The Killing and Ripper Street: two shows revived by the post-TV age of video on demand
With streaming services fast becoming the norm, network cancellation is no longer the final curtain
The US remake of The Killing might not have had the same cultural impact as the Danish original (which sparked the UK obsession with Nordic Noir) but was still an absorbing atmospheric crime thriller. Transposing the action from Denmark to Seattle with Mireille Enos stepping into Sofie Gråbøl's shoes as the lead detective (now called Sarah Linden), the first two seasons roughly followed events in the first series of Forbrydelsen but at Season Three it took its own path heading into new territory with new plots and storylines.
The show has suffered at the hands of ratings, originally cancelled after Season Two on AMC. But Netflix negotiated a deal where they split production costs in exchange for video on demand rights. However ratings continued to slide and now the online distribution service is funding the fourth and final series as a Netflix exclusive.
'I'm just so excited about being on Netflix,' showrunner Veena Sud told TV Guide. 'It's created this new national pastime for many of us, where you get to spend a weekend, an evening or many evenings on a journey with characters in a way that's very intense and very participatory. You're not waiting for a week to find out what happens next. You can just click on "next" and you're immersed again in the world. For The Killing that's an ideal place for us to be.'
It also offers creatives a larger canvas with less restrictions (ie on swearing, gore and sexual content) without the intrusion of ad breaks. 'We haven't altered anything, but what we've been able to add is more time,' Sud continued. 'Each episode of Season 4 is longer without commercial breaks, which, as a storyteller, is such a huge gift.'
It's part of a trend where cancelled series are finding new life to continue their stories beyond network TV. Online broadcasters now have the power and money to produce their own content that can compete in terms of story and production values. On demand has become the new battleground for viewers, so streaming services need their own exclusive content to lure in customers. Netflix has been particularly proactive with original series such as the critically acclaimed House of Cards while cult comedy Arrested Development was revived for a fourth season on Netflix seven years after it went off air. Yahoo! recently announced they would be producing a sixth series of US sitcom Community after it was dropped by NBC. Amazon only started producing their own programming in 2013 with a series of pilots and comedy series before stepping in to save Ripper Street from the axe on BBC.
'This is an exceptional opportunity to bring back Ripper Street for a third series by working with the right partners,' explained Ben Stephenson, the BBC's controller of drama commissioning. 'This deal gives fans another series of the show they love at excellent value to the licence fee payer.' This new working model for the BBC will see episodes premiere on Amazon's Prime Instant Video service then screen on the BBC a few months later.
The landscape is shifting and with it television production is evolving. Viewers are watching on tablets, phones and computers rather than gathering in the living room. The networks no longer hold all the cards which could be good news when your favourite TV show goes off air. If the fans demand it, there's now a very real chance it could return from the cancellation graveyard.
The Killing Season 4 is available to download from Netflix on Fri 1 Aug.