How #SaveManifest Saved Manifest From Cancellation
Call Jeff Rake the “Come Back, Kid.” Against all odds and a whole lot of closed doors and polite “no thank, you’s,” his series about having faith has got the reprieve fans have been hoping for. The NBC series about Montego Air flight 828 that went missing for five and a half years and then mysteriously returned is getting the ending it deserves. On August 28th, of course, it was announced that Manifest would get 20 more episodes on Netflix. While it isn’t the full three-season run Rake and company had wanted, it is substantially more than any of us thought we would ever get.
Netflix caved and picked up Manifest for twenty episodes. The series previously on NBC was canceled last spring on a cliffhanger that left #Manifesters heartbroken, shocked and primed for battle. Initially, Showrunner and creator Jeff Rake shopped the sci-fi show around to all major streamers when it became clear NBC would not budge from its decision to cancel it. Surprisingly no one bit. While Netflix has the best track record with repurposing network series, there were other contenders. Peacock could have added it to their lineup similar to Paramount + and Evil. Or Amazon Prime could position it as the sci-fi lite drama alongside The Expanse. By mid-June, it was obvious neither of these was an option. All eyes turned to Netflix, who started streaming all three seasons of the series for record numbers.
It wouldn’t have been the first time Netflix picked up a network show. Lifetime’s You and Fox’s Lucifer are perfect examples of how that switch can benefit the show. It gives the writers and actors the flexibility to look and sound more like the homes they are streamed into. Both series got a massive resurgence with the audience who moved with them and the fans who found them after moving. You season 3 is coming out in October, while Lucifer fans only have to wait another month before the last and final ten episodes are released. Given Netflix’s decision to initially decline the Manifest, how did #SaveManifest work, and why doesn’t it work with other shows?
#Manifesters and #Save Manifest had a lot to work with
Jeff Rake’s show had good ratings on NBC. The third season saw a 29% rating drop in the all-important 18-49 demographic at a 0.5 Neilsen rating. Compared to NBC’s other dramas, that was more than reasonable, and the solid showing had most believing the series was a lock for season 4. Additionally, the on-demand numbers were very strong, which should have guaranteed the series another season. Instead, for reasons that escape me, NBC canceled the series at the end of the third season despite the outrage. Manifest is a mythology-rich show that requires multiple viewings and research to really dig into it. The spiritual sci-fi show is perfect for Netflix, which allows the series to find a whole new audience while satisfying the already defined one.
Manifest broke the mold
There’s no denying the fact that numbers talk. I’m not just talking about tiny spikes that last a week at best and then sharply drop back into the stratosphere. The limited series Clickbait has steadily grown and is currently sitting in the number 1 spot. The Adrian Grenier helmed series is a guilty pleasure that, if it follows the trend, should keep the series in the top ten for another week before falling outside the coveted list.
They can’t all be Master of None, Ozark, Bridgerton, The Crown, or Stranger Things which continue to see respectable numbers long after the initial push. Most get a quick bump and then fall into obscurity. That model wasn’t true for Manifest, which not only saw huge success when it first dropped on the streamer but through a systematic and committed fan surge, they held onto a top ten spot for a staggering two and a half months. Manifest held onto the top spot for a nearly unheard-of 28 days. It is currently sitting pretty in the number 3 spot.
Those are staggering numbers. Those views are an indicator that the series isn’t just loved, but it has legs. Someone(myself included) is willing to watch it repeatedly to pick up all the 828 clues, peacock mythology, and Egyptian secrets. This kind of series is the gift that keeps on giving because as news about the 4th season begins coming out, those same fans will keep right on watching, trying to prepare for the season 4 premiere.
Built in audiences and lots of episodes are key
Viewers like Netflix and other streamers because they love to binge. The company practically invented the hobby. When series like Cursed, Shadow and Bone, The Order, and Fate: The Winx Club are released, there is just one season to watch. As popular as they are, once the season is over, so is the viewing. With Manifest, there is a lot of content to get through, which means more time spent on the show. In fact, there are 29 episodes. Unfortunately, there is also a serious lack of fan trust that Netflix has created.
Canceling series after just one or two seasons has become the norm more than an anomaly. Only shows with rabid fans survive. You had better create a fervor like Stranger Things and Winx did to survive. When Netflix or any other streamer for that matter takes on a show and releases new seasons, they are satisfying those young enough to have jettisoned traditional cable a long time ago and those voracious enough to want to watch hours of programming with only food and potty breaks. Word of mouth and the number of episodes are powerful tools in driving numbers.
The Haunting of Hill House and Dark saw colossal success because the shows were so impeccably written and acted. Arguably Dark featured one of the best endings to any science fiction show ever that managed to be both optimistic, heart-wrenching, clever, and inventive. Hill House is so beloved Universal Studios is banking on it being their signature haunted house in this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. Manifest can be the same type of show in that it layers procedural elements, sci-fi/fantasy elements, religious iconography, and quality performances. As a result, it appeals to many different types of viewers and across a broad band of age groups.
As reported by EW.com, the writer’s room opens this week, with filming expected to start sometime before 2022. Although that means we won’t have any new episodes before next year, at least now we know Rake’s vision will see the light of day. He told EW his end game remains the same even if the number of episodes he has to complete it has wavered slightly. So from one Manifest fan to all the rest, thanks for keeping the faith. Follow all our Manifest coverage including the mythology of the angel numbers and symbology, and watch for the first of the twenty episodes to hit Netflix in 2022.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.