*Dusts off dirt, turns on the lights* Hello, is this thing on? Oh, yes, you’re still here. Which means you’re still here to listen to my ramblings and musings as a TV fanatic. It’s been a while, but we have so much to talk about.
The TV landscape has changed drastically in a few short years. Show formats have been altered, new streaming services have emerged, and social media is no longer just a backseat passenger. Because of the connection the internet brings viewers and fans to pop culture, it’s no wonder people pen this as the “golden age of television.”
There are more shows than one can consume nowadays. If one show doesn’t suit you, it’s no sweat to jump into something new a minute later. The way TV is set up today allows for everyone to find a series that suits their interests. New shows come and go almost weekly. But with such a large offering out there, there’s still a need for TV to introduce diverse characters, storylines that break boundaries, and represent our changing world.
Which is why when a TV show comes along that includes a rich, diverse cast, with representation rarely seen on screen, and stunning visuals, fans vocalize and unite, especially through social media. And when these shows are canceled, it’s not only a sting for those already emotionally invested, but makes a statement on television as a whole.
As an avid TV viewer, I’m constantly looking for my next binge, my new obsession. It was no surprise for me to gravitate to Netflix’s genre series Sense8. I had already sampled most of Netflix’s original programming and had heard mixed reviews from peers about Sense8’s first season. But still my interest in the show was sparked in a group of people from all around the world who wake up one day to find they are connected telepathically, empathetically, and physically.
I was hooked within the first 10 minutes. I finished the first season within the day. I connected with each and every member of the “Sensate Cluster.” Each one of them had a relatable story; and as each of them became connected to one another, it heightened just how important their journey to self discovery was. The closest show I could relate Sense8 to for those who asked was Orphan Black, which showcased a very similar premise in set up: A group of special people are hunted for being different. Along with Orphan Black, Sense8 featured LGBTQ characters, like transgender character Nomi, portrayed by transgender actress Jamie Clayton. And in Sense8’s case, it also featured diversity from other parts of the world rarely represented in mainstream TV, such as Kenya, India and South Korea.
A few days prior to the show’s official cancellation, show actor Brian J. Smith (Will Groski) tweeted to his followers that now “might be a good time to start making some noise” if they wanted a new season of Sense8. Fans did not disappoint, and #Sense8 jumped to a worldwide trending topic within minutes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. On June 1, 2017, the very first day of Pride Month, Netflix cancelled Sense8 after two seasons. It was a cancellation heard all over social media. Outcries from fans around the world were loud and fierce. Instantly, hashtags and petitions began popping up trying to #RenewSense8. A Change.org petition garnered close to 500K signatures alone. The power of social media couldn’t be ignored.
The backlash even sparked Netflix/Sense8 to release a public statement, standing firm in their decision. They knew how hard people like me loved the show, found a community within it, but this cancellation would not be reversed.
Outlets claimed Sense8 cost $9 million an episode to make, a little less than Netflix’s other recently cancelled series, The Get Down, which boasted an $11 million an episode price tag. And while many other Netflix Original series, such as House of Cards and The Crown, also come with equally hefty price tags, viewership was the Achilles’ heel.
Netflix notoriously does not offer up its ratings per series. And according to series creator J. Michael Straczynski in 2016, Sense8 was the most re-watched series on Netflix. But one thing was clear in Netflix’s June 1 decision; not enough people were watching Sense8. Recently, Netflix’s CEO Reed Hasting, has touted that the streaming services hit ratio was “too high” and they would begin cancelling shows to make up for it.
Sense8 becoming collateral of Hasting’s warning was a proverbial punch in the gut, especially given weeks ago, rumors started circulating that Iron First, a critical press and fan “flop,” was nearing a Season 2 deal. A show that not only didn’t measure up to its other Marvel counterparts, but which appropriated Asian culture and didn’t seem to quite understand itself.
I can’t sit here and argue with the CEO of the most successful streaming service, one that continues to turn out some of my favorite television programs, but I can question the decision. Sense8 was a celebration of all life and kept you on the edge of your seat with drama, action, and yes, a few orgies that showcased that “love is love is love.”
We live in a society where the conversation about humanity is expanding, becoming a focal point both socially and politically. Our current Administration is burying the integrity of acceptance and the open dialogue that needs to continue. Sense8 helped keep that conversation alive and delivered a message of openness in such an important time.
Sense8 will always hold a special place in my heart. It was visually beautiful and made great strides, encompassing everything I love about television. Capheus, Sun, Nomi, Kala, Riley, Wolfgang, Lito, and Will stood for something greater than just another TV show. They showed the world that together we are stronger, with love we can accomplish so much more. They helped drive television one step forward, and for that, I will always be grateful for the Cluster.