Entertainment

Fans Are Picketing Netflix to Revive 'The OA,' Its Weirdest (and Best) Show

the oa
Save him. | Netflix
Save him. | Netflix

Netflix, whose dreaded finger is always hovering directly over the CANCEL button for any of its shows that aren't Stranger Things or Queer Eye, added The OA to its growing list of casualties two weeks ago. The cancellation came as a surprise to a lot of fans who had loved the show from the beginning and who were blown away by the scope of the ambitious second season, especially (spoiler alert) that bold season finale. But, as it has done for so many of its shows with loyal but small fanbases (see: Sense8, Everything Sucks!, American Vandal, etc.), Netflix pulled the plug, igniting fan ire and launching a social media protest movement. 

The hashtag #SaveTheOA started popping up on Twitter almost immediately after the cancellation was announced, and it's gained so much steam since then that fans picketed the Netflix offices in Los Angeles and New York this week. Fans were wielding signs, doing the five movements, and one woman is actually on a hunger strike. If you're in town next week and feeling extra passionate, New York City is holding a flash mob in Times Square.

In the time between the cancellation and now, the show's Reddit page has blown up with conspiracy theories of why the show was ditched, from budget and time concerns (it took nearly three years for Brit Marling and her team to film the second season) to the theory that maybe, given the nature of Season 2's ending, the cancellation was planned all along and Season 3 takes place all around us in the real world. (Does this mean Jason Isaacs is evil? Hmmm.) Or maybe -- and this was inspired in part by the fact that Netflix never actually issued a press release -- all of this is just a clever ruse to drum up more excitement for a new season. If that's the case, Netflix might even be more nefarious than Dr. Hap. 

It was not necessarily a huge shock to hear that Netflix had lost faith in The OA -- compared to the viral first season that pretty much took over everyone's holiday break in 2016, the show's second season landed with barely a poof of dust when it dropped in March of this year -- especially given the streaming service's faithless tendency to wash their hands of some of their most dynamic shows after two or three seasons. Shortly before the news about The OA was announced, Netflix canceled the charming female-created and -led animated show Tuca and Bertie after a single season. Meanwhile, 13 Reasons Why, the teen suicide drama that psychologists say corresponded with a spike in actual teen suicides in the month after its release, got two more full seasons. 

In a rare victory, axing One Day at a Time, the company's hilarious, groundbreaking Latinx-driven sitcom, sparked such an outcry that the show was picked up for a fourth season by the CBS-owned cable network Pop. This was no doubt helped by the fact that One Day at a Time was also partially owned by Sony Pictures Television, which made it less lucrative for Netflix to keep around. That's not the case for the shows only Netflix owns and jealously guards the streaming rights to, so that even if another network wants to save a show they've ditched, it's nearly impossible to try.

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OA hitting the juul | Netflix

A cancellation doesn't always spell death for a show, and cable and streaming are peppered with stories of beloved series with small but loud fanbases getting saved if the fans shout loud enough. (NBC's time travel adventure show Timeless has been canceled, uncanceled, canceled again, and brought back for a whole movie, thanks to pressure from fans and the show's creators.) There's just nothing stopping a streaming service like Netflix from giving a project a couple shots and then abandoning it. 

The OA debacle also revived a familiar critique of Netflix in particular, whose glut of content keeps the streaming service from actually advertising the majority of its new stuff to its viewers. Trailers for shows like Mindhunter or Netflix's original anime series will autoplay, while Dark fans will have to physically search to see if their show has any new episodes up (it does, and they're great). If Netflix won't market what it has, then of course no one's watching it. Maybe #SaveTheOA will be enough and the rest of Marling's psychedelic vision will see the light of day, but, for now, the Wild West of streaming's current model will keep on steamrolling over the risks in favor of the guaranteed hits.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.