2018 may go down as the year in TV history where if the fans spoke loud enough, their favorite shows could continue. Lucifer escaped cancellation Hell thanks to Netflix and a very loud fan base. Brooklyn Nine-Nine went to NBC, the studio that produced the series in the first place. Last Man Standing got picked up by FOX for a seventh season a year after ABC let it go. And Timeless… well, that one sadly did run out of time.
There’s another fan group that is also not ready for their final hunt.
Last month, Freeform cancelled Shadowhunters, their genre series based on the Mortal Instruments book series by Cassandra Clare. The series premiered to huge numbers on the network and was always a big audience-getter at conventions, and the series – with its very diverse cast and engaging stories – was a gem in the Freeform schedule. While the already-produced next ten episodes are the end, the show is in production on a final two stories to wrap it all up. Oh, and those final episodes? Fans will have to wait until next year to see them. A big bummer since Season 3A comprised of only ten episodes.
What I think no one can argue with is that there’s a huge Shadowhunters fan base ready and willing to keep watching this show, and that, beyond coming from an outside studio (Constantin Film) being a potential problem, it’s an investment that might be worth keeping. But, in order to invest, Freeform, the studio, and the fans have a lot to consider. Here are some thoughts:
Cost/Number of Episodes
Unless I’m mistaken (and if I am, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter), part of the reason Netflix pulled out of their deal with Constantin Film may have had to do with the number of episodes provided to them every year, and Freeform and Constantin could not come to an agreement that would make it financially feasible. It is to be assumed that Freeform doesn’t get much of the back end from the Netflix side of things, so maybe that is something that could have been negotiated. It’s long been rumored that Disney will have a streaming service of their own launching in 2019, and a series like Shadowhunters could have been a good reason for people to get it, if a deal could be worked out that way.
I’m also surprised that cost isn’t something that could be brought down, or that alternative methods can’t be had so a streaming service has more episodes, perhaps even exclusively. Say Netflix wants 22 episodes and Freeform wants only 17. Could it be possible to do a 5-episode arc of the history of Magnus Bane or something, to make as an added bonus exclusive to a streaming service? Or could we have episodes without the entire cast present, allowing them to save some budget there? Or, visual effects: Alicante is beautiful, but maybe such fantastical places can be kept to our imagination if it’s too expensive to put together? Surely some cost-cutting can be done.
Or, merchandising could be a way to get the revenues to make a deal that Freeform could agree to. Is there even a Shadowhunters Blu-ray out there somewhere? How about Funko Pop Vinyls – come on, you know you want li’l Funko Malec toys. There are so much areas financially that can be tapped, and all the fans have done recently has shown that they can (and will) spend money.
A Worthy Investment
It’s been said before that “you have to spend money to make money.” Again, looking to Twitter, Shadowhunters has an amazingly large fan base of all ages, but best of all, there are a lot that are very young — a perfect demographic to buy the products sold in ads, but also, the perfect demographic to sell your other shows to. A fan who saw a network cancel their favorite show might not stick around to see what new things they have to offer. But if, say, Freeform were to turn around and say “hey, look, we made Season 4 happen after all,” who is to say that the fans won’t go to check out Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger? The fans just need to know where to find Shadowhunters, which is what I’m getting to next.
It is true that Shadowhunters’ ratings had been on a downward slope, as are most series on the current television landscape. But realistically, it doesn’t help that Freeform never has a traditional “start of season,” and as far as I know, repeats aren’t shown in that middle time to keep the time slot warm. This puts a series like Shadowhunters at a disadvantage that, say, something like The CW’s The Flash might not have.
There is so much TV that if fans don’t know that, say, Shadowhunters usually returns the first week of March (an example, not what they always do), they might not be watching. Then they fall behind, or decide to wait for streaming/Netflix, even if the episodes are available on the Freeform app.
Freeform does often do their things where they release in 10-episode chunks, and that’s fine. But why aren’t these “seasons” launched together? How cool would it have been if Shadowhunters and Cloak & Dagger had been on the same night? It would probably save on advertising and PR to launch so much together, as well. Look, I get it: It’s hard to stand out among the static, but it can be done. And with the Shadowhunters fandom mobilized, including the series would be beneficial to the rest of that lineup.
Some fans have turned their noses up at the notion of Shadowhunters remaining with Freeform. I get it, but as a journalist covering the show, I’ve also seen the effort Freeform has made behind the scenes, and frankly, their pushing of Shadowhunters was some of the most impressive that I’ve dealt with. They were always willing to make the actors and talent available to promote the show, and the actors and talent were always willing to do it. I know and understand there have been things deleted from their Facebook page and such, and I can’t excuse that, but I can assure that there are people who love the series over there. That also possibly means that all hope is not lost.
But also, unfortunately, it would be very difficult for another network to just pick up where this Shadowhunters TV series left off. Networks want their own new thing, and we’d probably get stuck with a new show with a completely different cast, and after what happened with the movie, Mortal Instruments fans have already been through that.
Freeform has definitely been generous by allowing the show to film a final two episodes, which is a conclusion not afforded to many other shows that have ended for them. But then again, did those shows have the passion of the Shadowhunters fan base?
Finally, as mentioned above, to give Shadowhunters a reprieve would make them look very, very good… and, it might boost their whole lineup.
It’s weird; because about five years ago, ABC Family seemed to be like the network that The WB used to be. Surely Freeform can get back to that, and Shadowhunters is part of that equation. But also, Shadowhunters matches the progressive diversity that shows like The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars had. It’s on-brand, with a genre twist. This series has broken through in so many ways because there’s really a character for everyone to love, and Shadowhunters has always had the potential to be an anchor show for Freeform.
What Can Fans Do?
From what I have experienced, Shadowhunters fans have been amazing, supportive… and polite, which is something that doesn’t always happen with fan campaigns. There has been so much support for the show, here in the U.S. but even in international places as far away as South Korea. There have been airplanes with banners, Times Square advertisements… all brought out by the love of this fan base that refuses to end the hunt.
But, if Freeform (or anyone) were to pick up the show for more, fans can’t just sit back.
Even now, watching Shadowhunters on the Freeform app would show them that there is an audience, and that they can make money from the advertising within. Freeform’s making money? More reason to pick up more! Telling friends to watch too, of course, is a good move.
If Shadowhunters did get a miracle reprieve by Freeform, check out their other programming. Like I said, Cloak & Dagger is really good. There might be other things that are coming up that might be enjoyable. But a tick up in ratings (or online views) would certainly tell Freeform that the fan base means business, in a language they can definitely speak ($$$).
And, if anyone from Freeform is reading this: I’m a fan myself, and if there’s anything I can do from my end to push a Season 4 if it happens, you’ve got my number.
Is It Too Late?
Production seems to have already started on the final two episodes to wrap up the series, though it’s been hinted that not everything is wrapped up. Still, it sounds like entire books are going to be crammed into the end of that story. The time for Constantin and Freeform to work something out is obviously “ASAP.” Some of the cast such as Alisha Wainwright (Maia) are already booking new projects, and surely these people are in such demand that they’re going to get scooped up if action isn’t taken soon.
Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz told Deadline that Constantin is “amazed by the dedication and persistence of the incredible fandom of Shadowhunters and the #SaveShadowhunters campaign, and that they are “in ongoing discussions with the network and Netflix to how we can continue to bring Cassandra Claire’s vision to television.” Okay, then make it happen already.
I’m not without hope, and fans shouldn’t be either. But really, Freeform, Constantin: Talk it over. Negotiate. You’re sitting on a gold mine. #SaveShadowhunters