As just reported, the canceled NBC fantasy Manifest, which earned monstrous viewership numbers for all three of its existing seasons when it debuted on Netflix in June, has been given a final lease on life. The Warner Bros.-produced show, courtesy of showrunner Jeff Rake, concerns airline passengers who embark on a seemingly normal flight and then land five years later with no clue as to how exactly that transpired amid a world that has presumed them dead and moved on with their lives. The announcement was made at 8:28 am this morning, a playful nod to the show’s doomed Flight 828.
The show was canceled in May, with Warner Bros. having no luck in finding a new home, at least not until everyone decided to check it out upon its Netflix debut. I’ve written before about the peril of Netflix finding some of its biggest successes via third-party content and “was only a hit when it came to Netflix” television shows and movies. Producers, networks and studios can’t exactly use the “nobody watched this show until it came to Netflix” phenomenon (see also: Lifetime’s You, Fox’s Lucifer and YouTube’s Cobra Kai) as a regular financial strategy. Likewise, it’s great when some underseen studio programmer (like, say, Walk of Shame, Homefront, Patriot’s Day or The Losers) becomes momentarily huge on Netflix, but that’s not good for the studios that already took the loss on the film’s theatrical release.
Moreover, it’s not going to help Netflix when everyone gets their own first-party streaming platform. Yes, that’s why Netflix paid big bucks for the first pay-tv window for Sony’s 2022-and-beyond theatrical slate. That being said, success is success, and Manifest pulled in (so says Nielsen) billions upon billions of “minutes viewed” since it launched on the streaming service. It made sense for Netflix to pony up for what they are advertising as a 20-episode “final season” for two reasons.
First, I’m guessing they’ll break it down into two ten-episode “seasons” as they have done with Lucifer’s sixth and final run. Second, most importantly, in terms of Manifest maintaining its value as a popular sci-fi show now associated with Netflix, this final season gives the show closure. Season three absolutely ended on a cliffhanger. As such, obviously, the viewers who tuned into the show either on NBC or on Netflix were left hanging and thus left with an incomplete story.
That’s not unusual for network or cable television. Even Netflix isn’t above canceling a show (like Teenage Bounty Hunters) which ends its “final” season on a cliffhanger. But Manifest, which stars It stars Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and Athena Karkanis, is popular and currently an incomplete story. Both in terms of the folks who will check out the final 20 episodes right when they air and those viewers who will “discover” the show in the future, this “final season” will allow the show to be a complete narrative with a beginning, middle and end. There’s really no downside here, at least not in the short-term.
Even if Netflix has mostly gotten out of the “save our TV show” business, the sheer size of the viewership offered up by Manifest was impossible to resist. That’s especially true when giving the show a proper ending would allow it to potentially become a perennial fantasy favorite like Lost, The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It doesn’t mean that Netflix is back to being your television savior (sorry, Earpers). In this case an accidental smash with an incomplete narrative has led Manifest to join the likes of Lucifer and Cobra Kai, the latter of which was just renewed for a fifth season.