Marco Polo was a unique and ambitious series from the start. First set as a Starz original in 2012, the series found its eventual home on Netflix instead; premiering in late 2014. The series had a mix of newcomers, including series lead Lorenzo Richelmy; familiar faces like Benedict Wong; and even big genre stars like Michelle Yeoh. Netflix was no doubt hoping for another hit like Orange Is the New Black or House of Cards.
However, abysmal reviews began to roll in after the first season was released despite Netflix having tapped Game of Thrones‘ Dan Minahan who both directed a couple of episodes and executive produced the first season. The expensive per episode price tag — estimates are $9 million each — likely didn’t help, even though set design and costumes were stand out features of the series. But after struggling through a second season, the series has finally run out of legs.
Marco Polo never quite found its audience, and exits Netflix as the first, and only, of their original series that was not picked up for a third season. Hemlock Grove and Bloodline were also cancelled by the streaming service, but after they aired third seasons. THR reports that the Weinstein Co produced series may have even cost Netflix somewhere around $200 million in losses. Both The Weinstein Co. and Netflix opted not to move forward with season 3; a statement from Netflix’s VP of original content, Cindy Holland states:
“We want to thank and are grateful to our partners on Marco Polo from the actors, whose performances were enthralling and top-notch; to the committed producers, including John Fusco, Dan Minahan, Patrick Macmanus, and their crew, who poured their hearts into the series; and of course Harvey [Weinstein], David [Glasser] and our friends at [The Weinstein Co.], who were great collaborators from start to finish.”
The news comes as no surprise since the series has struggled since its debut season. Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, once claimed that viewership was, “really irrelevant because [Marco Polo] doing what it’s supposed to do.”
Series showrunner, and self-proclaimed “obsessed fan of Asian history and martial arts,” John Fusco had more gracious things to say about Marco Polo and Netflix in general.
“Netflix has been incredible to give us the room to make a series with a cast true to every principle of diversity. It’s a bold network that allows you to do that and support us in the way that Netflix did.”
For fans who did enjoy the fusion of martial arts woven into the history of the famed Italian merchant, Fusco adds that he isn’t done exploring this genre. After praising the cast and crew that filmed on location in Malaysia, he adds that he and Harvey Weinstein are, “working on an idea right now in a similar space that we’re very excited about.” No news yet on what new tales this team up plans to bring to life.
Seasons 1 and 2 of Marco Polo are streaming on Netflix.