All in all, it lasted three months. Don’t think of it as being canceled, conservatives sniffed last night on Twitter after the news broke, think of it as being terminated in the first trimester.
Tough day for liberals, though. Where will they go now for comic affirmation of their deepest political prejudices?
[W]hen The Break premiered in May, Wolf was riding higher than pretty much any other comedian in the country after her breakthrough performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. As recently as last week White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was still talking about how much her jokes stung…
“None of us can believe how classlessly Netflix has handled this,” a source connected to the show told The Daily Beast after the news broke, noting that the entire writing staff and even the showrunners found out they had been fired on Twitter…
The utter opacity of Netflix’s model makes it impossible to know how many people were watching The Break on a weekly basis, but the show’s cultural impact could be felt on a near-weekly basis.
Both the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline cite sources who say that ratings weren’t what execs were hoping for. God only knows how bad your numbers have to be to get canceled on a platform with unlimited server space and no time-slots to worry about. As such, Wolf’s alleged “cultural impact” was the same as Lena Dunham’s “cultural impact,” a big zero among the general population but a reliable preoccupation of two tiny, marginal slivers of society — entertainment critics who loved her because they shared her sensibilities and righty media types like me who disdain them. Some impact.
Every piece on Wolf’s misfortune today mentions two points. One: Political comedy, already dominated by white men, is a little whiter and more male today. (Matt Wilstein of the Daily Beast, noting that Hasan Minhaj has a show in the works for Netflix, notes with relief, “He may not be a woman, but at least he’s not another white guy.” Whew.) True, although the very white and male Joel McHale had his own show liquidated by Netflix yesterday. Should Wolf have been given a longer leash in the name of diversity? Three months ain’t much time to build an audience, in fairness, but maybe a company that’s famously willing to greenlight nearly anything is, ironically, prone to shorter leashes than other platforms. Netflix doesn’t need to worry about server space or time slots but it does need to worry about money. If Wolf’s ratings were bad and there are literally dozens of other show ideas on the table that they’re looking to bankroll, why continue to plow cash into her show?
Two: Wolf is a “hot commodity” after her White House Correspondents Dinner barrage against Sarah Sanders and others, or so we’re told. I guess that’s true — she was in the news for a few weeks — but my memory is that Colbert’s attack on Bush at the 2006 WHCD drew much greater buzz afterward than Wolf’s set this year did. That has less to do with their comparative merits than with the fact that Bush was sitting right there for Colbert’s broadsides while Trump skipped Wolf’s gig. If she had goofed on him to his face while he grimaced for the cameras, that would have satisfied the lefty id more fully and durably than taking a few potshots at Sanders did. I wonder too, though, if Wolf’s WHCD performance mattered less because people expect this sort of thing after the Colbert/Bush episode a dozen years ago. If you’re a woke comedian asked to do a set at an event attended by a Republican administration, you had damn well better hit hard or you’ll hear about it from your industry friends. How hot a commodity can you be for doing what everyone expected you to do, and which virtually any comedian except Dennis Miller would have done?
The real problem for Wolf, though, was saturation. If “The Break” were something novel, it’d be a magnet for liberal audiences. As it is, not only do you not need a streaming service to see this sort of thing, you don’t even need cable. Colbert himself hosts CBS’s late-night flagship show, for fark’s sake, and still dines out nightly on jokes about a Republican president. Kimmel has tried to get into the act to some extent too. If they’re too timid for you, though, you can get stronger, more Stewart-esque stuff from John Oliver on HBO or Samantha Bee on TBS. (“The Daily Show” isn’t what it was but it’s still chugging along too.) Even for someone who shares Wolf’s politics and enjoys “clapter” theater, how much can you take? When you’re bored with regular TV and flip over to Netflix to see what’s on, and you’re greeted with 47 new shows on a weekly basis, what would lead you to pass on all of that in order to carve out more time for Oliver-Bee “own the cons” stuff?
Here’s what America will be missing going forward. I’ll personally miss having a little extra outrage content on slow news days.