Between lukewarm ratings and a new home, how Netflix can breathe a second life into 'Lucifer'

Shows based on comic titles - Riverdale and the vast Marvel archive - have already cracked the Netflix formula, so it is not like 'Lucifer' doesn't have enough inspiration online.

                            Between lukewarm ratings and a new home, how Netflix can breathe a second life into 'Lucifer'
Actor Tom Ellis (Source: Getty Images)

Drama and television go hand in hand and Netflix, it seems, is on a mission to hone this concept as well. Recently, in a truly heroic style, the streaming giant turned guardian angel for the devil-led police procedural, 'Lucifer'. After a bout of staggering rating from the viewers, Fox axed the show. But in the broadcasting company's defense, the stakes were at an all-time high, given the competition from fellow networks and the ever-growing streaming service providers in the showbiz.   

Coupled with the downward-sloping viewership curve and a failure in regards to drawing a wider base of an audience - as opposed to politically and socially-driven shows like 'Roseanne' and 'Last Man Standing' - it was about time that Fox started reshuffling it's current entertainment content, starting with shows like 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine', 'The Last Man on Earth' and dramas such as 'Lucifer' and 'The Exorcist.'

In fact, when the bout of cancelation began in May, 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' was amongst the first ones to be given the boot. This triggered a trending hashtag, with fans signing petitions for the show to be revived. The cop-comedy in a way set the path for 'Lucifer' fans to follow suit. What followed next was quite unexpected as the legion of fans and cast together made #SaveLucifer a legit campaign on social media.

The hashtag was active for weeks and just around the time 'Lucifer' cast was about to run out of options, Netflix went all brazen, giving a second birth to the series online.

After a gigantic season 3 cliffhanger ending and two special features wrapping up the show based on DC Comics title, permanently on Fox, 'Lucifer' was picked up for a fourth run on Netflix. Created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenber for the Vertigo imprint of the Comics, the story of fallen angel Mr. Morningstar supposedly continues with a 10-episode order from the streamer, even accommodating the original season 4 arc that showrunner had in mind.

“We were going to have two parts to it anyway, so we’ll just tell a really strong, gnarly first part,”  Ildy Modrovich told TV Line, to the delight of Luci-loyalists. 

With a change in address, co-showrunner Joe Henderson further banked on the opportunity, leaving a little teaser as well. "We have a really strong first half that is now going to make for an amazing story,” he explained. 

A leap of logic would suggest that the market-leading Netflix was tempted into saving 'Lucifer' because of the unprecedented fan reaction - a thought echoed by Henderson as well, who asserted, “What we have been told, basically, is 1) [Netflix bosses] love the show, and 2) they loved the fan reaction. They really noticed it." However, while discussion the micro, it would be naive to believe that such a radical decision was taken solely based on the demands posed by thousands of fans online. (Not to say their voice wasn't heard).

Netflix has a vested interest, to say the least, and rightly so. The streaming giant has been on a revival spree for some time now, breathing a new life into canceled shows such as 'The Killing', 'The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt', 'Arrested Development', 'Degrassi: Next Generation', 'Trailer Park Boys', 'Full House', and most recently the Tom Ellis-starring 'Lucifer.' 

On a side note, several other streamers too have been following suit and picking up this trend. 

Now the question arises, how does Netflix and 'Lucifer' benefit from this latest proposition. The answer is pretty simple. Informed articles and reports have suggested that the streamer has been channeling its resources towards niche entertainment content targeting a very specific audience group. Unlike traditional media channels and TV networks and the shows on air, Netflix closely guards its rating card.

So much so, that while discussing the style of rating content, Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix sent a subtle shade, saying, "The press, God love ’em, are a little lazy.” It all boils down to the debate over quality versus quantity and in an attempt to lure viewers away from the mainstream channels, the streamers have depended majorly on the latter - hence the focus on smaller target groups and niche shows/films. Together, this approach has been believed to be beneficial for the subscription-driven business module adopted by Netflix, as opposed to the advertisement dependency of network television. 

This is not to suggest that Netflix is not riding on the high horse of headline-grabbers. 'Lucifer's cancellation stirred news, and as part of the ripple effect, reviving the comic book adaptation ensured that all eyes were on Netflix, in its shining armor as well. Another reason making 'Lucifer' worthy of a second chance could have to do with the fact that it's the first DC Comics property that the streaming service has inked a deal with. 

Already home to a pantheon of Marvel TV assets, including highly-rated shows like 'Luke Cage', 'Iron Fist', 'Daredevil', 'Jessica Jones', 'The Punisher' and 'The Defenders', the addition of 'Lucifer' is sure to diversify Netflix's roster. And this brings us to the opportunity that the change in address holds for the showrunners and the creative working behind 'Lucifer' to ensure a rebirth of the show, pulling in greater viewership for the show - an aspect of showbiz that goes hand in hand with content quality. 

In the hands of network television, the show suffered what can be explained as a lack of consistent delivery. An old Reddit thread tried to raise this issue as well, asking fans of the demon-led drama some very relevant questions. 

"I found the first couple of episodes really enjoyable but as it went on and didn't do anything other than be a police procedural with a partner with special powers so I stopped watching 4 episodes ago. Has anything happened where you would say it was worth finishing the season or just same old same old? (sic)" the user questioned. But to my surprise, the responses to this thread were rather optimistic. There is, without a doubt, an appetite for 'Lucifer' and fans rallying in support of the show only proves this further. But juxtaposed between Marvel's adult-targeting comic book shows and Netflix's other realistic and in-depth content, it goes without saying that Lucifer makers would have to pull up their socks.  

The idea is to use the Vertigo comics literature as closely as possible. DC Comics, after all, has a better reputation than their cinematic iterations. If somehow, showrunners Henderson and Modrovich along with their army of writers and directors were to turn the plot worthy of the viewers who are also dedicated to the comics, 'Lucifer' would successfully thrive online.  

Shows based on comic titles - Riverdale and the vast Marvel archive - have already cracked the formula, so it is not like 'Lucifer' doesn't have enough material on Netflix to draw inspiration from. 

In Ellis aka the devil's words, “It's always felt like ['Lucifer', the show was] fighting against the odds, in a David versus Goliath context, but at the end of the day, we overcame those odds, so why not still hope and continue fighting for its survival?”