Showtime has pulled the plug on its star-studded anthology series The First Lady.
As first reported by Deadline (opens in new tab), Paramount’s affiliate network has chosen not to renew the political drama for a second season. The move comes just three months after The First Lady premiered on Showtime Anytime and Paramount Plus.
Set in the east wing of the White House, the 10-episode series centers on the lives and influence of three prominent United States First Ladies: Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Michelle Obama. (Viola Davis).
“Showtime can confirm that the anthology series The First Lady will not continue with another season,” a Showtime spokesperson said in a statement to Deadline.
“We want to applaud the artistry and dedication of our showrunner Cathy Schulman, director Susanne Bier, their fellow executive producers, our amazing cast – led by executive producer Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson – and our studio partner Lionsgate for their dedicated working to tell the unique stories of three remarkable leaders.”
Despite receiving critical acclaim for its costumes, set design, and the performances of its three lead actors, The First Lady faced drumming from critics upon release, with many focusing on the show’s seemingly random story structure and reluctance to provide some new insight into the central characters.
At the time of writing, The First Lady has a low score of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab). The audience score isn’t much better, at only 58%, although the IMDb ratingg (opens in new tab) stands at a slightly more respectable 6.8/10.
An expensive cancellation
Given the less-than-warm reception from critics and audiences alike, it’s no surprise to see Showtime (read: Paramount) ringing in on The First Lady after just one season. Still, the show’s high production costs – those of Anderson, Pfeiffer and Davis don’t come cheap – and its positioning as a major Paramount Plus launch title in the UK will certainly leave a sour taste in studio executives’ mouths.
In addition, The First Lady’s cancellation dents Paramount Plus’ global appeal. As above, the series, which is a Showtime title, will be automatically bundled into the UK version of the fast-growing streamer (as Showtime Anytime is not available in the UK), although US subscribers can add the Showtime library, which includes billions, Yellowjackets and Dexter – for a small fee on their existing Paramount Plus packages.
Of course, the only season of The First Lady will remain available to watch, but it’s disappointing that those who have enjoyed the all-star series won’t be treated to a follow-up season in the future.
Instead, Paramount will likely double down on its Halo TV series and countless Star Trek properties — not to mention its great movie library — in an effort to attract and retain Paramount Plus subscribers.
A major key to the platform’s near-future success may also come in the form of Top Gun: Maverick, which remains a theater exclusive but looks destined to arrive on Paramount Plus before the year is out. For more details on this, check out our report on when we think Top Gun: Maverick could be coming to streaming services.