In a sad state of affairs for LGBTQ and Latinx representation, Starz has announced that Season 3 of Tanya Saracho’s trailblazing series “Vida” will be its last. The good news is there’s a new trailer for the now third and final season, and it looks just as magical, colorful, sexy, and heartfelt as the first two seasons. With any luck, the outpouring of critical love and support this bittersweet news is sure to bring will set off alarm bells to networks looking to beef up inclusive content: Pick up “Vida”.
Created by Saracho, a playwright, “Vida” follows Mexican American sisters Lyn (Melissa Barrera) and Emma (Mishel Prada) as they take over their late mother’s neighborhood bar in their rapidly gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in East L.A. Grounded with a variety of women and queer characters of color, “Vida” is a half-hour dramedy with equal parts punch and heart. It was a boon for representation of all kinds, led by a solo woman of color showrunner.
Saracho detailed the groundbreaking nature of the series in a bittersweet farewell letter that accompanied the cancellation news:
“When I began this journey three and a half years ago, I never dreamed that by the end of the process I’d be so wholly changed — mind, body, and spirit — and that I’d be standing so strongly in my abilities to run and create a TV show the way it should have always been created: By us. When I started this, the landscape was a bleak one for Latinx representation. In the television landscape, the narratives about us were few and far between and were stuck on stereotypical. And I had only heard of one Latina showrunner who’d been allowed to run a show solo. Also for brown queers, there was truly no representation.
“This goodbye is too bittersweet for words. I’d be lying if I said I’m not sad about not getting back into that magical writers room to keep crafting our story. But after all, I got to tell the exact story I wanted to tell, exactly how I wanted to tell it, and that is rare in this industry. I leave steeped in gratitude. Thankful to Starz for not just allowing VIDA to happen, but for being great co-parents as we raised her together. And grateful for the collaborators whose careers we were able to launch: Latinx cinematographers, writers, actors — almost entirely female — who are now out there and in demand. What a beautiful family we built. And what a beautiful show.”
As this letter intimates, Saracho clearly had hoped to explore these characters further, many of whom have become like family to the show’s legions of fans. This is not a case of a showrunner graciously closing up shop in order to explore further avenues. There is so much more “Vida” to celebrate.
While Starz is to be commended for shepherding the series into existence, the premium network was likely never the right fit for a witchy, queer, Latinx series. One of the network’s most popular shows is “Outlander,” a huge hit with thirsty moms of all stripes. The audience for “Vida” — LGBTQ folks, people of color, and women — are far less likely to have the resources to subscribe to a premium network like Starz.
It wouldn’t be the first time a beloved niche show found a home elsewhere. Netflix canceled “One Day at a Time” last year, and Pop will release a fourth season later this month. Fox canceled “Lucifer” in 2018 only for Netflix to pick it up for another two seasons. Fox gave up another hit when it canned “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” after five seasons. The comedy has already been renewed for an eighth season at NBC. So we know the transfer from network to network can work brilliantly, even in many cases boosting a series’ reach.
At a time when networks are scrambling for better representation, “Vida” would be a wise purchase for any streamer or cable network who wants a safe bet. While both seasons have been terrific, “Vida” was arguably just hitting its stride. Season 2 introduced a swoon-worthy love interest for Emma with Nico (Roberta Colindrez), and from the looks of the Season 3 trailer, was gearing up to turn the bar into Boyle Heights’ hottest lesbian hangout.
Such exciting developments made “Vida” poised to become the brown “L Word,” with the same representational firsts and a more overtly political message. A new network would have the head start of the show’s already devoted built-in audience, with the added benefit of introducing it to a new one just when things were starting to heat up. It’s a slam dunk.