Lucifer began as an urban fantasy series developed by Tom Kapinos, based on an alternate DC Comics character. Premiering on Jan. 25, 2016, it followed the tale of Lucifer Morningstar, played by the charismatic Tom Ellis. Bored as the Lord of Hell, Lucifer relocated to Los Angeles to run a nightclub. The narrative took a thrilling turn when he became a consultant to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Despite its unique premise and a dedicated fanbase, the show faced its apocalypse when Fox canceled it after three seasons. The network cited ratings and economics as primary reasons, given the show’s production by external entities: Warner Bros. Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Television.
Lucifer‘s controversial cancellation
Fox’s decision to cancel Lucifer after its third season took many by surprise, particularly considering the show’s dedicated fanbase. Initially, Fox pointed to ratings as the primary factor. While Lucifer didn’t necessarily have low ratings, the network’s newer offerings outperformed it. However, this was only part of the picture.
Lucifer started not as a TV show but as a character in the pages of Neil Gaiman’s iconic Sandman series, published by DC Comics. Given that DC’s properties required involvement from Warner Bros. when adapted for the screen, there were inherent complexities and costs associated with the show’s production. Adding to the financial strain, Jerry Bruckheimer, a significant figure in the entertainment industry, was an executive producer, escalating the show’s expenses, according to Looper.
Dana Walden, the then-chairperson and CEO of Fox Television Group, shed light on the matter during the 2018 Television Critics Association Press Tour. While acknowledging the role of ratings and audience size in the decision, she also highlighted the economic factors. Walden remarked on the challenges of justifying the costs associated with a show produced by another studio, particularly when factoring in the royalties and fees. In her words, they “couldn’t justify the economics” of paying for a show from an external studio, especially with the added expenses of such high-profile collaborations.
The power of fans: Social media resurrection
The cancellation, however, was met with a massive uproar from its global fanbase. Between May 8 and April 8 of the cancellation year, Twitter witnessed a storm with hashtags #SaveLucifer and #PickUpLucifer, accumulating over 3.64 million tweets and 5.63 million retweets. This movement wasn’t just a trending topic; it was an impassioned plea from fans worldwide, from countries as diverse as Romania, Egypt, and Brazil.
Tom Ellis recalled the poignant moment of learning about the show’s termination. He was amidst a Lucifer fan convention, and the news swiftly turned the mood somber. But this fan-driven turmoil was about to change the fate of Lucifer.
Netflix: Lucifer’s guardian angel
Netflix, known for its unique and original content, saw potential in Lucifer. Rescuing shows from cancellation isn’t new to streaming platforms; shows like The Expanse and The Mindy Project found new homes and audiences after their initial runs. Yet, Netflix’s decision was particularly pioneering as Lucifer was one of the first instances where it adopted a series from a major U.S. broadcast network.
The shift to Netflix brought about some changes. The streaming giant’s seasons had fewer episodes but richer in content. Tom Ellis mentioned that the shorter season allowed the team to focus better on storytelling. In contrast, the show maintained its essence; the freedom from traditional broadcasting standards allowed a deeper dive into the narrative’s mythology.
A new dawn: Lucifer‘s legacy
The show’s resurrection extended its life and boosted its quality and engagement. Tom Ellis confessed that the cancellation, paradoxically, gave the cast and crew an insight into the show’s immense popularity. They were reinvigorated, producing what Ellis believes to be their best season yet after the revival.
With Netflix’s vast global reach, shows can often find broader audiences, turning seemingly underrated series into sensations. And for Lucifer, the platform didn’t just breathe new life; it amplified its legacy.
One significant takeaway from the Lucifer journey is the impact of fandom and how modern platforms can reshape a show’s trajectory. While ratings and finances are vital in show business, the Lucifer saga shows that fan voices can be powerful enough to challenge executive decisions, heralding a new era in the television landscape.
The story of Lucifer is a testament to fans’ resilience, adaptability, and unwavering passion. Its journey from cancellation to revival reminds us that sometimes, even when faced with the abyss, there’s always a chance for redemption.