Will 'El Camino's 25 million viewers make Netflix rethink its approach to reboots?
Revivals of successful shows don't need to overstay their welcome.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who cared very much about what happened to Jesse Pinkman after the Breaking Bad series finale back in 2013. On Wednesday, Netflix announced that more than 25 million viewers watched El Camino in its first week on the streaming service. That doesn’t quite make it the biggest Netflix Original movie ever — discouragingly, that honor goes to Adam Sandler’s Murder Mystery with 30 million views in seven days. And, as /Film points out, the company’s in-house metrics for calculating viewers aren’t super clear, which means we don’t know how many people in that figure watched El Camino the whole way through.
But even if you couldn’t care less about what happens to Heisenberg and you’d never be caught dead in a Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirt, this is a good thing. In fact, the success of El Camino is probably a very good thing for anyone who loves television, even if you never plan to watch it.
Remember how excited you were to hear that Arrested Development was coming back for a fourth season? The Bluth family was taken away from us too soon after the show’s abbreviated third season in 2006, all so the short-sighted executives at Fox could make even more room in their schedule for timeless classics like Amish Milf Chef and Masked Singers Dancing on Ice. Most of the AD cast had since gone on to be pretty big stars, so by the time Netflix announced it was picking up the show for Season 4 in 2012, it seemed like a minor miracle to fans of “loose seals” and chicken dances.
But the much-hyped revival ended up being a massive disappointment, largely due to the weirdly disconnected feel of the episodes, which had to be shot separately due to the actors’ busy schedules. With some pretty dopey storylines and a lack of the snappy, improvised ensemble banter that had made the original so memorable, Arrested Development Season 4 wasn’t just lousy, it actually made you retroactively dislike the old episodes. (Raise your hand if you didn’t even bother with Season 5, especially after the whole “Jeffrey Tambor was a giant a-hole to Jessica Walter” boondoggle.)
Arrested Development is just one of many examples of shows that either came back when they shouldn’t have, or overstayed their welcome. Maybe we didn’t need a whole heap of new AD episodes six years later — maybe a single, two-hour movie in the vein of El Camino might have worked a lot better, and allowed the cast more time together. (It also would have dovetailed perfectly with a running joke and longstanding rumor in the fandom after Fox cancelled the show.)
Hopefully Netflix will learn from the success of its standalone films — and the failures of its sprawling Defenders universe with Marvel — and realize that it is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing.
El Camino is available to stream now on Netflix.