continuing its trend of saving shows with Thursday's announcement that it will bring a concluding sixth season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to its service on March 7.
Given the recent agreements between Netflix and Disney, LucasFilm's parent company, the emergence of this new season of “The Clone Wars” seems like a natural. Disney made Netflix its exclusive home for Disney Channel shows and began rolling out some of its animated features on the service in 2012, and the service will be the exclusive streamer for all Disney films in 2016 — just after the theatrical release of “Star Wars, Episode 7.” Cartoon Network might have opted out of running the series, but the Netflix deal brings the previous five seasons onto the service and drops all 13 new episodes into the queue at once.
While Netflix now offers hope for fans of struggling serials who fear being denied the “closure” of a proper ending, it does not always work out. In 2012, Netflix was in talks to adopt “Terra Nova,” Fox's expensive prehistoric time travel drama that debuted in 2011. Fox spent millions marketing the Steven Spielberg-produced series, but the show never found a sufficiently large audience to justify its $4 million-per-episode price tag, and the network pulled the plug after 13 episodes. Netflix was interested, but talks fell apart in March 2012, and the dinosaurs remained extinct.
So far, Netflix is focusing on dialogue-heavy dramas and comedies for its original programming and has not demonstrated any interest in producing big-budget, effects-driven series. “The Clone Wars” is a comparatively inexpensive computer-animated series, and “The Killing” is produced on a modest budget. So fans can hope for Netflix to swoop in and save their favorites, as long as they see a financial upside. Things could change in the near future, but for now it's all about “click-through.” If Netflix gets maximum impact from dramas with more interior than exterior shots, it's unlikely they will bankroll for an effects-laden blockbuster series any time soon — even one that deserves a second lease on life.