When NBC’s comedy-centric digital platform Seeso officially announced its forthcoming cancellation in August, Shrink executive producer Chuck Martin offered a concise — albeit completely appropriate — response on Twitter. “First time I’ve done a series and the network was cancelled,” the Bee Movie and Arrested Development writer quipped. Sure enough, the many original titles Seeso produced and distributed since its January 2016 launch — including a wonderful grouping of stand-up comedians, popular podcasts-turned-television shows, and critically acclaimed dramedies — have been forced to look for new homes.
Not everyone who once called Seeso home was immediately kicked to the curb. HarmonQuest, My Brother, My Brother and Me, Hidden America with Jonah Ray and The Cyanide and Happiness Show were picked up by the streaming platform VRV. Yet Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, the HGTV reality show parody created by Kulap Vilaysack and executive produced by Scott Aukerman, was left hanging. So too was Take My Wife, the brainchild of comedians (and married couple) Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. Along with Martin’s Shrink, these three shows — as well as Paul Reiser’s fictionalized The Tonight Show drama, There’s… Johnny!, whose August 24th premiere date has been axed — were seemingly left to their own devices.
Quite literally: Bajillion star Paul F. Tompkins triggered a cavalcade of tweets encouraging fans of Seeso’s now-homeless programs to help them find new ones. “Do you have a TV network? Here’s a couple shows you should buy,” he said of Bajillion and Take My Wife. “Each has a new, unseen season ready to go!” Bajillion‘s showrunner Vilaysack later confirmed Tompkins’ claim, tweeting “there is an orphan, unaired & completed 4th season of BAJILLION. Let’s find it a home.” Esposito did the same for Take My Wife, which she celebrated with a massive list of what the show was “able to pull off” in “two seasons.” In other words, these two series without a network possessed completed new seasons — and nowhere to screen them.
The #Buyjillion campaign continues three weeks on, and as Vilaysack, Aukerman, Esposito and Butcher tell Uproxx, they are confident they will eventually find a distributor. Even so, in the increasingly crowded era of Peak TV, everyone is still trying to process the unique situation of having your network get canceled. “I feel like we could keep going, much like Reno 911! We could keep going with seasons five, six and seven,” says Vilaysack. “We could set this in different cities. I think the possibilities are endless for how we could play with these characters.” Aukerman agrees, noting that Bajillion‘s format “is something where storylines can keep coming in and out, and characters can keep coming in and out.” Because of this, he adds, “it could go on forever.” If it lands somewhere, of course.
“It’s an absolutely a weird situation,” says Esposito. “I will also say that it’s kind of like a catch-22, because peak TV and this new diversity of places is the reason Rhea and I have had the experience of being show runners. Not that we wouldn’t have gotten this experience somewhere else, but neither of us had ever been staffed in a traditional writers’ room before running our own show. That’s not unusual — it’s unprecedented. We operated with an indie film budget, so there was a little bit less risk involved. Plus, with streaming platforms you don’t have to work off of advertising dollars, meaning you don’t have to clear these hurdles set by multi-national corporations selling unrelated products. That, I think, is why the shows on Seeso were so beloved, because there was a one-to-one relationship between the creators and the products that made the shows very honest.”
“A lot of people going into this were talking about Peak TV as a problem, and there is too much TV,” adds Butcher. “At the same time, I was always thinking of the positive upswing of this, which is that there’s so much TV I got to make a television show. For even with there still being so much TV, there are so few creators from under-represented groups. Seeso specifically gave that opportunity to a lot of us, and so I’m grateful for that.”
Shock and surprise at Seeso’s shuttering notwithstanding, Butcher’s praise for the platform it afforded them is near-universal among those who’ve worked for the service. Comics like Fahim Anwar and Sasheer Zamata spoke to us previously about their positive experiences with the digital outlet. And when it came to reflecting on their short time there, Esposito, Vilaysack and Aukerman couldn’t muster anything negative to say either.