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Netflix’s next challenge: how to end a show

The cast of Hemlock Grove, in a season two publicity still.
The cast of Hemlock Grove, in a season two publicity still.
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

There comes a time in every young television provider's life when it must switch from an outlet that starts shows to one that ends them. Sometimes, that results in carefully negotiated endpoints, as with HBO. Sometimes, it results in almost every show going on too long, as with Showtime. And sometimes, it results in a confusing mish-mash of the two, where carefully negotiated endpoints get strung out over multiple years, as with AMC.

Netflix, then, is aiming more for the "carefully negotiated endpoint," or so it would seem, having announced a renewal of Hemlock Grove for a third and final season of 10 episodes. Honestly, you probably forgot Hemlock Grove even existed, lost as it got between the site's more high-profile content (like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black). Of Netflix's series, it has gotten by far the worst reviews.

What's interesting is that the quotes from Netflix's press release for the renewal don't read like a celebration of triumph but, rather, a show that got renewed by the skin of its teeth at the last minute. Since we'll never know how many people watch Netflix's shows (it refuses to release ratings data), this sort of press release tea leaf reading is the next best thing.

For example:

  • "We are so grateful to the fans of Hemlock Grove who have championed the series so intensely over two seasons," said series executive producer Eli Roth.
  • "The fan support of Hemlock Grove has been amazing and we are thrilled Netflix recognizes this and is rewarding the fans with a third and final season," said Katie O'Connell, CEO of Gaumont Television, which produces the series.
  • "We are delighted that our fans have invited us back to explore the fiendish recesses of the human condition for another season," said executive producer Chic Eglee.

Now, separately, these quotes don't really mean anything. But if you really want to engage in baseless speculation, this much credit is usually only paid to "the fans" when a show has a passionate, diehard fanbase that manages to keep resurrecting it year after year. (See also: Community.) Plus, that quote from O'Connell would not be out of place in a "surprise renewal for a final season of a beloved cult show" press release.

But, then, Netflix put together this press release and is unlikely to be interested in even vaguely suggesting viewership data, so we could be incredibly wrong.

Season three of Hemlock Grove will premiere next year.

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