Fantasy can be a polarizing genre, especially on the small screen. Fantasy TV shows are often financially ambitious, and their plots can be inaccessible to those looking for some entertaining prime time fare to help them wind down at the end of the day. While shows like Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time prove that the genre can find solid footing in the world of networks, such is not the case for many otherworldly TV hopefuls.
The path for NBC drama Emerald City has been rocky from the start, with execs kicking the show around the developmental phase for years before finally allowing it to air earlier this year. Though NBC timed the show’s premiere with the fateful end of beloved fantasy Grimm, it left both fans and critics wanting more, and ultimately couldn’t escape unfavorable comparisons to our culture’s most beloved Oz-themed work, The Wizard of Oz.
It was these issues that cost the series its renewal yesterday. According to a report from Variety, the show has been officially canceled after just one season. Alongside critical concerns, executives likely axed the show because of its below-average ratings: the Emerald City pilot drew 4.49 million viewers, while its season finale saw just 2.87 million.
While those numbers hardly represent the worst of 2016-2017, they’re not great, especially for a high-profile network like NBC. The network also recently pulled Powerless from their schedule, after the DC Entertainment show spent several weeks hovering around the 2 million mark. Emerald City, directed by the extravagant Tarsem Singh, was praised for its aesthetic beauty, even if it didn’t have a script to match. The show was developed by Matthew Arnold (Siberia) and Josh Friedman (The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Avatar 2) and starred Adria Arjona (Narcos, Pacific Rim: Uprising) as Dorothy.
It’s a shame to see such a visually pristine series go to waste, especially given its relatively strong ensemble cast, but we’re not exactly floored to see this show go. Its premise was questionable from the outset, and the drama likely fell flat in the end due to an unsurprising lack of demand for an edgy update to the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The novels and their most famous adaptation, The Wizard of Oz, are mostly marketed toward children, so there is something a bit unsettling about seeing Dorothy flirt with a sexified scarecrow. Perhaps this will act as a cautionary tale against yet more on-screen adaptations and allow a bit more room for original programming.
No matter what, though, it’s sad to see any show go, especially before it’s hardly begun. Here’s to the valiant efforts of the Emerald City cast and crew — we’re sorry NBC couldn’t help you find your way home.