Earlier this month, it was announced that four different television shows on Paramount+ were being canceled. While the cancellation of TV shows is nothing new, this announcement also stated that the existing episodes of these series would also be removed from the streaming service.
This kind of thing is becoming more and more common. This year there have been announcements from Max (formerly HBO Max), Disney+, and Hulu, that certain titles were being removed from the service.
The rise of TV on DVD
Television shows either getting canceled or ending their runs by other means, have been happening pretty much since television became a thing. However, there have always been ways for fans to watch shows that they missed the first time around.
For years, people were able to discover shows that they had missed through reruns or syndication. Then with the growth in home media, people were even able to buy certain shows, either episode collections or in some cases full runs and watch whenever they wanted.
Then, with the advent of the DVD, and full series being released on DVD, virtually every show became available for people who missed the series when it was first released. Even shows that only aired a handful of episodes before being canceled were getting released on DVD.
In many cases, these shows were finding fans long after the shows were canceled. There have even been instances where shows that were finished would find a second life, thanks to being later discovered on DVD.
For example, Family Guy was canceled twice, but was later brought back after fans discovered the show through DVD box sets and reruns on Adult Swim. Firefly was canceled after just a handful of episodes, but the passionate response and the high number of DVD sales of the series, resulted in the franchise getting a movie, several comic books and a book series that continues today.
Things seemed to be even better as streaming took off, because that meant that as long as you were subscribed to a service, you would be able to watch whatever series they had produced. This basically ensured that this new generation of TV shows would always be available to be discovered by new fans or enjoyed by old fans again and again.
But with this new trend of removing shows off of streaming services, it seems like we’re going in the other direction. Some might argue that this isn’t really anything new.
After all, movies and shows appear and disappear from Netflix or Amazon or wherever all the time. But this is different.
With every announcement of the past few months, Max, Disney+, and now Paramount+ are removing content that was made specifically for that platform. And with it gone, there is no way to legally watch those shows.
In some cases, you could return to physical media. If Netflix ever decided to remove House of Cards from their library, you could still get all 6 seasons on DVD.
The same is true for Orange is the New Black. However, currently only the first two seasons of Stranger Things have been released on any physical format, and there doesn’t seem to be any plans to continue.
You might think it’s crazy to talk about Stranger Things possibly getting removed from Netflix, as it’s one of the most popular shows they have. But we’re talking about relying on Netflix to have the show forever in order for half of the series to remain accessible.
Television series that you can no longer watch
Let’s take an example that’s actually happened. Willow, a movie that was released in 1988 has built a small, but devoted following over the years, with fans frequently asking for more Willow.
Eventually it was announced that a Willow series would be released on Disney+, which happened November 30 of last year. While a second season was written, Disney decided not to move forward with the project, and the show was canceled in March of 2023.
Then the show was removed from the service on May 26. Think about that for a moment.
A movie that took 30 years to generate enough interest to get a sequel was given less than 6 months before the project was not only canceled but removed entirely with no way to watch it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Disney shouldn’t have canceled the show.
Based on whatever metrics Disney uses to judge success and failure, the show clearly didn’t receive enough engagement for them to justify putting more money into making additional episodes. However, it does mean that for any new fans just discovering Willow, the story will be forever incomplete.
In some ways Willow fans have experienced this before. In the 1990s, there was a trilogy of books that served as a sequel to Willow called the Chronicles of the Shadow War.
The books are no longer in print, with some having become fairly expensive over the years, but they’re still out there. If a fan is willing to spend enough time looking, or pay enough money, they can still find those books.
That’s where this is fundamentally different. Imagine someone discovering the movie Willow for the first time and then learning there was an entire series that continued the story with no legal way to access it.
Some could argue that these shows that are being removed off of streamers because they weren’t good, but that’s not really the point either. Take Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.
It’s a prequel series set a few years before the original movie and is the third installment in the Grease franchise after Grease 1 and 2. Grease 2 is generally considered to not be a very good movie.
Yet, it has been released on VHS and on DVD multiple times, even getting a recent Blu-Ray release. Because the movie can still be found, despite being poorly received when it first came out, it has been able to find its audience over the years.
To the point that it has developed a cult following that love it as much as they love the first. It seems that Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies will never get that chance.
What’s the solution?
This isn’t a problem that should necessarily be solved with physical media. While plenty of people continue to highlight the advantages to collecting physical media, as it is really the only way currently to truly own the movies and TV shows that you are buying, the advantages of digital media can’t be denied either.
Still, until a better system is put in place, it looks like physical will continue to be the answer. For example, Star Trek: Prodigy was canceled in the same announcement as Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.
It will be removed from Paramount+ as well. However, the first season of that show was released on DVD earlier this year, meaning that someone trying to watch all of Star Trek a year from now, will still have a way to access those episodes.
This does feel like a band-aid on the problem, but for right now it’s all we’ve got in the way of actually trying to keep shows accessible to the public after they’re over.
How do you feel about physical media? What are your thoughts on TV shows getting removed from streaming platforms?
Let us know in the comments below!