It’s that time of year! Time to check in on what streaming television shows and films failed to chart in the first half of 2022. Or as I call them, “Dogs Not Barking”.
As I wrote in my explainer post defining the term “Dogs Not Barking”, unlike say twenty or thirty years ago, when we used to get ratings for virtually every broadcast and cable TV show, not every streaming TV show and movie gets a ratings data point (which doesn’t mean that we don’t have any ratings) so a lot of films and TV shows come and go…and no one notices.
That’s a shame. We need ratings for a number of reasons, but mainly because not having them distorts the market (and much less importantly the ephemeral “conversation”). So I track these failures week in and week out, and, now, twice a year, I’m going to call them out. (Once in the summer and again at the end of the year.) The last time we did this, six months ago, I anointed both winners and losers in film and on TV. I also anointed one genre my loser of the year. At the end of the year, I’ll probably do that again. For now, I’m just looking at the duds, flops and bombs of 2022 so far.
Yes, this article is looooooooong. but we’re covering every miss for every streamer so far this year. If you’re an executive, you need want to know what’s actually popular and, more importantly, what isn’t, the next time you’re greenlighting a TV show, casting an actor, or negotiating budgets/contracts, you have to know what flopped this year. (Consider this my version of Bill Simmon’s formerly annual “trade value” column.)
Today, we’re looking at TV shows for each streamer, then we’ll hit the film side of things tomorrow.
Before we get into it, some ground rules:
– What’s a “Dog Not Barking”? Click here to read our explainer. It’s any film or TV show that either has no ratings data or underperforms on multiple metrics.
– We’re focusing, mostly, on big budget TV shows, especially scripted TV shows. We’re ignoring less expensive content and genres, like anime, kids programming, game shows, sports docs, reality shows, foreign language TV shows, true crime docs, and so on.
– This is a “U.S. only” look, since America is the most mature and competitive streaming market in the world and it has the best data available.
– I ordered the streamers in the same order as my “power rankings” from my Ankler rankings at the end of June.
– What determines the winner for each streamer? My gut, but that’s determined by roughly weighing how much money I think the streamer spent on the show, the talent attached, and how high profile the TV show was (or should have been).
– Hard Cell
– Human Resources
– Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy.
– The Pentaverate
– Formula 1: Drive to Survive
Honorable Mentions: The Guardians of Justice, The Andy Warhol Diaries, That’s My Time With David Letterman, Surviving Summer, Love on the Spectrum U.S., MaveriX, Bling Empire, Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness, Borgen: Power & Glory, Heartstopper
For the past month of so, I feel like I’ve been hammering Netflix. As my visual of the week showed, Netflix is the biggest streamer out there, by a lot, so I tend to focus on their (very influential) strategic choices. (Especially if I disagree with those choices.)
All that said, looking at the Dogs Not Barking so far this year…Netflix is doing really well! Their TV shows tend to be hits, or, at the very least, they tend to get enough views to avoid a “DNB” call out.
As for their flops so far this year, the Big Mouth spin-off, Human Resources, didn’t do well. (I’ve written about adult animation here.) Neither did Yeezy’s documentary. (I guess he isn’t the Beatles?) And Hard Cell is a small-ish UK import. I still see people crediting Formula 1: Drive to Survive for rescuing this sport in America, including the New York Times, who headlined a piece this month like this:
This is a notion that I pretty thoroughly debunked here. So how did this “hit” do on the Nielsen charts? It never made it. Nielsen provided me with data on the show, since I write about it a lot, and it maxed out at about four million hours. Which isn’t terrible, but also ranked second to last among fourth season debuts in my Nielsen database. In terms of perception vs. reality, Formula 1: Drive to Survive could easily be our winner.
Looking at the honorable mentions, most of those are small shows that (hopefully) didn’t cost too much. Even though Heartstopper didn’t chart on Nielsen, it has phenomenal IMDb scores and fans seem to love it, so it gets a pass. (I hope season two builds on this success and has some actual viewership.)
But Netflix’s Dog Not Barking of the first half of the year is fairly obvious…
And the Winner/Loser is…
What can I say? Everyone seemed to hate this show, if not the idea of this show even existing. (Which bums me out as a kid who grew up in the 1990s loving Mike Myers.) But as the only major, actual scripted Netflix TV show in my database that didn’t show up on Nielsen, it took the top prize by default.
– Conversations with Friends
– The Girl from Plainville
– The Kardashians
– Life & Beth
– The New York Times Presents:
– Under the Banner of Heaven
Honorable Mentions: The Hardy Boys, Bloods, Shoresy
I’ve heard people say that Hulu is on a great run recently, pointing out that Only Murders in the Building is a hit (it is) and so is the critically-beloved new dramedy The Bear. (I’m waiting on the data, but if it is a hit, it’ll be Hulu’s first successful dramedy….ever?)
But this is why we do this exercise. This is a business of hits, but it also matters how many shows you have to make to get those hits. Looking at all the Hulu nominees this year, Hulu has had a rough year so far.
Honestly, it’s hard to pick a winner, since so many of these Hulu shows have big names attached, yet totally failed to attract any mainstream interest. Conversations with Friends comes from the writer of Normal People, Dollface stars Kat Dennings, The Girl from Plainville stars Elle Fanning, Pistol came from Danny Boyle, and Woke should have been buzzy, but wasn’t.
And it’s not just prestige fare. The (probably expensive) reality show, The Kardashians, failed to resonate. Even though Hulu released a datacdote saying it was one of their biggest premieres, it never made the Nielsen charts. (Perhaps because they took this show in a more serious, less fun direction? Or maybe this was a show that was previously popular on a basic cable channel.)
Or look at Life & Beth and Under the Banner of Heaven. Getting someone like Amy Schumer to create and star in a TV show, then have that show totally fail to draw any sort of audience is a huge miss. (And as I wrote in my streaming Ratings Report at the time, I love Amy Schumer and it totally bums me out to write this.) Same goes for Under the Banner of Heaven, based on a book by Jon Krakauer, a favorite author of mine, and starring Andrew Garfield. Both of these shows feel huge. Or like they should have been huge.
Don’t let the short honorable mentions list fool you; this list could be a lot longer. Hulu has a lot of originals (especially true crime docs) and most of them failed to chart, but I only included scripted Originals above, aside from The NY Times Presents…, which was supposed to be a “game changer” as early news reports buzzed. Clearly it hasn’t been.
And the Winner/Loser is…
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