Two of the most relatable, empowering female TV characters in recent memory are a neurotic songbird named Bertie (Ali Wong) and a flakey toucan named Tuca (Tiffany Haddish).
Netflix's cancellation of its critically acclaimed animated series Tuca and Bertie after just one season is a surprising step back for quality television. Celebrated as a rare piece of female-centric storytelling, the series is the brainchild of BoJack Horseman animator Lisa Hanawalt, who used a "uniquely feminine and surreal approach to everyday topics like workplace harassment, sexism, anxiety, and the panic of the quarter life crisis." The series "explores female friendships with raunchy humor and compassion," while featuring actors of color in an animation industry that's dominated by white, male creators and actors. But is there still a chance, somehow, for season 2 of the show?
Tuca & Bertie | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com
Netflix first broke the news to The Hollywood Reporter: "Lisa Hanawalt created a relatable yet whimsical world in Tuca & Bertie. We're grateful to Lisa, and her fellow executive producers Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Noel Bright, Steven A. Cohen, and EPs/stars Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, along with all of the writers and animators for sharing the funny and dynamic female bird duo of Tuca and Bertie with the world. While Tuca & Bertie won't have a second season, we're proud to feature this story on Netflix for years to come."
But when Hanawalt took to Twitter to share the news herself, she used a candid mix of effusive gratitude to the show's supporters and criticism of Netflix's poor decision based on the show's critical acclaim. She wrote, "Everyone is still glowing over the reviews and articles and feedback. T&B is critically acclaimed and has repeatedly been called one of the best new shows of the year." She added, "Best of all, I still get daily messages and tweets from viewers who connect personally to the characters and stories."
Everyone is still glowing over the reviews and articles and feedback. T&B is critically acclaimed and has repeatedl… https://t.co/B1K06WDp8O— Lisa Hanawalt (@Lisa Hanawalt)1564005989.0
Best of all, I still get daily messages and tweets from viewers who connect personally to the characters and storie… https://t.co/GfFkcSDOWl— Lisa Hanawalt (@Lisa Hanawalt)1564006038.0
The show's first season tackled issues from anxiety disorders, STDs, and alcoholism to sexual harassment in the workplace and the joy of breasts. And it did so using Hanawalt's versatile artistic style that audiences only glimpsed in her previous work on Bojack Horseman. Tuca and Bertie's fluidity between animation, stop motion, and puppetry capture the surreality and sometimes out-of-body experiences that make up modern existence.
In particular, Bertie, a high strung perfectionist who lives with an anxiety disorder, reckons with a life-altering childhood trauma toward the end of the series. The show's frenetic artistic style manages to complement the fraught subject matter, as changes in modes of storytelling redefine our perspective of Bertie's world, just as trauma redefines Bertie's perspective. The New York Times highlights how the show's unique animation "creates the impression of the characters standing outside their own lives, as if observing other people. Bertie, in a moment of crisis, meets and embraces her childhood self, a faceless silhouette."
But, as the show's creator noted on Twitter: "None of that matters to the algorithm." Hanawalt concluded, "Thank you to everyone who loves and supports T&B, and to everyone who was comforted and felt like this show gave you a voice. I'm hopeful we can find a home for Tuca & Bertie to continue their adventures."
Thank you to everyone who loves and supports T&B, and to everyone who was comforted and felt like this show gave yo… https://t.co/gwrMpUdiGV— Lisa Hanawalt (@Lisa Hanawalt)1564006334.0
However, fans aren't letting it go. The hashtags #RenewTucaAndBertie and #SaveTucaAndBertie capture the fierce, ongoing support of the show, from both industry creatives and fans. Comics artist Kate Beaton wrote, "Lisa [Hanawalt]'s thread was so gracious but I am not gracious, and cancelling Tuca & Bertie is complete bullshit! That show was universally applauded, it was original and singular and inspiring for all it brought to the table"
Lisa’s thread was so gracious but I am not gracious, and cancelling Tuca & Bertie is complete bullshit! That show w… https://t.co/KZ0lQ9dF5t— Kate Beaton (@Kate Beaton)1564010850.0
Bojack Horseman writer Johnny Sun posted, "cancelling tuca & bertie feels like an enormous step backwards in every direction. the show is so funny and so tender and so necessary." Meanwhile, comedian Marcia Belsky frankly called out Netflix, "I fully assumed #TucaAndBertie would get a second season my mind is blown that @netflix did not renew - it makes no sense"—to which Hanawalt herself replied, "same."
cancelling tuca & bertie feels like an enormous step backwards in every direction. the show is so funny and so tender and so necessary.— jonny sun (@jonny sun)1564010555.0
@lisadraws I’m so mad I can’t imagine what you’re feeling!! Really hope you guys can take it somewhere else and I w… https://t.co/FzSw9Y63BE— Marcia Belsky (@Marcia Belsky)1564009189.0
#TucaAndBertie FOREVER 🤘🤘🤘🤘 https://t.co/RxPKGtpHCL— Cathy G. Johnson (@Cathy G. Johnson)1564006928.0
Illustrator Tyler Feder added, "Good morning, just thinking about how @tucaandbertie made me, a 30-year-old woman with clinical anxiety, feel seen and understood and held like no show ever has!!! #SaveTucaAndBertie"
Good morning, just thinking about how @tucaandbertie made me, a 30-year-old woman with clinical anxiety, feel seen… https://t.co/rytDeG9Zwc— tyler feder (@tyler feder)1564067060.0
The ideal scenario would be if fan support of Tuca and Bertie could gain the momentum of the Family Guy fanbase after Fox first canceled the show in 2001. Fox executives and the show's creator, Seth MacFarlane, kept pushing for the show's return until the network agreed to renew it three years later; former executives have acknowledged that fans' unwavering support of the show swayed their decision. More recently, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled by Fox after five seasons, but NBC immediately picked up the show, thanks to a public outcry that included emphatic tweets from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Hamill, and Guillermo del Toro.
Granted, dozens of shows have died on TV networks before being re-homed on other networks or streaming platforms. But as an original Netflix series, Tuca and Bertie is particularly subject to the whims of algorithms and the cold black and white of Netflix's calculations of viewers versus production costs. Considering its number of subscribers have been slipping, the company has recently axed a number of fans' favorite shows, from letting go of its Disney-owned Marvel series, like Jessica Jones and The Punisher, to Designated Survivor (which was re-homed from ABC) and One Day at a Time (a reboot of the 1975 series).
Still, with Disney set to debut its streaming service in November and Apple TV also debuting its original content this fall, Netflix should support its fan favorites as a priority. As Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, told The Atlantic, "By making these early investments in original programming, [we're] getting our consumers … much more attuned to the expectation that we're going to create their next favorite show, not that we're going to be the place where you can get anything every time." But if you cancel your customers' favorite show (with its uniquely layered, compassionate, comical, and chaotic depiction of flawed humanity), Disney Plus starts looking pretty tempting.
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