The Bad Binge: Netflix Failures

Naomi Watts in Gypsy (NETFLIX)

It began rather quietly as a DVD mail-order service; it arrived on the streaming scene with a bang. Consumers were intrigued and bewildered, and before they knew it, they were sold. A then-unique platform, Netflix offered unprecedented convenience as well as some high quality programming. The combination of content and timing propelled Netflix into popularity, and now the service has become ubiquitous as competitors scramble to catch up. Netflix triumphed in a variety of ways; perhaps the most important was featuring its own original content, making sure that the programming was top shelf, and then making it available all at once. Many other networks and services soon realized that it was cheaper to make their own products and own them as opposed to buying others, which is why pretty much every channel, from Hallmark to Bringham Young University TV, is now making their own shows.

While House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black were fantastic, not every Netflix show has been a hit. Now that the service has become massive and looks to appeal to a such a wide variety of audiences, the number of shows being offered has sky-rocketed. However, not all have been a success — after all, they can’t all be Strangers Things. Here are those series we would rather soon forget.

Iron Fist

Eventually, one way or another, the Marvel Universe was going to take a misstep — and what a misstep it was. While Daredevil and Jessica Jones were two quality starts for the Netflix Marvel World (Marvel Netflix Universe? Marvel Televisual Galaxy?), fans were less impressed with Luke Cage, and virtually unanimously loathed Iron Fist. It was a familiar origin story about a spoiled rich kid getting superpowers, and it was done poorly. What’s more, the way the showrunners and star Finn Jones dealt with controversy surrounding white-washing the title
character was less than appealing. All around, it was an opportunity missed. The show itself felt like a rushed series that just needed to be done in order to set up The Defenders, and it seems that nobody who watched the latter felt compelled to watch Iron Fist.

The Mist

Someone had the great idea to serialize Stephen King’s terrifying novella, but unfortunately, they didn’t have many brainwaves to follow. The Mist is about a small town that becomes enshrouded by a strange physical presence, one that also in turn features a lot of weird,
supernatural monsters and other terrors. And when people are holed up together, their inner monsters are also revealed. So you know, layers. While the feature film made ten years ago was pretty effective on both fronts, the Netflix iteration is plagued by a lack of talent all around. The acting is poor, the writing is worse, and the special effects are lazy by any standards. When you can’t get the actual mist to look good, it’s going to be a tough slog. The insufferable first episode, while poorly introducing a terror that’s coming, decides it wants to be a family drama and tackles the topic of rape in ways so cliche, so empty, that it would be offensive if it weren’t so asinine. Oh, the high school
quarterback may have sexually assaulted a woman? And his dad is the maybe-racist-and-sexist police chief? How novel!

Hemlock Grove

Oh how I loathe you, Hemlock Grove. I feel ashamed and betrayed when I remember all the time I spent watching the show — it was my first recorded instance of thinking, “Oh, this will get better…eventually.” Most of us have had that feeling by now with Netflix, and many of us are getting more adept at recognizing that some shows will never get over an early hump and will never deliver. This was one of those shows. Promoted as having an Eli Roth influence, and promising scares and blood, Hemlock Grove offered nothing but terrible dialogue, poor acting, and not a single payoff. New showrunners came onboard for the second season to try and salvage the series, but to no avail. Inexplicably, the series went on for a third season, but by then it had been forgotten, with even most of the cast not returning. Netflix knows it faltered with this one; it’s not an easy show to find in your queue.


This is a curious entry, and definitely a misfire that Netflix didn’t see coming. Gypsy has star power and great acting, led by Naomi Watts. It has a familiar yet alluring conceit: a beautiful middle-aged woman seeks something more in her life (hint: sex). Moreover, Gypsy is technically well-executed and has high production value. The problem is that it’s so exceedingly boring, and doesn’t deliver on the passionate and scandalous stakes it raises in the beginning. Premises generally can sound familiar, but it’s the storylines that develop from them that make a show compelling. Gypsy follows a template, almost a paint-by-numbers story of a successful woman rebelling against what we all see as a happy life. Tepid and weak-willed, this story has been told over and over again in the same exact way, and we’ve lost our ability to care.

Most Live Action Comedy

For whatever reason, Netflix struggles with comedy, and I’d put their success rate under 30%. Yes, Master of None is fantastic, and surely it’s funny, but it definitely is also a drama that explores family, religion, love, discrimination, sexism, and many other relevant, important
issues. Also, GLOW is great. But those are the exceptions rather than the rule. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has gone downhill after a strong first season, and that was the season originally intended for network TV — hard to give Netflix credit for that. Arrested
Development had one season on the streaming service, and we all know how much that struggled to recapture its glory. Girlboss was cancelled after one season, Haters Back Off! received poor reviews, and so has Friends from College. A new offering is Disjointed, in which Kathy Bates runs a marijuana shop in a show that’s riddled with cliches and stereotypes. Pro tip: when a show is promoted as ‘from the guys who brought you Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory’, you’re going to want to change the channel (or disconnect?).

Netflix really loves Will Arnett, and while Bojack Horseman is terrific, his attempt to play David Duchovny in Californication didn’t quite work with Flaked. I did not watch The Ranch, nor do I ever intend to. Meanwhile, Love is insufferable and I can’t keep writing about it.

Please take it away, Netflix, and start making us laugh.

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.