'Anne with an E' becomes casualty of Netflix-CBC divorce and girls world over are denied a much-needed show
The unacceptable casualty of bad corporate deal-making has been 'Anne with an E', a female-centric show in a TV landscape that has very few such offerings with a global following
In an Instagram post, after the cancellation of 'Anne with an E', the show's producer Moira Walley-Beckett wrote: "Art and Commerce is never an easy marriage. I often find it inexplicable. This is one of those times. But it’s impossible to argue with words like Economics, Algorithms, Demographics, etc., etc. But those words and others like them are the reason why the Networks don’t want to continue."
Long before Netflix and CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Company) released a joint statement in November 2019 confirming that 'Anne With an E' would end after its current third season, discontentment was already in the air. It began right after the third season renewal was announced with CBC's president and CEO, Catherine Tait, announcing that the network would no longer partner with Netflix to produce big-budget series (like' Anne with an E'), in an effort to benefit their "own domestic business and industry."
In a podcast for 'Content Canada', Tait added that, "We’re not going to do deals that hurt the long-time viability of our domestic industry." Part of the problem in that within Canada, 'Anne of Green Gables' is an old and well-known property that has seen several iterations on-screen.
According to Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle, "the series was never a huge hit for CBC TV. It got about half the viewing numbers that Murdoch Mysteries gets and its Sunday night time slot put it up against the hottest series on prestige cable. Further, its older audience in Canada was put off by its divergence from the beloved source material."
So in a sense, CBC's Canada-only distribution rights did not justify the kind of Canadian public's money they were putting into the show, which explains Tait's words about the "viability of our domestic industry" and a general sense that the deal brokering between CBC and Netflix had left CBC with a money-sucking dud while Netflix had a global hit on its hands and a partner to share the costs of making the show.
We will never know why exactly CBC decided to "uncouple" from Netflix but we would imagine that the economics of it was no longer making any sense. The unacceptable casualty, however, of this bad corporate deal-making has been 'Anne with an E'.
This is a huge pity, given the show's messages and what it represents in the TV landscape with very few women-centric shows with a global following. 'Anne with an E' updates the quaint, quintessential Canadian tale, stifled by its period-based specificity (and prejudices against "heathens" for example) for a modern audience by taking on topical concerns like bullying, racism, homophobia, feminism, gender parity, censorship, and the (mis)treatment of First Nations peoples.
It is a fairy-tale of hope, justice, and freedom for girls, teaching them to dream a little more and bigger. Thanks to Netflix, the show found a global audience and a rabid fan base of girls and women.
It is a rare show, with high production values, that explores girlhood and a coming-of-age story that speaks to the concerns of young girls and women in a way that no show in recent past has done. The last time we had such a strong feminist cultural impact was 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. Yes, it has been that long.
Given its cultural impact on young girls and women, there is a case to be made for Netflix bankrolling the show on its own after CBC has departed in a huff. Netflix has reached out to fans asking them to request another season of 'Anne with an E' on their website.
The streaming platform also has a history of taking up shows abandoned by networks (like 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' and 'Lucifer') based on viewing numbers and data collection but it has also ruthlessly ended other shows with a strong fan following like 'The OA'.
But given that it holds the rights to the show and no other network or platform can continue making the show, it holds special responsibility for the show's cancellation.
Yes, the marriage of art and commerce is never easy, and the CBC and Netflix partnership is definitely over. But for a rare creation like 'Anne with an E', Netflix, with its deep pockets, should consider being a single parent. Because in a world that is increasingly being commercialized and commodified, we need all the precious art we can get to survive.
'Anne with an E' Season 3 is currently being streamed on Netflix.