The sudden and unexpected cancellation of FX’s Y: The Last Man had us all scratching our heads earlier this week, but the show’s rocky road up until this point sent early warning flags that many ignored. The truth is, the whole situation is complicated.
Y: The Last Man is a new TV show still in its first season but it has already impressed critics. It currently holds a 73% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.1/10 on IMDB (ironically, many of the reviews that brought these scores down were from people upset at its cancellation). So why was it cancelled when other shows with much lower scores and ratings are still going strong?
My statement on Y: THE LAST MAN and Season 2. pic.twitter.com/rFtb6pXu5i
— Eliza Clark (@TheElizaClark) October 17, 2021
Of course, it’s not as simple as ratings. So let’s start from the beginning.
Y: The Last Man started life as a comic book in 2002, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra. It enjoyed a six-year run through 2008 with a total of 60 issues originally compiled into 10 trade paperbacks.
Comic book fans and critics loved it, with The Atlantic calling it “this wonderful, affecting, intelligent, humane story.” The series won the 2003 National Comics Awards for Best New Comic, the Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series in 2008, and the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2009.
But its adaptation to the big (and small) screen has not been as promising. New Line Cinema bought the film rights in 2007 with directors, screenwriters, and a producer named. Shia LaBeouf was first considered to play the role of Yorick (dodged a bullet there!) as well as Zachary Levi, the title actor in the TV series Chuck.
Even the monkey, Ampersand, had a major recasting. When the show was first being developed, a real monkey was considered for the role, but the showrunners soon discovered that a CGI version would look just as real while avoiding the animal rights issues posed with employing a real monkey.
The casting, recasting, and crew shuffling continued for both the movie and TV show plans until Vaughan and Guerra finally retained the rights in 2014. The show was confirmed to go on with Vaughan in the writing seat in 2015 and the cast was fully established in 2018. And then, of course, a global pandemic happened.
While that’s not an entirely unusual progression of events for a TV or movie adaptation of anything, there were a lot of fans pulling for this show to come to light. And when it did, people seemed to really enjoy what FX and showrunner Eliza Clark had done with it.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the biggest issue was that FX executives had until October 15 to make a final decision on the future of the series. That is the date in which options on the cast expired. These options were originally extended due to the initial delays in production, which drove the cost-per-episode up to a cool $8.5 million. But Eliza Clark was able to stay under that budget and pitched a second season to FX in late September after those positive ratings were flowing in.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for FX and they decided to skip paying an additional $3 million to further extend the cast options into that second season.
Another nail in the show’s coffin was the fact that Hulu apparently doesn’t release traditional ratings data, meaning there was no primer for evaluation. Execs want to see solid numbers, and Hulu just didn’t have it to show.
So while many have speculated everything from Disney not liking the show (Disney bought Hulu and FX while the show was in production) to straight up misogyny toward a mostly-female production, the (main) fact is that a few people in expensive suits were pressed for a budget decision based on no data, and decided to concentrate on the larger successes for the network. It happens all the time, sadly.
BUT! There may still be hope for Y: The Last Man. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s sources, HBO Max is a likely candidate to pick up where FX and Hulu left off.
WarnerMedia, who not only owns HBO Max, but also DC Comics (who published the original comic through Vertigo), may be the savior here. “WarnerMedia’s New Line previously owned the rights to Vaughan’s comic series and made two attempts at adapting it as a feature film,” according to THR.
“Should a suitor for the series emerge, FX Productions would face the decision of selling library rights to season one as well as transferring ownership of the series or becoming a third-party content supplier — something that under Disney is considered a long shot given Disney’s push for vertical integration,” THR continued.
So while the cancellation news is sad for fans, there is still hope for that second (and more) season. And with only two more episodes to go for this season, we hope someone makes a decision quickly.