The Joel McHale series was basically The Soup 2.0, while Michelle Wolf's late-night series was a talk show. It received mostly positive reviews after it debuted in the wake of Wolf's scathing speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last spring. Unfortunately, both shows lasted just one season on the streaming service. They follow in the footsteps of Chelsea, the late-night show Chelsea Handler hosted for Netflix that was canceled after two seasons.
Despite Netflix's recent talk show failures, though, there are a couple talk shows that are killing it at the streaming service: My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, hosted by David Letterman, and Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
So, what's different? Well, Letterman's talk show rolls out weekly like the previous talk shows, but it features in-depth conversations with A-list stars like Barack Obama, Jay Z and George Clooney. The subjects dig into their careers and triumphs in interviews that are more evergreen than weekly topical discussions. Letterman's name recognition, the caliber of his guests and the content of the interviews allow the show to work outside Netflix's typical binge model. The other shows needed to be watched within the week to work.
Similarly, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which was brought over from Sony's Crackle network, has name recognition and in-depth conversations that aren't pegged to a weekly topic or recent news coverage. Netflix also released Season 5 — the first season it produced — all at once this past summer.
Although we don't have the data to back it up (because Netflix refuses to release ratings numbers), it appears the problem might be that Netflix users don't like to tune in weekly; they are professional binge-watchers used to sitting through entire seasons over the course of a single weekend or day. They can leave or return to a series at their leisure, and a topical talk show creates pressure to stay on top of new episodes lest they feel dated. So, it's probably not that Netflix needs to find the right talent to host these programs — Handler, McHale and Wolf are all top-tier comedy names with hosting experience — it's that this type of show might not be what Netflix users are looking for when they're compiling their queue. And Netflix should be okay with not being able to do everything.
Of course, none of this is going to stop Netflix from trying. The streaming giant has a number of weekly topical show's lined up for fall, including Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, Norm Macdonald has a Show and The Fix, a comedy show helmed by Jimmy Carr, Katherine Ryan and D.L. Hughley.