Shows centering on women, LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color are often the first to get the axe—undermining streaming platforms’ supposed commitment to diversity
When the game-changing Amazon Prime adaptation of A League of Their Own was renewed for an abbreviated, four-episode second season this past April, fans navigated a thorny spectrum of emotions, from relief to anger. In its first season, League had garnered a loyal following of viewers excited by its women-centered narrative, extensive representation of queer characters and characters of color, and thoughtful portrayal of race and gender in the world of women’s baseball in the 1940s U.S.
But whereas the series’ truncated renewal registered as a bittersweet farewell to a remarkable show, its mid-August cancellation felt like a slap in the face. Amazon blamed the 2023 writers’ strike for the reversal, a move that co-creator and co-star Abbi Jacobson called “bullshit and cowardly.”
League’s cancellation and its alleged connection to the strike point to a far more endemic issue plaguing the representation of LGBTQ+ individuals, women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) on television, particularly on streaming platforms—one that dovetails with concerns that dominated the fraught contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The disappointments of past cancellations and the victory of the writers’ strike offer two sides of the same story—illustrating the foibles of a top-down approach to television production that emphasizes revenue over meaningful content. With any luck, this story can serve as a cautionary tale about the real care that needs to be taken by the film and TV industry—and streamers particularly—to responsibly develop and support diverse programming. With the writers back at the helm, now’s the time to begin rewriting that narrative.
Watch and Weep: Ms.’ critic picks the top 10 most disappointing cancellations of 2023
1. Alaska Daily (ABC)
This network drama starred Hilary Swank as a transplanted journalist who comes to Anchorage to investigate the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) alongside her new partner, played by First Nations actor Grace Dove.
2. All Rise (OWN)
This ambitious series highlighted the legal, domestic and political dramas of a newly appointed judge (Simone Missick) and the prosecutors, defenders and detectives she encounters in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.
3. A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO)
Created by and starring Robin Thede, this hilarious and unapologetic comedy sketch show hosted an impressive array of guest stars, including Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Ashley Nicole Black and Quinta Brunson.
4. Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. (Disney+)
A charming offering for tweens and young teens, this reboot of the beloved 1990s sitcom about a child genius who becomes a doctor relocated the action to Hawaii and starred Peyton Elizabeth Lee.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Ms. magazine. Join the Ms. community today and you’ll get the Winter issue delivered straight to your mailbox.
5. Kung Fu (CW):
In this action-adventure reboot boasting a majority Asian American cast, Olivia Liang starred as a young woman who returns home to San Francisco after three years in isolation at a Shaolin monastery in China and puts her training to use in service of her community.
6. Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies (Paramount+)
This campy and fun prequel to the cult-classic 1970s film focused on the origins of the Pink Ladies “girl gang” and reveled in the cheesy pleasures of the high school musical.
7. The Great (Hulu)
A satirical dramedy about the rise of Catherine the Great, this series starring Elle Fanning is an irreverent and semi-historical romp through 18th-century Russia.
8. The Peripheral (Prime Video)
This science fiction drama starring Chloë Grace Moretz and based on William Gibson’s novel of the same name delved into the possibilities of time travel and questions of control and agency.
9. Reservation Dogs (FX/Hulu)
One of only two TV shows created by and starring a largely Indigenous cast, this touching, funny and unceasingly skillful show followed four teenagers on a reservation in Oklahoma who questioned whether to stay or go.
10. Sort Of (Max)
This sitcom with a nonbinary Pakistani Canadian protagonist (played by Bilal Baig) is an intimate and good-natured slice-of-life comedy about a millennial trying to figure out how to balance their own hopes and dreams with their responsibilities to others.