This past March, Netflix’s The Society was in final stages of pre-production, and the cast was getting ready to travel to Massachusetts to start filming Season 2 of the mystery YA drama series when the coronavirus pandemic brought Hollywood to a standstill.
Five months later, with Hollywood slowly easing back into production, the producers were making tentative plans for a few weeks of prep leading to a potential October production restart when Netflix on Friday reversed its Season 2 renewal decision. The Society was one of two YA series with Season 2 orders impacted by COVID-19 that were canceled by the streamer, along with I Am Not Okay With This.
The Society creator Chris Keyser, who also co-created the popular Fox coming-of-age drama Party Of Five and its recent Freeform reboot, has seen his fair share of cancellations during his three decades in the TV business to date. Yet, The Society felt different.
“This was a very tough cancellation,” he told Deadline. “We were, for the second time this year, getting ready to go back into production. Everyone had waited so long for this moment — for the chance to be together again. Saying goodbye so abruptly was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in all my years making shows. We knew we had challenges stemming from the pandemic, but the final decision to cancel us was not something I expected.”
The Society cast, who were notified of the cancellation via a Zoom call Friday morning, had a similar reaction.
“I’m heartbroken, so heartbroken,” Kathryn Newton said in an Instagram Video. Added Gideon Adlon, “It’s definitely a bit of a gut-punch.”
The cancellation also triggered a strong reaction from fans who were upset by Netflix’s decision. Keyser has been touched by the outpouring of love for the show.
“The fan reaction is wonderful. It’s tough not to feel great about that,” Keyser said, adding, “I’d prefer to be alive, but it’s good to be missed.”
Part of why the cancellation news has been so hard for the fans stems from the fact that Season 1, released in May 2019, ended on a major cliffhanger.
A modern take on Lord of the Flies, The Society follows a group of teenagers who return to their wealthy New England town West Ham — or a facsimile of it — after a failed field trip to find themselves on their own, with their parents gone and the town, which they dub “New Ham,” completely isolated. The finale provided a glimpse into the “real” West Ham where the parents live while the teenagers are missing and are commemorated with a plaque.
With fans left desperate for answers, Keyser provided some clues to what was in store for Season 2.
“As for this next season, there were more answers to the question, why were the children of New Ham taken and how might they find their way home,” he said. “And, triggered by an event that has (quite by accident) eerie parallels to the current crisis, the citizens of New Ham would have found themselves spiraling toward war with each other. This is Lord of the Flies, after all. But there was also love — new and old relationships — and some hope that in the same way as we are struggling to do in this country, right now, there is a path out of the darkness we’re in and toward something better.”
Keyser is not providing full details because he is holding out hope that Season 2 could be made one day.
“I’d love to share the continuing story of New Ham at some point,” he said. “All the scripts were written, so we know it all. We have fifteen characters in search of — I guess — not so much an author as an audience. I’ll need some time to figure that out — talk to Netflix about it — but that would be the plan.”
All in all, The Society has produced one more season than what Keyser expected to make. He and fellow Society executive producer Marc Webb had originally developed the project for Showtime, which ultimately opted not to greenlight Keyser’s script.
The Society remained dormant for about 4-5 years until Netflix approached the duo about resurrecting the idea for the streamer. Because of that, Keyser is focusing on the positives from the experience.
“My partners, Marc Webb and Pavlina Hatoupis and I made the show we wanted to make,” he said. “So, I’m mostly grateful — to the writers and directors and cast and crew from LA and Boston. I know the audience will miss the stories, but I will miss the people I told them with.”
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