Will Netflix Rescue More Favorites Like ‘Designated Survivor’ & ‘Lucifer’?

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Designated Survivor is living up to its name. ABC ousted the White House drama — starring Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, a fledgling president plucked from the Cabinet and struggling to prove himself — in May after two seasons of middling ratings. Now it has received the equivalent of a full pardon: a 10-episode Season 3, to premiere in 2019, courtesy of its new home, Netflix.

Clearly, “canceled” doesn’t mean what it once did. With so many networks in existence on a wide swath of platforms — broadcast, cable, streaming, online — one outlet’s pink slip has become another’s pickup. So what made Netflix bite on Designated Survivor?

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Kiefer Sutherland's drama had been canceled at ABC earlier this year.

“The international audience for the show drove our interest to bring [it] to the world as a Netflix original,” says vice president of content Bela Bajaria. Since the streaming service had already exclusively offered the first two seasons to their international customers and saw promising numbers, the pairing wasn’t a surprise to production company Entertainment One (eOne). “Netflix has been in on the show since the outset, and they are the obvious home for it going forward,” says Stuart Baxter, eOne’s president of international distribution.

Of course, Designated isn’t the first shuttered broadcast show to be revived by Netflix. In June, it picked up the devilish drama Lucifer for a 10-episode fourth season after Fox swung the ax, and A&E’s Western drama Longmire got three more years soon after its 2014 cancellation.

The Mindy Project

Netflix isn’t alone. Hulu picked up The Mindy Project from Fox in 2015 (and just announced an eight-episode revival of Veronica Mars, which ended on The CW in 2007). Syfy grounded its space drama The Expanse in May after three seasons and Amazon Prime Video announced a pickup 15 days later.

The practice has a rich history among broadcast networks too. Most recently: American Idol moved to ABC after 15 seasons on Fox; Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled by Fox and will return next year on NBC; and Last Man Standing relocated to Fox from ABC.

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Moving to streaming allows for a creative refresh, as the writers are free from broadcast network standards and practices. While its cast and structure won’t change, Designated Survivor now “gets to be edgier, darker and more unpredictable,” says new showrunner Neal Baer.

Season 3 will introduce new characters as President Kirkman, an independent, runs for reelection. Another benefit: shorter seasons. Going down to 10 episodes from a typical broadcast season of 22 allows the drama to be “more character-driven,” says Baer. “We delve much deeper into their personal lives within the political context of the show.”


Lucifer lead Tom Ellis is also excited about his series’ new home. “When you do 22 episodes, it’s great for a lot of reasons, but it also means you end up stretching and diluting a lot of story-telling,” he says. With the move to Netflix, “we’re going to get right down to it. Every episode will count.”

Could These Be Next?

More shows that deserve a new life

Code Black
CBS pulled the plug on the medical drama last May — and then it slew the competition during its summer run, boasting the highest ratings of the night five times. Revive it, STAT!

Retooling ABC’s FBI drama last season didn’t help low ratings, but if star Priyanka Chopra could get her musician-actor fiancé Nick Jonas to guest, maybe he’d be a draw?

Great News

Good Behavior
Two seasons aren’t enough of the TNT drama about troubled Letty Raines (Michelle Dockery). The show’s fate is in limbo, but at the very least, that heading-to-L.A. cliffhanger warrants a finale movie.

Great News
NBC’s Tina Fey–produced workplace sitcom, which featured Andrea Martin, deserves more time to build an audience. Plus, Fey already has one Netflix hit with the comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.