Amazon Studios Boss On How ‘The Expanse’ Was Saved & Would Amazon Also Rescue ‘Lucifer’

The Expanse

In one of the feel-good stories this upfront, The Expanse was picked up by Amazon just days after Syfy opted not to renew the sci-fi drama series for a fourth season.

As part of an interview with Deadline, new Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke shared the wild behind-the-scene story on how the quick rescue was pulled off and revealed whether the streaming platform is interested in another recently canceled genre drama series with a cult following, Lucifer, as well as Norman Lear’s comedy pilot Guess Who Died, which didn’t go to series at NBC.


“We were talking about Lucifer,” Salke said during the interview held last Thursday. “I know that international, especially the UK group, was really bullish on that show, I haven’t checked in on that today (Thursday), but I heard conversations were ongoing on that yesterday.”

Complicating possible negotiations is the fact that Hulu has U.S. SVOD rights to Lucifer’s first two seasons, which will need to be worked out by the series’ possible new home. UPDATE June 15: While Amazon, which carries Lucifer in the UK, engaged in pickup discussions with the series’ producer WBTV, the show ultimately landed at Netflix.

The Expanse pickup announcement followed an elaborate fan campaign that included renting a plane to fly a #Save The Expanse banner over the Amazon headquarters. It was made in a dramatic fashion by Amazon’s chairman himself, Jeff Bezos, at National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles where he was an honoree an hour or so afterThe Expanse cast and showrunner had done a panel at the same event.

“There were airplanes circling us, I was having cakes delivered, there was a whole thing happening,” Salke said of The Expense campaign. “And then really smart people, whose opinions I really value creatively, started reaching out to me, saying, “have you seen this show, The Expanse, it’s actually great”. I hadn’t so I spent some time, I watched the show and I was like, this show is actually really well done, why is nobody watching it? At the same time, Jeff Bezos was getting emails from everyone from George R.R. Martin to every captain of industry, like the founder of Craigslist, and they were all writing, saying, there’s this show, it’s so great, you have to see it, you have to buy it or save it.

photo: Joyce Chow

We were trying to explore the deal, and we could make the U.S. deal pretty easily because they were kind of just standing outside, holding it out to us. We had it pretty much done when (Bezos) emailed saying, “I’m at an event, a space seminar, I’m looking at the cast of The Expanse here, I would like to get up there and order the show. Can I, can I?” I was like, let me check with business affairs, and then replied, you can do it, go for it. It was so fun to watch it on Twitter Live; I could see him do it in real time.

So, yes, he’s a big fan, and it was fun to be able to support that, not just for him but for all the people that really love that show. (New co-head of TV) Vernon (Sanders) really loved the show, and so he was saying, we can make that show into something. A lot of really smart people said they loved the show, and I actually appreciated it once I looked at it.

Asked whether Amazon is considering picking up to series any broadcast pilots passed over by their networks, Salke mentioned the NBC single-camera retirement home comedy Guess Who Died, a long-time passion project of TV great Norman Lear, which she had championed in her previous role as president of entertainment at NBC. Because of that connection, Amazon was considered a potential home for the project after NBC opted not to pick up the pilot to series but that was a long shot at best.

“I talked to Norman Lear, whom I love, this morning, because you know I bought the show from him,” Salke said. “He still wants to send me the director’s cut of Guess Who Died. He’s like, just let me send it to you. It was so hard, I had to call him and say, I don’t think I can find a place for this, and I was dreading making the phone call because he’s very emotionally invested in it,  he’s Norman Lear, and he’s 95 years old. He was in the canyon, and we kept getting cut off, so I had to give this sad speech that was making me tear up, and then he’s like, hi, honey, I lost you on there, can you start over again? I had to do it like three times, and he’s like, the universe doesn’t want me to hear what you have to say. I’m going to send you the director’s cut,  the one I loved, and I was like, okay. I love him so much.”

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