Well, it’s that time of the year. Time to review all of the flops, misses and bombs of the second half of 2022! (You can find our “Dogs Not Barking” for the first half of the year here and here.) Once we get this done, I’m going to figure out all the winners and losers of 2022.
To start, I’ll explain what my term, a “Dog Not Barking” (or “DNB”), means, why I write these columns, and my methodology. Also, I include a warning for PR execs who might complain about this exercise…
Today, I’ll review all of the flops, bombs, misses and what I call “Dogs Not Barking” for streaming films, using a top 35 list. (This isn’t some magic number, just the amount of film bombs for the second half of the year.) Tomorrow, I’ll look at the TV side, streamer-by-streamer (since a ton more TV shows flopped than films). On a happier note, I’ll be declaring my winners of the year on Friday, along with my losers of the year, in lieu of this week’s Streaming Ratings Report. (It’s a light week anyway, so we’ll do a double issue the Friday after next.) Finally, I’ll close out with a strategy column next Tuesday, ranking the streamers and sharing all of my strategic takeaways and insights from doing this series, and believe me:
There’s a bunch strategic takeaways.
Unlike the first half of the year, we have a ton of films to discuss, especially since theatrical releases crowded a lot of streaming-exclusive titles from the rankings.
Let’s get right to it.
What’s a “Dog Not Barking”?
First off, especially if you’re new to my work, you’re probably like, “Wait, what? What’s a ‘Dog Not Barking?’” In short, it’s any TV show or film that fails to make any rating chart that I track. Read my full explainer here.
Unlike the past, when Nielsen released ratings for virtually every TV show and virtually every film had box office data, nowadays, Nielsen only releases limited data on streaming ratings. (To be clear, we have streaming ratings now, and it’s not all lies or too confusing to figure out.) So many TV shows or films (on streaming) can come or go, totally flop, and no one notices, because we only have top ten lists for streaming ratings.
This is, I would argue, bad for the industry as a whole. It upends accountability, makes creatives confused and depressed, and distorts the market.
Worse, some streamers actively benefit from this lack of negative PR. TV shows, especially pre-streaming ratings era, could become “buzzy” (i.e. critics liked them or people on Twitter talked about the shows a lot) then everyone just assumed that these shows were hits, even if, you know, no one was actually watching them!) I saw this firsthand when I worked at a streamer; everyone in town thought some of our shows were huge hits, but our internal data said otherwise.
But we never corrected this misperception, for obvious reasons.
At least two or three streamers actively benefit from this lack of negative PR and I’m doing my best to counter act it. People just don’t realize how poor the hit rate is for many of these streamers. For example, I’m sure you heard that Prey was a medium-sized hit. It was! What you didn’t hear about was all of Hulu’s others films that came out and failed to get any viewership. That’s why we’re doing this exercise: to put the successes in context of all the misses.
When I initially compiled this list, of every “Dog Not Barking” I collected over the last six months, it was over six pages long. Believe me, my life would be so much easier if we had even more ratings data, like weekly top ten lists from every streamer. I welcome and dream about that future.
I got more feedback and responses to my previous “Dogs Not Barking for the First Half of 2022” series than almost anything else I’ve ever written. It was widely, widely shared, but also…
PR reps didn’t like it.
Before I get into the flops for the second half of the year, let me some points crystal clear:
– As best I can, I track every new release from every major streamer: Apple TV+, Peacock, Paramount+, Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max and Netflix. (Apologies to AMC+, Shudder, etc.)
– If a TV show or film failed to make any of the charts I track, it’s a “Dog Not Barking”.
– If a TV show or film is high-profile or expensive enough, and still underperforms in terms of ratings, then it’s a “flop” or a “miss”.
– That said, I may have missed some films and TV shows! Just compiling this list, I’ve found two very notable films and two very notable TV shows I had missed. If I can’t keep track of all the flops, how can the average development exec? (Please email or tweet me any notable titles that you think flopped so I can double-check them and provide future updates.)
– Why didn’t this report come out earlier? Well, Nielsen has a four week delay. Plus, there’s a ton of data to sort through.
– My focus is mostly on scripted content. That means a whole bunch of (mostly true crime) documentaries get somewhat of a pass. Same for small animated specials. And there’s no stand up specials, which tend to be too short to make the ratings.
– I’m also focusing on first run, exclusive titles. If a film went to theaters, it’s not on here. (This doesn’t include limited releases, especially fake limited releases with no official box office numbers.)
– This is a “U.S.”-only look. For now, my weekly streaming ratings report only covers America, so this look only covers it too. America is the most lucrative, and thus important, battleground in the streaming wars. Plus it has the most robust data at this time.
– Related, I’m only looking at English-language films and TV shows, unless the foreign-language film was particularly notable.
– I don’t care about awards or critical acclaim. I seriously don’t. If you email me saying, “But this show/film got great reviews” I honestly don’t care. That’s not what this is about.There’s countless people and websites covering that metric.
– Similarly, I don’t care if other people “widely regarded your film or TV shows as hits”. I don’t know these other people. If they don’t follow the data—and live on Twitter all day—that’s on them. I follow the data and I go with the data says.
– I don’t care if your show broke “internal records”. You’re not competing against yourself; you’re competing against Netflix. Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, others…you streamers are allowed to publicly share information and ratings data like Netflix does. You can provide weekly top ten lists and, believe me, I’d love to have and analyze that data! You choose not to supply this data, though, we all know why: the ratings for your original shows would be really low!
– If any PR execs still disagree with me, feel free to send me data that proves me wrong. You can pick the metric, but I also need a top ten list comparing that show to other shows on your platform with clear dates so I can put the show in context.
– Finally, I’ll mention budgets below, even though most of this data isn’t public. How do I estimate a budget? Uh, I compare it to other movies or Tv shows? I know if something looks expensive! But if you think I’m wrong, feel free to provide me with actual budgets.
Don’t blame me, the messenger; I’m just sharing the results. Again, this brings me no joy to write. I don’t like saying that something, which required hours and hours of work from undoubtedly hard-working creators, didn’t do well. Especially when I have to criticize people I really love, like Amy Schumer and Kate McKinnon. Or criticizing shows that my friends worked on.
One final note for films in particular: Apple, Amazon and Netflix are on a different level in terms of the number of film bombs compared to everyone else, which probably has to do with not sending their films to theaters. (But if I were a creative in Hollywood, I probably wouldn’t bank on this tech-funded-in-search-of-future-monopoly-profits largesse to continue forever.)
The Biggest Film “Dogs Not Barking”, Flops, Misses and Bombs (From Smallest Miss to Biggest Bomb)
- Beauty (Netflix)
- Blue’s Big City Adventure (Paramount+)
- Darby and the Dead (Hulu)
- Fantasy Football (Paramount+)
- I Used to Be Famous (Netflix)
- If These Walls Could Sing (Disney+)
- It’s a Wonderful Binge (Hulu)
- Mickey: The Story of a Mouse (Disney)
- South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2 (Paramount+)
- On the Come Up (Paramount+)
- White Noise (Netflix)
(White Noise did show up on Nielsen, getting 6.9 million hours the week it debuted, but with a budget of over a $100 million, this doesn’t seem like a great ROI. Like at all.)
33-35. Biopics That Deserved More: Sidney (Apple TV+), Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (Apple TV+), and The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Peacock).
Let’s start out on a pretty dour note. Two Apple TV+ biopics, about two of the most important artists of the 20th century, Sidney (on Sidney Poitier) and Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues came and went, seemingly, without anyone knowing. Same goes for Peacock’s The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.
(My researcher, a giant, giant Louis Armstrong super fan, was pretty peeved that this documentary went to Apple, not Netflix or Disney+, and garnered minimal attention, since Louis Armstrong and his impact on all music is criminally underrated. He’s perhaps the most under-rated musician of the 20th century. And this film got no attention. Just like the Beastie Boys. Oh wait, you didn’t know that the Beastie Boys had a Spike Jonze-directed doc come out two years ago either?)
After a certain point, if you care about these people and their important stories and messages, it’s a disservice to the country and their legacy to not release these films in theaters, not market them appropriately, or stream them on lowly-ranked streamers.
29-32. Small Animated Netflix Films: Oni: Thunder God’s Tale, The Soccer Football Movie, Entergalactic, My Father’s Dragon.
Man, Netflix sure releases a lot of films. (Don’t worry, Hollywood, we’re not in a bubble!) Luckily, for them, these don’t seem as expensive as many of the films they make.
26-28. Esoteric Documentaries: “Sr.” (Netflix), Stutz (Netflix), Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me (Apple TV+)
So, in a true sign of peak TV, this year Robert Downey Jr. made a documentary about his dad (who I guess was famous, but like, not outside-of-NYC famous), Jonah Hill made a documentary about his therapist, which is weird, and Selena Gomez starred in a documentary about herself, her career, and health and mental health issues. (To its credit, it did make TV Time for one week.)
None of them resonated with audiences.
25. The Independent (Peacock)
24. Don’t Make Me Go (Prime Video)
23. Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher (Prime Video)
22. The Stranger (Netflix)
There’s not much to say about these mid-tier films except that they have some big stars (John Cena, Russell Crowe, Ray Winstone, John Cho, Joel Edgerton, Kaitlyn Dever), but you’ve probably never even heard of them. (Rosaline did make the TV Time charts for two weeks, but it’s still a miss.)
15-20. Horror Films: They/Them (Peacock), Run Sweetheart Run (Prime Video), Nanny (Prime Video), Significant Other (Paramount+), Goodnight Mommy (Prime Video), Grimcutty (Hulu), My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Prime Video)
Remember when horror was the hottest thing in town? And everyone signed Jason Blum to a production deal? (Like, literally, every studio.) My researcher/editor does: he used to read hundreds and hundreds of horror scripts every year, circa 2018-2020, when every agent and manager in town told their clients to write a horror film.
Well, this year, horror yielded a ton of flops on streaming. The most notable titles are Peacock’s They/Them, starring Kevin Bacon (which made TV Time for one week, but still counts as a flop) and Prime Video’s two Sundance acquired-but-Blumhouse-produced films, Nanny and Run Sweetheart Run.
(To be clear, this doesn’t apply to theatrical horror films, though there may be some selection bias going on, meaning the good film go to theaters and the bad ones go to streaming. If you’re a streamer, then, don’t buy the bad ones.)
13-14. Small Direct to Disney+ Animated Titles: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2022), Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again
Though I think Disney struggled with their franchises in 2022, neither of these film franchises series feel particularly important to their future going forward.
Still, why not try a theatrical release?
10-12. Flops From Hot Young Stars: My Policeman (Prime Video), Catherine Called Birdy (Prime Video), Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Netflix)
During all of the sturm-und-drang leading up to Don’t Worry Darling‘s premiere, almost every commentator I read mentioned that Harry Styles was a huge star…so how come no one noticed when My Policeman came out? I bet I could even quiz Harry Styles fans and they wouldn’t know what this movie was.
I feel bad for Bella Ramsey; I still get chills thinking about her great speech in Game of Thrones announcing Jon Snow as king of the North. But Catherine Called Birdy, a Lena Dunham-helmed period piece, bombed. Bella Ramsey deserves better. (Oh wait, she’s killing it in HBO’s most recent hit show, The Last of Us? Phew!)
Finally, I don’t know if Emma Corrin (from The Crown) is supposed to be a big star or not, but Lady Chatterley’s Lover didn’t resonate with Netflix viewers. (She also co-starred in My Policeman.)
9. The Redeem Team (Netflix)
At some point, I’m going to need to dive into the hit rate of basketball films, basketball documentaries, and production companies owned by basketball players. (Not every NBA player is Kobe Bryant! Is the “production company” the NBA player’s version of investing in a bar or restaurant?)
But I’ll say this: this documentary, produced by the very players who starred in it, seems pretty self-serving and I think viewers felt the same way.
6-8. A Whole Bunch of Big Film Swings From Apple TV+: Raymond & Ray, Causeway, The Greatest Beer Run Ever.
The list of high profile actors and talent (Ewan McGregor, Ethan Hawke, Mirabel Verdú, Jennifer Lawrence, Zac Efron, Peter Farrelly, Russell Crowe) that Apple can attract, yet not generate interest in their work, is just astounding. (And unsustainable.)
Of course, the biggest Apple bomb is yet to come…
5. The People We Hate at the Wedding (Prime Video)
Starring a whole bunch of big names (Allison Janney, Kristen Bell, Ben Platt) The People We Hate at the Wedding is Prime Video’s DNB of the year.
(I’ve very curious, if we had streaming ratings during Netflix’s “Summer of Love”, if romcoms would be as in demand as people think they are. That said, Purple Hearts killed it this summer.)
3-4. Big Budget Animated Titles: Wendell & Wild [Netflix), Luck (Apple TV+)
To be clear: I don’t like having to write this article. Take Wendell & Wild. I still feel horrible that Harry Selick doesn’t get the credit he deserves for directing A Nightmare Before Christmas. But with a ton of big stars (Key & Peele, Lyric Ross, Angela Bassett, Ving Rhames) this was a huge let down (in spite of making TV Time for a week). And I’m bummed out for Harry Selick all over again.
Luck is far less high profile, but with a budget of possibly $200 million, this was a huge miss for Apple TV +, in spite of making the TV Time charts for two weeks. At that budget, it needed to do better to not be counted as a swing-and-a-huge-miss.
2. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Netflix)
What separates Bardo from all of the other candidates for the biggest “Dog Not Barking” or bomb of the year? In addition to not making Nielsen or TV Time, or any other interest tracker, the biggest red flag to me is the genre: it’s the sort film that the streamers want to make (prestige dramas that can seem impressive to their colleagues) that, as we get more and more data, it’s clear many, many people don’t actually want to watch. (This is why ratings data is useful.)
1. Emancipation (Apple TV+)
Well, it’s our bomb of the year. Emancipation didn’t chart on Nielsen. Or TV Time. Perhaps you could blame the slap, but a 53 score on Metacritic is pretty middling. Though it has 20K+ IMDb reviews, at a 6.1, with an equal number of 10 star votes and 1 star votes), the real issue is the cost:
$120 million dollars.
(And, of course, the huge talent attached: Will Smith and Antione Fuqua.)
That’s the budget of an entire season of an expensive television show. This is, far and away, the bomb of the year for streaming films.