Why Y: The Last Man Was Abruptly Canceled – Hollywood Reporter

It took 14 years to bring Brian K. Vaughan’s beloved Y: The Last Man to the screen. And now that the show is finally airing — after a major recasting, a showrunner change and even a move to a new platform — FX on Hulu abruptly canceled the drama Sunday, after airing only seven of its planned 10 episodes.

FX, the basic cable network overseen by CEO John Landgraf, rarely cancels its scripted content and instead tends to announce final seasons for its originals. It’s also incredibly rare for the network, which became part of the Disney fold a few years ago, to lower the ax on shows that are still running as its creator-friendly execs opt instead to wait to gather data for things like delayed viewing and digital returns. But that oddly wasn’t what transpired with Y: The Last Man, which won’t wrap its freshman season until Nov. 1.

So, what happened?

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that execs at FX had to make a decision on the future of the series by Oct. 15, which was the date that options on the cast of Y:TLM expired. FX, which landed rights to the IP in 2015, picked the drama up to pilot in April 2018 and, three months later, cast Barry Keoghan and Diane Lane in leading roles. FX ordered Y to series in February 2019.

Production, however, failed to begin right away as FX in April 2019 parted ways with original showrunners Michael Green (who was hired in late 2016) and Jessica Jones alum Aida Croal (who joined during the pilot). Croal and Green cited creative differences as the reason for their departure at the time. Green’s pitch, Vaughan raved to THR in late 2017, explored toxic masculinity. Eliza Clark (Animal Kingdom, The Killing) was tapped as showrunner in June 2019 as FX hoped to get the series back on track.

Instead, further delays followed as word came in February 2020 that Dunkirk breakout Keoghan — who was poised to star as last man on earth Yorick — was being recast. Ben Schnetzer (Warcraft, Pride) was tapped to lead the cast by the end of that same month. Days later, the COVID-19 pandemic would create another, albeit unplanned, delay during which Y was moved from a linear launch on FX to its hub on Disney-owned Hulu as streaming took centerstage across the industry.

Production on Y — including on the new pilot — would not formally begin until late October 2020, years after Lane and co-stars Amber Tamblyn and Marin Ireland originally signed on. Other original stars from Green and Croal’s pilot, including Lashana Lynch and Imogen Poots, were recast as the series enlisted Ashley Romans, Olivia Thirlby and Elliot Fletcher.

Because of the delays amid the showrunner and cast changes, FX had to extend options on original Y stars, including Lane. And, because of the pandemic-related production shutdown, also pay to extend the options Schnetzer and other new cast members. Those cast extensions added up despite the fact that production came in under than its per-episode $8.5 million budget. Clark pitched a potential second season to FX execs in late September, after four of its 10 episodes had aired on the cabler’s Hulu hub and well after reviews for the series were published. (Y currently has a 73 percent rating among critics and 67 percent score with viewers on RottenTomatoes.com.)

Ultimately, FX brass declined to pay $3 million to further extend options on the Y cast as execs did not want to leave the cast in limbo yet again. The cancellation decision was, per sources, not based on viewership figures as Hulu, like other streamers, does not release traditional ratings data. That means FX had little to no data on which to evaluate the series, including how it performed in its entirety over a certain timeframe, etc. While sources note there had been a drop-off among viewers on the FX on Hulu hub, it’s worth pointing out that mid-series declines are not uncommon as viewers have shifted to binge watching entire seasons of a show.

“Without COVID, the show would have been on a different clock,” notes one source of the timing of the cancellation decision.

Now the question becomes if producers including Clark and Nina Jacobson (Impeachment) — both of whom are based at FX Productions with overall deals — can successfully find a new home for their series about gender identity. FX Productions owns the series outright and, per sources, are supportive of producers’ plans to shop the show though the studio has never focused on being a content supplier for outside networks/platforms.

Sources say HBO Max is likely the target home for a potential second season of the series as its corporate parent, WarnerMedia, also owns DC Comics, whose imprint, Vertigo, published the Y:TLM comic series from 2002-08. WarnerMedia’s New Line previously owned the rights to Vaughan’s comic series and made two attempts at adapting it as a feature film. The first take, from David Goyer, Carl Ellsworth and director D.J. Caruso fell apart as the studio balked at the idea of adapting Y as a three-film franchise. The rights to Y reverted to Vaughan in 2014, thus killing the 2012 attempt at a movie.

Vaughan conceded in a September interview with TV’s Top 5 that his source material turned out to be “challenging subject matter” and stressed the property could only work on television.

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. (FX declined comment on the cancellation as well as for this story.)

Clark, meanwhile, has high hopes for the series and told TV’s Top 5 that she envisioned Y as a five-season, 50-episode series. “I have never in my life been more committed to a story, and there is so much more left to tell,” Clark wrote Sunday. “Y: The Last Man is about gender, about how oppressive systems inform identity. We had a gender diverse team of brilliant artists, led by women at almost every corner of our production. Producers, writers, directors, cinematographers, production design, costume design, stunt coordination, and more. It is the most collaborative, creatively fulfilling, and beautiful thing I have ever been a part of. We don’t want it to end.”

Leave a Reply