Netflix has cancelled The Break with Michelle Wolf and The Joel McHale Show.
The streaming giant has been trying to crack the talk show genre for several years. Indeed, the US late night circuit has been riding something of a high recently, thanks to a combination of increasingly over-the-top celebrity skits and Donald Trump-fuelled material. While nightly ratings don’t spell competition for Netflix, the web-focused strategy of these shows does; the streaming giant has to battle everything else on the web to secure attention spans as well as eyeballs, and with star-studded stunts going to further and further lengths in a bid to become viral, it’s easier than ever for viewers to become distracted away from Netflix by YouTube clips being shared on social media.
Netflix’s solution has been to commission its own talk shows, but then has the challenge of distinguishing its offerings from the crowd. It’s first attempt, with Chelsea Handler, had a reformat after its first season (released several nights a week with topical celebrity guests) failed to draw a crowd. After two seasons, though, the show was axed, with Netflix putting its talk shows eggs in the baskets of The Break with Michelle Wolf and The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale.
Both series capitalised on previous track records, with Wolf working on The Daily Show and McHale hosting The Soup on E!. The Break released its 10 episodes across spring and summer, with episodes released weekly on Sundays. McHale’s series, meanwhile, initially tried the same weekly approach on Sundays, before a shorter, second season of six parts was released all at once this summer.
While Wolf enjoyed a boost of publicity following her hosting of the White House Correspondents Dinner, McHale’s run was quieter and generated less buzz. Neither, however, have make significant waves among viewers – sources tell Deadline their viewerships simply weren’t big enough – and so Netflix has decided not to renew either.
Netflix’s remaining efforts in the genre are Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which it bought from Crackle and has a strong existing brand and audience to capitalise upon, and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. While the latter also has a household name attached, its format is notably distinct from the usual late night crowd, focusing instead on long-form Q&As with celebrities selected by Letterman, rather than based on who’s doing a promotional tour.
Whether that unique quality will be enough to keep it going for several more seasons is yet to be seen. In the meantime, Netflix has another round of talk show contenders lined up to debut this autumn, including Patriot Act, from The Daily Show‘s Hasan Minhaj, a show from Norm Macdonald, and a comedy panel show, fronted by Jimmy Carr and Katherine Ryan, called The Fix.