Hi! My name’s Jeremy. You may know me as one of your 93 million subscribers.
You may be wondering why I’ve taken time out of my binge-viewing schedule to write to you this evening. Well, firstly, I should clarify that I’m not a huge fan of binge-viewing. (In fact, there are still a handful of shows I watch at the agonizingly slow rate of one episode a week!) But seriously, I’d like to talk about a little show you recently produced called 13 Reasons Why.
As you well know, 13 Reasons Why is a high school drama, based on the book by Jay Asher. It tells the story of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who tragically kills herself, leaving behind 13 tapes containing messages to the people who wronged her. The show follows Hannah’s close friend (and secret admirer) Clay as he tries to piece together the events that led Hannah to take her own life. Each episode covers a different tape, and a different reason, tidily conforming to a standard 13-episode model.
You probably think I’m here to criticize the show. On the contrary! I was actually quite engrossed with 13 Reasons Why for the majority of its run. Certainly, the show has its flaws – it drags on at least 3 or 4 episodes too long, features an annoying Fonzie knockoff, and delivers a literal eleventh-hour reveal that falls flat. But at the same time, it’s a fascinating look at teenage angst, among television’s most vivid explorations of the subject since My So-Called Life. (Props for getting Wilson Cruz to cameo! Yes, I noticed that his character was named “Vasquez.”) The season finale, in fact, features one of the tensest and most riveting scenes your drama division has ever produced.
So, why am I writing to you about it? Well, news along the wire claims that 13 Reasons Why has apparently been a hit (I say “apparently” because you’re about as willing to share your viewership numbers as the President is willing to share his tax returns), and you plan to renew it for a second season. So I’ve decided to give you a helpful piece of advice:
I know this sounds weird coming from a guy who has never worked in the TV business, but renewing 13 Reasons Why is the absolute worst thing you can do to 13 Reasons Why. Far be it for me to tell you how to earn your money, but it’s not like you’re short on cash at the moment. (When was the last time a Friday went by without a new Netflix Original? I’m having real trouble remembering.) It’s best to let 13 Reasons Why remain at 13 episodes, and move on to something else.
Need a reason? Okay. I’ll give you a reason. I’ll give you lots of reasons. Okay, maybe not thirteen reasons, but I did manage to come up with five:
1. You should live up to your promises. You know how you guys always talk about quality over commercialism? Now’s your chance to prove it. I know the first season of the series was a hit with teenagers, but I’m sure those same teenagers get a kick out of Daredevil, or your bottomless CW archive. They should be fine. A second season of 13 Reasons Why sounds like a sharp decision commercially, but it would hurt the show qualitatively. Because honestly, I gotta ask:
2. Where does the story go from here? 13 Reasons Why was designed to follow the story of two characters, in two different time periods. By the end of Season One, both those characters have fulfilled their important arcs, and… well, not to sound blunt about it, but one of them is dead. Nearly all the remaining elements – the threads left in the air by the end of Season One – involve a plot that only indirectly involves the two leads. The supporting characters were only given depth insofar as their relationships with Hannah and Clay, and few of them are capable of sustaining interest beyond the arc of that one season.
Besides, unless another 13 tapes (or CDs, or vinyl records… really, anything you can cover with blue nail polish) turn up in the Season Two premiere, I don’t really see a compelling narrative engine in play. And I’m certainly hoping you don’t plan to introduce another 13 reasons for anything, since that would only serve to cheapen the effect of Hannah’s inner turmoil and downward spiral in Season One’s flashbacks. And before you even say it, let me address the next point:
3. No, this shouldn’t be a limited series. Look, I love Fargo and American Crime as much as any other shows on TV. But that doesn’t mean I need every one-and-done miniseries to branch out into an annual reconstruction of themes and messages. Particularly when those messages are based heavily around depression and suicide. HBO has done plenty of great miniseries over the years that are fondly remembered despite only airing one brief season. Come on, don’t you want to be as great as an HBO miniseries?
4. It’s Peak TV, dudes. I have far too many shows I still need to catch up on. Have mercy! And speaking of that woefully hackneyed catchphrase…
5. You’re kind of messing with my childhood. Okay, this one’s more of a personal issue, but I feel the need to address it here. I know that TV revivals are all the rage right now, but some of your rebranding attempts don’t sit well with my younger self. Full House was a dumb guilty pleasure that taught me about family and why you should never trust the Olsen twins. Fuller House is a harsher, cruder series that tries to pass itself off as family entertainment while making tasteless jokes about Kimmy Gibler’s love life. On top of that, you now have Bill Nye – one of my childhood heroes, mind you – inviting Rachel Bloom onto his new show to sing a verbally explicit song titled “My Sex Junk.” I love Nye and I love Bloom, but it took about twenty seconds of this uncomfortable ditty for me to realize that these two should never be in remote proximity of one another, let alone singing a song that features phrases like [censored phrase] and [other censored phrase]. But I’m the forgiving type – if you choose to leave 13 Reasons be, I’ll agree to wipe these scarring memories from my mind.
So, yeah. Sorry I couldn’t think of eight other reasons, but I hope you get my point. Thanks for listening, guys. And let me know when you drop the next season of Bojack!
All the best,
…You’re not listening, are you?