Why Netflix canceled Cowboy Bebop after just one season

Netflix has canceled its live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation less than three weeks after the show premiered. Though early reviews for the series were low, some fans had hoped Netflix would give its latest original a second chance to redeem itself. The streaming service isn't known for keeping shows around for more than a few seasons, however, and it has a history of canceling far more popular originals prematurely.

The live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation is based on the hit 1998 anime series by the same name. John Cho stars as Spike Spiegel alongside Daniella Pineda as Faye Valentine and Mustafa Shakir as Jet Black, each one a "cowboy" hunting dangerous criminals while outrunning their own pasts.

Netflix ordered the series back in 2018, but multiple issues delayed the launch, including Cho's time spent recovering from an on-set ACL injury in 2019 followed by pandemic-related production disruptions. Despite these issues, Netflix moved forward with the show and finally released its first season on November 19.

Unfortunately, the show's early reviews weren't favorable, and though some fans thought the live-action adaptation may have potential going forward, Netflix made the decision to scrap the series entirely (via THR). Netflix reportedly crunched the numbers and determined a second season's cost wouldn't be justifiable based on the first season's viewership.

The cost-vs-viewership analysis is something every Netflix series must face, and it's an unforgiving hurdle. A number of past Netflix originals have been canceled over costs despite strong ratings, examples of which include The OA and Sense8 (via The Wrap), because there weren't enough people watching the shows to keep them profitable. Rotten Tomatoes puts the adaptation's critical reception at 46-percent and its audience rating at 56-percent.

The tendency to cancel its originals after only two or three seasons has proven frustrating to some Netflix subscribers. Many seemingly popular and high-quality shows have fallen victim to the company's number-crunching, including Altered Carbon, Santa Clarita Diet, Tuca & Bertie, and more (via Wired). Only a relatively small number of originals survive for four or more seasons, mostly older hits like Orange is the New Black and BoJack Horseman.

As for the live-action Cowboy Bebop, the first and only season remains available to watch on Netflix. The streaming platform is also home to the original anime for those who want to reexperience the cartoon or watch it for the first time.