Fans of the FOX comedy “The Mindy Project” were met with a good news/bad news scenario late Wednesday night. Their favorite show was being canceled at FOX, but it seems likely Hulu will pick it up for additional seasons. For fans, it’s easy to see which piece of news was good and which was bad, but those positions might be reversed for Hulu — and any new network trying to make a name for itself.
Much has been made of late about canceled or finished series getting a second life on newly-emerging networks. “Arrested Development” was (finally) resurrected at Netflix. “Community” was saved by Yahoo. Many more series are being re-discovered by various networks’ originals departments, young and old. The decisions speak to the overwhelming amount of television content out there for consumers, and how new companies trying to break in may be lost in the shuffle without a big name series.
As discussed a few weeks back when “Fuller House” was picked up by Netflix (and a few weeks before that when addressing how TV shows are becoming the new film franchise), Netflix built its streaming service by using pre-existing properties and offering them to customers at their own convenience. Before they unleashed “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” Netflix had raised awareness via high profile films and old TV shows. Hulu is trying to do the same thing by recently purchasing “Seinfeld” in a massive deal, and now reportedly eyeing “The Mindy Project” as an old-to-new transitionary show, while (as always) serving as a one-stop shop for current TV.
But is the strategy itself still effective? Are more people aware of and using Yahoo Screen, now that “Community” is airing new episodes there? Did “Arrested Development” draw in new fans who stuck with Netflix after watching Season 4? In essence, does the acquisition of sequels for high profile shows help networks in the long run, even if the new seasons are disappointing?
Without solid subscriber numbers or viewing totals, it’s hard to tell. One thing is certain, though: These sequels have not had the same impact as the originals. “Arrested Development” may have been hampered by its one-core-cast-member-per-episode construction — an obstacle “The Mindy Project” is unlikely to face — but most viewers still walked away from the fourth season less pleased with the series than before they saw it.
“Community” is a more accurate comparison for “The Mindy Project,” as both series were broadcast babies who are growing into adults online. And growing seems to be exactly what “Community” is doing. Though numbers haven’t been released, creator Dan Harmon has stated on his podcast that his show is getting higher viewership than the Nielsens ever measured. He’s been nothing but positive about the move to Yahoo, from the advertising provided to the production itself.
Yet the fan fever that surrounded the series while it was on NBC hasn’t been as evident online. In an article with the headline, “Why No One On the Internet is Talking About the Internet’s Favorite Show Anymore,” Uproxx’s Dustin Rowles discussed the lack of buzz surrounding Season 6 despite the high quality of its episodes. His argument boils down to two points: that either “Community” was easier to rally behind when it was in danger of being canceled (and now that it’s popular, the fervor has died down), or fans were eventually exhausted by the survival drama. After all, “Community” lost its creator and then brought him back. It was on the edge of being canceled every season. Cast members have dropped out. Perhaps it was just too much for some viewers, who were more than willing to let it retire happily to Yahoo.
Even if “Community” is drawing in a large swath of viewers, perception is key when moving forward. “Arrested Development” reportedly pulled in a large audience, too, but it’s not just the viewership that matters. It’s also the image of success. If most people didn’t like “Arrested Development” Season 4 and no one’s talking about “Community,” can their continuations be considered a success for their respective platforms? In the long run, the answer seems to be “yes,” but with one important caveat. It’s not enough to have a name brand show: You have to follow it up with unique, compelling and great original content. In theory, “Arrested Development” brought more viewers to “House of Cards.” “Community” is trying to funnel people to Paul Feig’s “Other Space.” Only time will tell if it works, but Netflix is sticking with the strategy, as its “Fuller House” series will attempt to link “Full House” fans to Netflix’s vast catalogue of original content.
What does all this mean for the odds of “Mindy” being picked up at Hulu? It has to help. Knowing of Yahoo Screen as “the place to watch ‘Community'” is better than not knowing it all, and Hulu is still in a similar scenario for making itself known. If Season 4 happens for “Mindy,” it’s likely to arrive during an exciting time for the network. The service is on the edge of breaking out — the “Seinfeld” acquisition as well as the streaming rights to “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” are huge, and the upcoming original series from Jason Reitman and James Franco could be what puts Hulu on as big a map as Netflix — but it hasn’t gotten there yet. It still needs “The Mindy Project” to be its “Arrested Development.” Fans should just hope they don’t mess with the cast.