Earlier this week Netflix announced the cancellation of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act after two seasons and 40 episodes. The cancellation is the latest in a long line of Netflix talk shows that have not quite hit the mark they were intending to, despite (some) getting great reviews, winning awards, and finding niche audience. So it begs the question: Why can’t Netflix seem to get the talk show format right?
Yes, of course David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction is exempt from this list because he’s… David Letterman. But if you take him out of the equation, you get talk shows from Chelsea Handler, Norm Macdonald, Joel McHale, Michelle Wolf, and now Minhaj that have all met their demise after only two seasons. Names that have performed well in the format on other platforms so there’s must be something else going on here, right?
There’s a couple factors to take into equation. The first is the format – we’re at a place now where there’s so much competition of things to watch. You have nearly a dozen talk shows to choose from, and someone is going to either watch whichever host is their favorite or whoever has their favorite guest. There is a slight competitive nature to it, and until a handful of years ago, the talk show format had only been offered on one of the networks or basic cable. So people just frankly might not be used to or open to the idea of their routine changing by adding a streaming service into the mix when they sit down to watch people talk before bed.
Another factor is that the format may not lend itself best to the streaming service world. A talk show is sort of about capturing a moment in time and what is going on in the world. For most people to watch a talk show from two years ago or even two weeks ago, it just feels somewhat dated and too topical if you were to just stumble upon it. It doesn’t seem to have the same effect as watching The Tonight Show or The Late Show. And having multiple episodes be available at once could be overwhelming to your average viewer.
And while there’s been some talk shows that have definitely gotten it right and been able to maintain an audience, we also have to remember how seldom that Netflix ever grants deals that allows shows to get a third season. On the surface, it might seem sort of strange to see them cancelling shows that has a seemingly built in following, but like all else, it all comes back to more money for them. So it might be easier to just cancel a show when it gets to that moment and start something new.
One day, we hope they’ll strike gold and find the next great thing in late night. But to do so, they may have to reinvent the format. Perhaps they should try something a bit more irreverent and think out of the box. Something that could go up against the big names in late night, and have a premise that is just as solid as the host is. Hopefully we can see something new from them soon!