Amazon’s bad luck with US acquisitions continues this year, with CBS deciding to cancel both BrainDead and American Gothic.
US exclusives are a cornerstone of UK streaming services. While Netflix and Amazon in the US snap up British fare, such as ITV’s Paranoia, E4’s Crazyhead, and BBC’s Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders, over here, streaming services are forever trying to find the next Breaking Bad.
Amazon has had some strong success on that front, with History’s Vikings building a loyal audience of fans and Mr. Robot proving one of the breakout hits of the last two years. The Walking Dead Season 1 to 5 are the icing on the cake. But Amazon, perhaps more than Netflix, has also been badly burned. Last year, comic book series Constantine got the chop by NBC, while Cameron Crowe’s Roadies was told to hit the road earlier this year. Now, two of its US premieres this summer are doing the same.
Both of the scripted originals aired on CBS in the US. Braindead, from The Good Wife’s Robert and Michelle King, was a political comedy about a horde of brain-eating alien slugs taking over Washington, causing people to become more irrational, extreme and intolerant.
“With enough laughs to keep you entertained, BrainDead’s bizarre mix of sci-fi, social commentary and spontaneous combustion makes for a fun, trashy distraction from the news,” we wrote in
our review. “But beneath the silliness lies a bitingly satirical question – how else do you explain what’s going on?”
In the US, though, the show failed to attract decent ratings – a perpetual risk for UK services hoping they’ve picked up something that will prove successful. The Hollywood Reporter says that viewing figures were a “dismal 0.4 among adults 18-49 — with seven days of DVR” on CBS, with the show’s debut bringing in 5 million live viewers and ending with half that amount.
American Gothic, from executive producer Corinne Brinkerhoff (who worked with the Kings on The Good Wife), starred Juliet Rylance and Justin Chatwin in a family drama in which the offspring of a wealthy property businessman suspected that their ailing dad could be a serial killer. “What American Gothic desperately needs are some dead bodies – preferably by bumping off the whole family,” we wrote of the opening episodes. The show began with 3.4 million viewers on CBS, but ended up with figures “only slightly better than BrainDead”.
CBS president Glenn Geller, talking with THR this summer, admitted that both underperformed, after the network decided to gamble on expensive scripted summer series, following the success of CBS’ Under the Dome.
The one series that has remained from CBR’s summer push is Zoo, based on the novel by James Patterson. As luck would have it for Amazon, though, that was snapped up by Netflix.