Daybreak canceled by Netflix; Was it too quirky to return?

Photo: Daybreak Season 1 Image Courtesy Ursula Coyote/Netflix
Photo: Daybreak Season 1 Image Courtesy Ursula Coyote/Netflix /

You may have heard that Daybreak has been canceled by Netflix, but what is the reason?  Did audiences just not get it?

On December 16, 2019, Daybreak co-creator/executive producer Aron Eli Coleite revealed on Twitter that the series wouldn’t return for a second season. This no doubt left fans of the series disappointed if not confused. While the apocalyptic series has a fanbase, it may have been too quirky — too unique — to connect with mainstream audiences. Basically, Daybreak is a show that does what it wants, goes where it wants to go and doesn’t pander very well to audience expectations. Although it has a well-known star in Matthew Broderick, it’s a show that hesitates to center too much on any one character. On top of that, all of the characters are quite weird. Even the zombies aren’t really zombies but “Ghoulies” (a nod to the strange 1980s monster film series of the same name).

I’ve been referring to Daybreak in the present tense because, for all I know, it could find life on a new network. After all, some series have come back from the dead to enjoy success, such as Family Guy, Futurama or Mystery Science Theater 3000. Obviously that’s up to the creators/stars and prospective networks and streaming services. Let’s look at some unique reasons why it should return, and preferably soon.

What worked: The performances and humor

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In addition to Broderick, Daybreak stars Colin Ford, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Sophie Simnett, Austin Crute, Cody Kearsley, Jeanté Godlock, Gregory Kasyan, Krysta Rodriguez. Rodriguez may play the most memorable character, known as The Witch. The gross-out humor involved in this character is epic, and she provides a lot of cute moments, either with humans or her maggots and entourage of doll heads. There are also diverse characters — and not just in terms of identity but in personality. While Colin Ford’s character, Josh Wheeler, is sort of an “everyman,” he is surrounded by dysfunctional characters. Alyvia Alyn Lind’s character, Angelica, is a nutty kid who almost seemed born for a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Austin Crute’s character, Wesley Fists, is a fairly humorous take on the wise samurai. Broderick’s character is a memorable villain/jaded former high school Principal whose hatred for children reached the ultimate boiling point.

What didn’t work for some: Semi-ironic pandering and unbridled creativity

Daybreak may very well have confused audiences because of its dual nature. On one hand, the series does seem to pander to audience expectations and the politics of our era. On the other, it does so in a rather self-aware manner, which alternately seems like a wink or middle finger to modern demands of conventional storytelling. For example, the story does address the identity politics we so often read about nowadays. However, by no means are these elements devoid of irony.

Take a look at the tribe of so-called “Amazons.” When we meet them in episode 3, they’re obviously as an all-female, man-hating tribe. Their leader wants to recruit Angelica, despite having been smashed in the face with a lunch tray back when they were in school! It’s an obvious lashing out against tribalism, which some people probably don’t like or simply can’t appreciate as a story element.

As far as creativity goes, it seems Netflix didn’t quite know what they had. All one has to look at are zany episode titles like “The Slime Queenpin of Glendale, CA,” “MMMMMMM-HMMMMMM” or “FWASH-BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!” Quite often this kind of creativity simply goes over people’s heads. It probably ends up confusing them, or they see it as simply too gimmicky. Others see it as an instant plus, of course, which is a big part of why this show will become a cult favorite.

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It isn’t the weirdest show to exist, but it is certainly reminiscent of old school oddities such as Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete and Pete or Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time.   Then again, if a show as great as Ash vs. Evil Dead couldn’t last, it seems few things will be spared in the battle of generic vs. awesome.  Hopefully, this show can actually continue at some point, even if there has yet to be talk of it. I’d like my present tense to seem less desperate and for this show to live again.

What are your thoughts on Daybreak? Let us know in the comments!